Matt Ellwood's satirical, appropriation based art practice employs the various languages and systems of advertising, merchandising, and interior design as abundant resources for sculptures, drawings, and digital image interventions. These paradigms are utilized in a playful, but equally perverse way to subvert the ideological master discourses underpinning the relationship between profit and desire. His recent sculptures are often constructed out of industrial materials such as plywood, high density foam, fiberglass and resin. These all have a high degree of craftsmanship, and are unique pieces that challenge their ubiquitous and mass produced origins. His drawings are equally crafted in their high degree of finish, and are predominantly large charcoal pieces that replicate and conflate advertising campaign imagery. Both utilize their materiality as a seductive visual entry into the work that is then often counterpointed with deliberately less celebratory content.
Born in Wellington, 1973, Matt Ellwood gained his BFA from the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 1996, and went on to graduate with a PgDip in Teaching in 1997. After four years of running a high school senior art department he went back to post graduate study at Elam and graduated in 2003 with a Master of Fine Arts (1st class honors). During his time as a Masters student, he was awarded the Vice Chancellor's Scholarship for Outstanding Achievement and was included in Break - the Govett Brewster Gallery's biennial review of contemporary NZ art. He has exhibited widely in New Zealand and Australia as well as internationally and is included in publications such as Warwick Brown's 'Seen This Century' a collector's guide book, 2009. He is also included in The Drawing Center NYC's online viewing program. He has been the recipient of the Wallace Trust Development Award (2004) including a 3 month studio residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York and the Wallace Trust Kaipara Foundation Award (2011) including a 3 month studio residency at the Altes Spital cultural center in Solothurn, Switzerland.
Matt Ellwood has continued to live in Auckland where he is now the Head of Fine Arts at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design. He is represented in New Zealand by Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland.
Matt Ellwood, Negotiations & Love Songs
Wednesday, 4 March 2009, 12:45 pm
Press Release: Michael Lett
Matt Ellwood Negotiations & Love Songs
11 April - 7 March 2009
Preview Wednesday 11 March 6-8pm
Michael Lett is pleased to present Negotiations & Love Songs, an exhibition of new work by Matt Ellwood.
Ellwood employs the vocabularies of child's toys, lollies, soft-porn and 1970s era magazine advertising as abundant resources for appropriative art making. The two sculptures in Negotiations & Love Songs take the form of oversized figurines that at first appear as exact, albeit up-scaled, replicas of a Smurf and a Lego Ferrari driver, however, on closer inspection, the Smurf's tail has been transplanted onto the front of his trousers and the Ferrari driver's usually red helmet has been rendered a fleshy pink. Ellwood's seemingly slight formal manipulations reveal characters newly laden with sexual innuendo and forefront an abiding tension between delinquency, cynicism and complicit pleasure.
These particularly masculine figures are complemented by a drawing that stretches the length of the gallery - a compendium of hairstyles of Playboy centerfolds from 1970-1979. Disembodied, and distinctively 70s in style, these hairstyles become icons for the era marked by relaxed censorship laws and the resulting Playboy boom-time, while also acting as a fittingly obsessive register of his own personal collection of magazines. Combining the mythical status of centerfolds in soft-porn's heyday and the characters a boy would have grown up with in this decade, Ellwood sets up allegorical filters for a playful, but equally perverse, subversion of master discourses around desire and consumption.
Ellwood was born in Wellington in 1973 and now lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand where he is a Senior Lecturer in Fine Arts at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design. Since graduating from the University of Auckland's Elam School of Fine Arts Masters program in 2003, Ellwood has maintained an exhibition schedule in New Zealand and Australia. In 2004 he was awarded the Wallace Trust Development Award and New York studio residency. Most recently he staged a two-person exhibition, Girls & Boys, with Steve Carr at Melbourne's Silvershot Gallery. This is Ellwood's third solo exhibition at Michael Lett, preceded by Pleasure, Satisfaction in 2005 and Tastes Good in 2006.