Matt Ellwood's satirical, appropriation based art practice employs the various vocabularies of current advertising, building structures, toy merchandising, and outdated men's magazines as abundant resources for sculptures, drawings, and digital image interventions. These are set up as allegorical filters for a playful, but equally perverse subversion of 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 Altes Spital in Switzerland.
Matt Ellwood has continued to live in Auckland where he is now the Associate Head of Fine Arts at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design. He is represented in New Zealand by Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland.
Taste the good times! Come to where the flavour is. What's being sold here? Smokes or sex? Well, where there's smoke'
The language of cigarette advertising-laden with innuendo-pollutes and seduces Matt Ellwood's images. A family photograph takes on an undercurrent of edgy drama with good-time messages'complements of Winston ciggies'written in classic ad style across it.
Ellwood has sourced imagery and advertising text from Playboy magazines. He's taken personal family photographs, including some of himself as a child, and mixed the two media. An example'Grow Up'shows a toddler in nappies with cigarette in mouth. An adult bends towards him to light it, another offers a bottle of Jack Daniels and another small child looks on. It's disturbing and effective and almost, but not quite, funny.
Some photos taken straight from the page are blown up and altered-thank you 'digital intervention'. Others are transferred to light box, to add extra allure (inspired perhaps by the neon street lights outside the gallery).
Some images are beautifully rendered charcoal drawings taken from magazine photographs, collaging complicated social scenes, all featuring cigarettes and the joy they provide to beautiful people. Handsome men contemplate buying art; several gorgeous, sexy women admire them.
It's a thought-provoking show, not easily read. There's a light-hearted quality to the work that let's you try, though. They're a pleasure-not a strain to contemplate-and are sunny, somehow, with retro innocence.
Tastes Good by Matt Ellwood is being exhibited at Michael Lett Gallery on K'Road in Auckland until Saturday, 5 August 2006.