3 Questions with Matthew Couper, artist living and working in Downtown Las Vegas

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Matthew Couper, devotional painter at his exhibition at Life Is Beautiful in DTLV October 2014

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Matthew Couper at Galerie Gimpel et Muller, Paris France 2015, © photograph courtesy of Thomas Marroni (http://cargocollective.com/thomasmarroni)

I’ve been a huge fan of Matthew Couper’s work ever since I first came across it in Downtown Las Vegas at the Life Is Beautiful festival (2013 and 2014).  His work is absolutely stunning, he’s been called a devotional painter and his contemporary paintings have their stylistic roots in Spanish Baroque colonial art. I also love the fact that for exhibitions at events like Life Is Beautiful, Matthew basically creates a performance piece of painting. Matthew is originally from New Zealand but has lived in DTLV since 2010. We’ve become friends through social media and am thrilled that Matthew is participating in 3 Questions. Also, having grown up in Australia, I especially love all the New Zealand references and inspirations.

YOUR 3 FAVORITE SOURCES FOR WHAT’S NEW/INFLUENTIAL/ INSPIRATIONAL

1) For music, I go to my good friend Simon Sweetman’s two blogs ‘Blog On The Tracks’ (http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/blogs/blog-on-the-tracks) and his annex site ‘Off The Tracks (http://www.offthetracks.co.nz). He’s an amazing writer – considered prolific, prophetic and often divisive.

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Simon Sweetman

2) For art, I use a trifecta of Flavorpill (www.flavorpill.com), Artsy (www.artsy.net) and Ocula (www.ocula.com) which seem to give a good spread of art happenings in the USA, Asia/Pacific and Europe. There’s always too much stuff to check out, but it feels good to know what is happening in difference places by different artists.

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3) Friends and mates – either through meeting up with them, or via email or social networks. I grew up in a pre-internet world in New Zealand, so there was a healthy dependence on music, magazine articles, art, film and tv tips from friends who share similar aesthetic sensibilities. A lot of those friends are now living all over the world, but it’s not uncommon for me to find emails or Facebook messages from those friends suggesting I check certain things out. It’s a great way to stay in contact at such great distances.

 

3 BRANDS/ STORES/ SERVICES YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT

1) Flying Nun (www.flyingnun.co.nz and www.flyingout.co.nz).  My favorite record label from New Zealand. They’re reissuing LP’s of many of the bands I grew up with such as The 3D’s, Skeptics and Straitjacket Fits, along with new bands I’m loving – Carb On Carb and Sharpie Crows. They also do great deals with international shipping, which helps with being overseas.

2) PAULNACHE (www.paulnache.com) My New Zealand art dealer and gallery who has been a great support mechanism for me and my work for nearly a decade. Gallery director Matthew Nache and I chat via Skype regularly so we can keep abreast of things on either side of the Pacific Ocean. PAULNACHE runs a great program of New Zealand and international artists from Gisborne, a beautiful part of New Zealand. Gisborne is officially the first city in the world to see the sun rise every day.

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Paul Nache Gallery (2nd floor) in Gisborne, NZ

3) Royal Elastics (www.royalelastics.com) I’ve been obsessed with these sneakers for years and will go to any lengths to always have a new pair ready after the old pair are falling to pieces after years of use. Great style and so comfortable. They’ve recently got more onto it with their promotion and are upgrading their website and getting more pro-active.

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WHAT’S NEW IN DTLV THAT WE SHOULD CHECK OUT

DEFINITELY The Writer’s Block (www.thewritersblock.org). It’s a new bookstore that opened late last year situated east of the Las Vegas Fremont Street Experience (near Atomic Liquors -one of the oldest Bars in Las Vegas), which makes for a polemical experience from the pace and spectacle of vernacular Vegas. It’s got a great cozy feel and a great selection of books. With bookstores closing, or have already closed throughout the city, it’s a real gem and drawcard to this part of downtown. One of my favorite parts of the store is the design: there’s a printing press out front, the store has a section behind the store for book groups and lectures. Not through intention, the store interior resembles a Maori wharenui meeting house.

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Writer’s Block Book Shop in DTLV

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The store interior resembles a Maori wharenui meeting house.

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EXAMPLES OF MATTHEW’S WORK:

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2006_Retablo_2009 – Matthew Couper 2013: From his show Thirty-Three, a series of paintings executed in 2009 at the age of 33, as a ‘rite of passage’. Each painting documents a year of the artist’s life, so the exhibition takes the viewer on Couper’s journey, from growing up in Hawkes Bay, to attending art school, travelling overseas, teaching and painting, learning lessons, encountering misfortune and luck and exploring ideas of mortality, sex and religion. Painted in a chronological narrative, the style of the work references the Spanish Colonial painting genre of the retablo. It also alludes to ex-votos—nineteenth century devotional paintings executed by village artisans. These were commissioned by a client in gratitude to a specific patron saint to acknowledge an incident or personal experience. The focal point of the exhibition is the eponymous installation resembling a makeshift altar for rebirth rituals. The number 33 is often related to Christ’s death and resurrection in Christian religion, but is also a prominent number associated with rebirth rituals throughout different cultures. Matthew Couper is represented by PAULNACHE, Gisborne.

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Limbo Of The Journeyman 2013 oil on loose canvas 140″ x 63.3″ / 3580mm x 1610mm private collection, USA

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Neo-Genesis 2013 oil on canvas 46″ x 58″

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Vampire Weekend, Life Is Beautiful Festival

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‘Trouble & Strife’, 2013, oil on canvas (diptych), 147cm x 241cm / 58” x 95” ©2015:the artist and Gimpel Et Muller

 

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