Matthew Couper’s practice appropriates aspects of Western art history, including the Trecento, Quattrocento, and the Baroque, to create work that is familiar with a nod towards history repeating.
Matthew Couper is an Aotearoa/New Zealand–born artist now living and working in the U.S. Over the past twenty years, his practice has appropriated aspects of Western art history including the Trecento, Quattrocento, and the Baroque. Couper uses figuration and anachronistic tropes in his work to bridge gaps between isolated events that focus on water issues, restrictions, and shortages. He aims to create work that is familiar, combining the perspective of art history that nods toward the idea of history repeating.
Currently residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, only forty miles from the largest man-made water reservoir in the country, Couper focuses on the contradiction of living in an arid desert city yet being so close to the ever-dwindling water supply for the Southwest and West Coast. “It makes one pause for thought when looking at the statistics of the water usage compared to the snowmelt feeding the rivers that lead to the reservoir. I research the usage of water in my area and recent scientific advances in desalination, recycling plants, exploratory drilling, and short-term ‘straw’ methods for providing water to the population.”
“The anomaly of using contemporary landscapes with historical forms or symbols is an attempt to bring together the past with the present, creating artworks that, although may look old, can only exist now,” says Couper. The artist uses established narrative traditions and Spanish Colonial retablos to discuss the space between myth, religion, art, politics, and environmental issues. His paintings oscillate between didactic talismans depicting the impending doom of the ecological anthropocene to more insular, psychological spaces, fashioning desert psycho-scapes and tools of survival while reveling in aesthetic constructive chaos.
Las Vegas, Nevada | mattcouper.com | @vv_estiges
represented by PAULNACHE, Gisborne, Aotearoa/New Zealand, Magma Galleries, Melbourne, Australia, and Room, Brooklyn