Matthew Cowan

Matthew Cowan’s practice is in the realm of traditional customs and folklore. His works are photographs, videos, installations and performances, which play with the inherent strangeness of the continued popularity of long established folk customs in a modern world.

These works can be viewed as mock folk performances in themselves, playing with the elements of folk rituals that give people a link to the past. In contemporary Western and European societies, people have a peculiar relationship with their folk traditions that is part uneasiness about their past, and part fascination with spectacle and long established ritual.

In investigating the celebration and performance of folk traditions, a primary theme is the presence of humour and subversion of the usual social order. This comical reversal is a key to understanding the point of people’s enjoyment of folk and ritual traditions. Recent work has focused on the mythical fantasy-land of Cockaigne, a paradise not just built on this topsy-turvy structure, but possessing wild fantasies of freedom from exertion, bountiful supplies of food, sexual liberty and escalated celebration and festivity.

Matthew Cowan holds a BA in Pscychology from University of Auckland, 1997, and a MA in Fine Art from University of Northumbria, 2005. 

Selected Exhibitions

Wildness Makes This World, Seinäjoki Kunsthalle, Seinäjoki, Finland (solo)

The Scream of the Strawbear, Kunsthalle Giessen, Germany, (solo) 

para field notes, Hyppolyte Gallery, Helsinki, Finland, (solo)

Wandle auf Rosen und Vergissmeinnicht / Walk on Roses and Forgetmenots, Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum, Germany

Sacred Economies, Malcolm Smith Gallery, Auckland
Wandle auf Rosen und Vergissmeinnicht, Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum, Germany 
Visiting Asia, Hastings City Art Gallery, Hastings

Equinox Men, Kunstverein Langenhagen, Germany 
Visiting Asia, Te tuhi Centre for the Arts, Auckland
Loose Control, Hochschule fur Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Germany 
Thresholding, Audio Foundation, Auckland
Imagine Asia, Pataka Art + Museum, Porirua


S-AIR/Asia New Zealand Artist in Residence, Sapporo, Japan 2013
Est-Nord-Est centre for artists, Quebec
guestroom Maribor, European Capital of Culture Artist in Residence, Maribor, Slovenia, 2012 

Art OMI, New York, USA, 2012
Aberystwyth Art Centre Artist in Residence, Wales, UK