Matt Ellwood


Perfectly-crafted enactments of desire…

Advantageously presented, come-hither characters and covetable objects are lifted from catalogues, centrefolds, or advertisements and rehabilitated by Matt Ellwood as perfectly crafted enactments of desire. Alluring, almost-nude, nonchalant models pout and rugged, suntanned men laugh with carefree companions. Casual collections of leisurely and moneyed couples consume together. Smiling and wholesome ladies enjoy the company of well-coiffed and burly men. Cowboys and Marlborough-man types indulge in outdoor pursuits such as motorcycling or fishing. Lifestyle shots capture affable, relaxed parents accompanied by grinning children yet they also image perfectly arranged stereos, bottles of whiskey or champagne and crisp cartons of cigarettes. Women from the soft-focus fantasies of 1970s men’s magazines are imaged, as are youths from slick and over-produced contemporary fashion print campaigns.

Simultaneous to his exploration of out-moded or excessive adult culture Ellwood plays with the saccharine colours, smooth finish and modular shapes of children’s toys and puzzles. Robots, vehicles, flora and fauna are reproduced in titanic proportions, so that they become curious, outlandish, sometimes sinister. Re-purposing familiar forms, Ellwood takes elements of ubiquitous and well-loved toys such as Lego or Playmobil and enlarges them. Layer by layer, these amplified entities are sculpted from laminated plywood, sometimes with beeswax or else built in synthetic materials, resin and enamel. Augmented, each piece though hand-crafted appears commercially manufactured, slick, shiny and new.

Similarly lurid and playful is Ellwood’s printing practice in which pastel or kodachrome photomontages extracted from dated advertising campaigns are digitally reproduced, softly glowing upon lightboxes, or shouting from posters and printed board. Meticulous and masterful drawings are also crafted by Ellwood with charcoal on paper. Re-fashioning print imagery from modish magazines and decadent advertisements, these are slowly draw and highly detailed. Sometimes they are complete, sometimes marred with incongruous childish scribbles or doodles. Well-known brand names are re-worded rendered in Cyrillic or Thai, sometimes only the font has been altered, rendering the words slightly uncanny. Often there are white spaces in these drawings, absences of drawn lines, subtractions where persuasive texts or slogans originally appeared. By neglecting to include these captions, slogans or commentaries Ellwood literally inserts vacuity and extracts meaning, he shrugs it off, rendering his borrowed images ambiguous, almost unknowable.

By shifting their scale, Ellwood creates a sort of grandeur for common, well-loved objects. By carefully re-drawing and manipulating images with his careful drawings, the coercion of advertising, fashion photography and graphic design are interfered with or repeated, with a twist. Always irreverent and questioning Ellwood injects strangeness into visual languages, whether they are the beloved forms of small toys, the seductive and arresting portraits of coltish models or the nostalgic and banal evil of outdated tobacco advertising. Redacting and censoring quaint and outmoded imagery, investing it with superb drawing or cunning sculpture Ellwood is dedicated to appropriation and subversion, lust and longing.  


Matt Ellwood (1973) was born in Wellington and currently he lives and works in Auckland where he is a senior lecturer at Whitecliffe School of Art and Design. Since graduating with a Master of Fine Arts from the Elam School of Fine Arts he has exhibited works nationally and internationally in private galleries as well as public art institutions. Recent solo exhibitions include: A.P.R. (Arnault, Pinault, Renault) (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2021), Autumn Collection (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2019), The Germaine Greer Series (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2017), Freize Saint Laurent (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2016), Il Fumo Tom Ford (Melanie Roger Gallery 2014), Smoking Tom Ford (The General Store for Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2013) Taste the Good Times (Pah Homestead, TSB Wallace Arts Centre, Auckland, 2013), Citizen K (Altes Spital Cultural Centre, Solothurn, Switzerland, 2012) and Alabama Song (The General Store for Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2011). Ellwood has also exhibited within curated exhibitions and group shows such as: Headland Sculpture n the Gulf (2017), Matt Ellwood | Sam Mitchell | Erica Van Zon (Melanie Roger, Auckland 2013), Headlands Sculpture on the Gulf (Waiheke Island, Auckland, 2013) and Play (Pah Homestead, TSB Wallace Arts Centre, Auckland, 2012.) Ellwood has received many prestigious awards for his works including the Kaipara Foundation Wallace Arts Trust Award (2011) which included a three-month residency in Switzerland at the Altes Spital Cultural Centre. Works by Ellwood are included in prominent private and public art collections in both New Zealand and Australia.

Matt Ellwood will exhibit new work at Melanie Roger Gallery as part of a group exhibition in July 2024.


Selected Media.

    Melanie Roger Gallery, Vimeo channell
    Wallace Arts Trust catalogue
    John Hurrell, Eyecontact review
    Manne Schulze, exhibition review, General Store for Contemporary Art
    Warwick Brown, See This Century, Godwit


  2. Studio Visit: Matt Ellwood
  3. Artists in Isolation: Matt Ellwood
  4. Matt Ellwood | Parkin Drawing Prize
  5. Matt Ellwood | The Future Machine | Tauranga Art Gallery
  6. Public Programmes | Matt Ellwood Artist Talk
  7. TIFFANY SINGH & MATT ELLWOOD | Headland Sculpture on the Gulf
  8. Matt Ellwood | National Contemporary Art Award | Waikato Museum
  9. MATT ELLWOOD | Art New Zealand magazine
  10. Public Programmes | Matt Ellwood Artist Talk
  11. MATT ELLWOOD | Sculpture on the Gulf 2015
  12. Spring Artist Talks: Matt Ellwood & Sam Mitchell
  13. Matt Ellwood | The Big Egg Hunt
  14. Matt Ellwood | On the Table | Auckland Art Gallery
  15. Matt Ellwood | Te Tuhi Gallery