Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Matt Akehurst
By Sophie Keyse 
‘Forget about fame or money and then ask yourself if you still want to be an artist.’– Matt Akehurst

When one first inspects Matt Akehurst’s Objects they appear to be a cross between a Henry Moore sculpture; a character from Monsters Inc.; and something that has escaped from a Salvador Dalì painting.  However, the inspiration of these captivating forms is much more erudite, with Akehurst’s experiences as a scientist and the numerous hours peering down a microscope subconsciously influencing his choice of shape.  American ceramic artist/printmaker Ken Price and his abstract clay shapes, as well as the monumental semi-abstract sculptures of Henry Moore also played a part in determining these forms.  Yet it is the ambiguity around these biomorphic and changeable blobs which fascinates the artist - ‘Our ideas of the blob have been shaped by the cartoon Shmoo; the movie The Blob, and maybe our very own history of evolution from a simple amoebae.  There seems to be this general consensus that a blob can evolve into anything.’

While the sculptures installed in the vitrines in Object 5+ may appear to be weighty and monumental, they are in fact composed of high-density polystyrene and shaped with saws, wire brushes, files and sandpaper.  Plaster and builder’s filler have also been incorporated to create the smooth surfaces, with the objects spray-painted with acrylic paint as a final touch.  It must be noted, however, that Akehurst does not consider polystyrene his principal medium and instead lets the initial idea shape his material selection which can be both a help and a hindrance – ‘I find not being restricted to one material is both the most rewarding and frustrating aspect to my practice.’

This is a central idea in Akehurst’s creative practice, as he prefers to remain open or ‘unfocused’ by letting the process take control and lead the work where it needs to go.  It is context driven, which is primarily the art world but, as the artist himself has said, ‘you could say its art about art, or art about being an artist.’  Do not interpret this as the artist being slack – quite the opposite, in fact, with Akehurst functioning as a significant member of the Christchurch arts scene since completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Hons) at the University of Canterbury in 2010.  His sculpture You Are Here first appeared in Sculpture on the Gulf on Waiheke Island and references artistic influences on New Zealanders, such as Pablo Picasso’s Guernica in Bilbao or Sotheby’s auction house in London, with the specific distance each object/location is from the coordinates of the sculpture.  You Are Here now resides outside the Christchurch Art Gallery, which has been closed since the February 2011 earthquakes.  Its new location has added a new angle to the work, as it literally points away from the prominent Canterbury arts institution towards distant art destinations, which makes all the more sense as the Christchurch Art Gallery is closed, and yet its title You Are Here pulls you back and suggests what are you going to do about this situation.  Akehurst had to update the distances on each sign to adapt to its new site.  

Matt Akehurst: You are here

Akehurst has contributed both artistically and administratively to Christchurch before and after the earthquakes, setting up a portable exhibition space called GalleryGallery that travelled around Christchurch for, more often than not, one-night exhibitions.  The artist, along with fellow Fine Arts students at Canterbury University, established ABC gallery in Addington, a neighbourhood that has flourished since the widespread damage to the central city.  The storage space where ABC was located has since been knocked down to keep up with demand for commercial space and for its final exhibition Akehurst began the demolition process by hitting the wall with a sledgehammer and left it protruding from the wall to reference the impending destruction of the space.  Often the simplest of gestures can have the most impact.  
Matt Akehurst: Object series

Next up for Akehurst is adding to his Object series, with several featuring in a show in Japan as part of the Sendai Art Exchange with Christchurch as well as in a group show in Sydney.  To see more of his work please visit his website http://www.mattakehurst.net

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