Friday, December 17, 2010

Where in the world is Derek Cowie?

If you want a hiding to nowhere, try getting into the young-artists-who-will-be-giants game. Of course it is irresistible and was once one of the more interesting, higher-risk games played by curators of public institutions. The group show of young artists was a staple format that put out curatorial opinions of where we were headed, or at least where the curators thought where the culture was off to. But for curators, as with most everybody else, predicting the future is not easy.

In the eighties if you were talking about artists who were likely to have long and important careers in New Zealand, the name Derek Cowie would certainly have popped up. His work was strange and provocative with its uneasy combination of punk attitude and surrealism played out in a jarring colour palette. Cowie was also championed by Robert Leonard, one of the leading curators of that time. Leonard always had a keen eye for the transgressive, and in eighties NZ, that was Derek Cowie. He was everywhere and matched his art with a super-charged personality and high style. Derek and his partner at the time Liz were not easily forgotten. And then he vanished.

Some years later, and quite unexpectedly, a strange exhibition (painted on overalls from memory) appeared at the Peter McLeavey gallery. It had been sent from London where Cowie was now living and working as a scenic painter for Convent Garden. He had also been involved in the interior design of Peter Gordon’s Sugar Club when it moved from Wellington to London in the eighties. 

...and found:
More recently Derek Cowie has been involved in scenic painting for films and television including the series Little Dorrit which won the art department an Emmy for art direction. He lives and works in London.

Image: Derek Cowie’s We forget we have two nostrils is available for sale here on Trade Me, auction closes 6 December