Derek Cowie (b. 1956, Ruatoria, New Zealand) was raised in Dunedin. He moved to Wellington where he attended Wellington School of Design from 1976 - 78. His work is represented in several public collections including Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. In the 1980s Cowie regularly exhibited with Peter McLeavey Gallery in Wellington before moving to London where he worked as a scenic painter for the National Theatre and as an award winning visual artist for film and television while continuing to make and exhibit his own work. Following many years living in London, Cowie returned to Wellington in 2016.

 

Working across various mediums and styles, his practice often delves into obscure art historical and cultural resources, and is always motivated by strong environmental concerns and imbued with a distinctly punk sensibility.

 

Derek Cowie's series Destruction of National Treasures reimagined historically significant New Zealand paintings as if they have been found in the rubble of some post-apocalyptic world. Ostensibly, viewers are met with a series of ruined paintings by iconic New Zealand artists - McCahon, Hodgkins, Bensemann, Perkins, Stoddart - ripped torn, and battered, with an unsettling ooze seeping through the cracks.

 

In the exquisite surfaces of his Chemical Skin paintings we envision aerial landscapes of rolling hills or ice sheets. Perhaps we are looking at a city that has been reduced to desert or reclaimed by the ocean. Or is what we're seeing something much more intimate, even cellular? There is a sense of fragility and an unsettling, slightly sinister quality about the shifting nature of these works. Fields of colour are populated with delicately painted forms that at first appear as falling leaves or feathers, but then morph into small flames that lick the canvas, fractures and voids opening out behind them.

 

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS AND PROJECTS

2018

Derek Cowie, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

2017

Destruction of National Treasure, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

2012
Collaboration with Stephen Dudding on environmental project

1989
Disgust and Neglect, Artspace, Auckland, New Zealand
Six Wellington Artists, Wellington City Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

1987
No Bodies, Shed 11 National Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
Shift Ground, Wellington City Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

1980-84
Various group and solo exhibitions, Closet Artists Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

1984-99
Seven solo and five group exhibitions, Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

1985-93
Various group and solo exhibitions, AberhartNorth Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

1979
Four Young Artists, New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, Wellington, New Zealand

1978
Young Wellington Artists, Elva Bett Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

 

SELECTED PROFESSIONAL ROLES

2000-13
Visual artist on various films and television series, including:
Scenic artist on Circus (2000)
Chief scenic artist on Revelation (2001)
Scenic artist on Finding Neverland (2004)
Chargehand painter on Little Dorrit (2008)
Scenic artist on Desperate Romantics (2009)
Painter on Chatroom (2010)
Scenic artist / supervising painter on The Deep Blue Sea (2011)
Head of department painter on Rush (2013)

1990-95
Assistant Head of Scenic Studio, Royal National Theatre, London, United Kingdom

1984-89
Personal Assistant, Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

1979-81
Designer, Mercury Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand

 

SELECTED COLLECTIONS AND COMMISSIONS

Included in various public institutions:
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
New Zealand Foreign Affairs Art Collection
Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato
Massey University Art Collection
Bank of New Zealand Art Collection

Private commissions include:
Steven Pimlott OBE (English opera and theatre director)
Dirk van Dooren (leading English designer and creative)
Alberto Aspesi (founder of Italian fashion label Aspesi)
Gielgud Theatre, National Theatre, London