Rob McLeod's site-specific, immersive installation would have transformed Aratoi's Wesley Wing into a surreal painted reality, where cartoon and science fiction inspired characters compete for the viewers' attention. However, lockdown and our museum’s temporary closure means we must defer the highly anticipated opening event and artist talk until later this year.
Nevertheless, we do want to ensure that you can immerse yourself – virtually – into The Banshee and the Lifeboat. McLeod’s art challenges traditional notions of painting; freeing it from its conventions to show lively distortions and limitless ranges of colours; thereby making the viewer an active part of the environment. He says: ‘I have been painting for more than fifty years; experimenting with different styles and techniques, refining my methods and eventually settling into a place where I thought I could build on rather than repeat what others had already done.’
French artist Paul Delaroche is said to have claimed that ‘from today, painting is dead’ after seeing a photograph around 1840. Whether true or not, this declaration captures the anxieties surrounding the new technology of photography, as up until then, painting was the primary medium for recording images. Marcel Duchamp took it further, dismissing painting as merely ‘retinal’. Rather than accepting the statement and dismissal, McLeod asked himself where painting can go.
Over the past two decades, the artist pushed boundaries by exploring the areas where painting, drawing, sculpture and installation rub up against each other. However, he wants his works to remain and always be recognised as paintings and their identity based within their history, techniques and materials; not the context they are placed in.
His recent work has been a response to the way he sees the world. There are images that are recognisable as well as those that are odd, incongruous and larger-than-life; all providing a different lens into some of the issues of our times.
Science fiction books and movies - an area where the real and the imagined collide - have always been a rich source of ideas and inspiration. As have myths, legends, folk tales, characters from literature, comic strips, cartoons, and of course, other paintings. Sometimes a newspaper or magazine image will trigger a reaction and something new will appear, mixing with already established figures.
Ecological destruction, climate change, carbon footprints, unstable egocentric politicians, disruptive protests, events that are endlessly highlighted in the media, cannot be avoided. They impact on life and eventually show up in his paintings. McLeod adds humour as an antidote to counter the blackness and to invite his audience to, ‘wander around the exhibition like I do through the history of painting and embrace the humour and the ridiculous.’
We cannot wait to see how The Three Little Pigs Teach The Daft Dog About The Meaning Of Life, to follow Mutant Mickey, Ben Gunn and twerking Miley and to board the lifeboat.
Born in Scotland in 1948, Rob McLeod studied at the Glasgow School of Art from 1965-69 and moved to New Zealand in 1972. He lives and works in Wellington and his work is represented in most major public collections, including Aratoi.
Source: Rob McLeod Aratoi artist statement