Contrasting the global, pandemic-enforced trend of living life through technology instead in person, Matthew Couper's exploration of what social isolation might look like starts from an island in the middle of the ocean. For the artist, desert islands and desert proper are both metaphors for survival and reflect a bigger picture of what survival means on the scale of the world and humanity as a whole, and how we live (or don’t live) in interdependency with others in a society.

Couper is an artist with a Kafkaesque view of the world’ - art critic John Seed

Couper's art, spurred on by hostile desert dwelling, oscillate between didactic talismans of impending anthropocenic doom to more insular and psychological spaces. Paintings describe desert mesa psycho-scapes and murky sea-surrounded islands, presided over hovering tools of survival and make-shift shelter, all while reveling in aesthetic constructive chaos. This psychological space, both in the artist’s mind and on the painted surface, is the opposite of a specific location. They are an amalgam of places past and present - vistas of a homemade paradise constantly in flux.

Much like Couper’s homeland set on the Pacific Ring of Fire, even the islands and headlands are subject to change, distortion and relocation due to continuing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The term ‘desert island’ reconnects his two homes back together in paint.

Matthew Couper is an Aotearoa/New Zealand born artists living and working in the USA.



Sean Horton NYC, USA
PaperWorks, Napier, AOTEAROA/NZ
Galerie Gimpel+Muller Paris, FR

UAP Sculpture Artist residency programme, Brisbane, AUST
Flux Factory Artist Residency Project, Governors Island, NYC, USA
Elsewhere Artist Residency, Paonia, CO, USA
Idem Print Residency, Paris, FR
Arthemuse at Manoir du Bonhere, Normandy, FR       
Arquetopia Artist in Residence,Puebla, Mexico
Artist in Residence, Tylee Cottage, Whanganui, NZ
Royal Overseas League Art Scholarship, UK

Aigantighe Art Museum, NZ
Barrick Museum of Art, NV, USA
Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, NSW, AUST
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, FRANCE
Cirque Du Soleil Collection, USA & CANADA
Idem Paris, Paris, FRANCE
Wallace Art Trust, Auck, NZ
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, NZ & ITALY
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, AUST
Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui, NZ
Spiegelworld, Las Vegas, USA


(left) Pale Arid Sea, 2021, oil on canvas, 22 ½" x 18 ½", private collection, USA
(center) Circled Smoke, 2021, oil on board, 20" x 18", Private collection, LA, USA
(right) Mesa Shark, 2021, oil on canvas, 14" x 11", private collection, Oregon, USA


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