Overview

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 2015.

 

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.

 

Exhibitions
Works
  • Derek Cowie, The Beach, 2021
    The Beach, 2021
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  • Derek Cowie, At The Races, 2020-21
    At The Races, 2020-21
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  • Derek Cowie, Bridge #1, 2020-21
    Bridge #1, 2020-21
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  • Derek Cowie, Event, 2020-21
  • Derek Cowie, Haunted Main Stand (Otherwise known as doubt), 2020-21
    Haunted Main Stand (Otherwise known as doubt), 2020-21
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  • Derek Cowie, Indifferent Stand, 2020-21
    Indifferent Stand, 2020-21
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  • Derek Cowie, Red Main Stand and European Trees, 2020-21
  • Derek Cowie, Teuton, 2020-21
    Teuton, 2020-21
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  • Derek Cowie, B.ear, 2020
  • Derek Cowie, B.EAR., 2020
    B.EAR., 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Bridge, 2020
    Bridge, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Careless Cup and Complicit Saucer, 2020
    Careless Cup and Complicit Saucer, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Crash and Burn, 2020
    Crash and Burn, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Emergent Bear, 2020
    Emergent Bear, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Exponential Bear (Now), 2020
  • Derek Cowie, Grand Stand, 2020
    Grand Stand, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Great Long Bear, 2020
    Great Long Bear, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Hodgkins (Keynes) on Cadmium White, 2020
    Hodgkins (Keynes) on Cadmium White, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Indifferent Main Stand, 2020
    Indifferent Main Stand, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Janet c2048, 2020
    Janet c2048, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Long Bear, 2020
  • Derek Cowie, Long Bear, 2020
    Long Bear, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Long Bear (Fabric) c2048, 2020
    Long Bear (Fabric) c2048, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Long Stand, 2020
    Long Stand, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Main Stand #1, 2020
    Main Stand #1, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, NISI, 2020
    NISI, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Peronne c2048, 2020
    Peronne c2048, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Ruth c2048, 2020
    Ruth c2048, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, The Horse 'Plastic Fantastic' Winner, 2020
    The Horse 'Plastic Fantastic' Winner, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, The Main Stand, 2020
    The Main Stand, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, The Whistling Idea #2, 2020
    The Whistling Idea #2, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, Ursulina c2048, 2020
    Ursulina c2048, 2020
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  • Derek Cowie, (Marketta c2048) Dunasuomalainen, 2019
    (Marketta c2048) Dunasuomalainen, 2019
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  • Derek Cowie, Black Spot, 2019
    Black Spot, 2019
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  • Derek Cowie, Blue Jug, 2019
    Blue Jug, 2019
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  • Derek Cowie, Cadmium White Cup, 2019
    Cadmium White Cup, 2019
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  • Derek Cowie, Habitat, 2019
  • Derek Cowie, Broken Cup, 2018-19
    Broken Cup, 2018-19
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  • Derek Cowie, Cadmium Red Form, 2018-19
    Cadmium Red Form, 2018-19
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  • Derek Cowie, Care of Small Birds, 2018-19
    Care of Small Birds, 2018-19
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  • Derek Cowie, Farewell Kusama, 2018-19
    Farewell Kusama, 2018-19
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  • Derek Cowie, Cup and Axe, 2018
    Cup and Axe, 2018
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  • Derek Cowie, Further Reading: Agricultural Intensification, 2018
  • Derek Cowie, Further Reading; Symbolism and the use of Colour Green, 2018
    Further Reading; Symbolism and the use of Colour Green, 2018
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  • Derek Cowie, Further Reading; Wet Bulb Test, 2018
    Further Reading; Wet Bulb Test, 2018
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  • Derek Cowie, Oh! Oh! Oh!, 2018
    Oh! Oh! Oh!, 2018
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  • Derek Cowie, The Door Flew Open, 2018
    The Door Flew Open, 2018
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  • Derek Cowie, McIntyre on Cadmium White (Girl), 2017
    McIntyre on Cadmium White (Girl), 2017
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  • Derek Cowie, Welch on Cadmium White, 2017
    Welch on Cadmium White, 2017
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  • Derek Cowie, The Communication We All Want, 2015
    The Communication We All Want, 2015
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  • Derek Cowie, Hodgkins on Cadmium White (Tangiers, 1905)
Biography

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

2020

Derek Cowie, Page Galleries, Wellington, New Zealand
2019

Derek Cowie, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
BEYOND KÄ€PENE KUKU / CAPTAIN COOK, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington,
New Zealand

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

 

 

Bibliography

SELECTED Bibliography

Miro Bilbrough, "ART: Six Pack Ideas into 'Shifting Ground' Show," Evening Post, 9 February 1989, p. 19.
Gregory Burke, Shifting Ground: Chris Cane, Derek Cowie, Barnard McIntyre, Jane Poutney, Diane Prince, Ruth Watson (Wellington: Wellington City Art Gallery, c. 1989), exhibition catalogue.
Stephen Cain, "Contrast and Starkness Feature in Cowie Works," Evening Post, 16 March 1991, p. 31.
Stuart McKenzie and Robert Leonard, Disgust and Neglect: Introducing Derek Cowie (Auckland: Artspace, 1989), exhibition catalogue.
Stuart McKenzie and Robert Leonard, "The Systematic Derangement of the Body: An Iconographic Study of Work by Derek Cowie", Art New Zealand (Winter 1989) vol. 51: pp. 58-61.
Geri Thomas, "EXHIBITIONS: Wellington', Art New Zealand (Winter 1989) vol. 51: pp. 46-47.

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