Monday, 23 December 2013

Seasons Greetings...All the best for 2014!


Me juggling painting and parenting...this is not a staged photo!

Captain Matt sculpts the Sapper!

I am thrilled to say that after several months of negotiation and concept proposals and budget estimates, I have been chosen by the Hamilton City Council and the TOTI trust to Sculpt a 3.5 metre high public bronze sculpture of Sapper Moore-Jones. This will be my first full size statue/sculpture (1.5 life size on 2 metre high base)  I will begin this project in mid January, I will be keeping weekly update photos on this site. Thank you to everyone that believed in my concept, and supported me throughout all of the proposal process. Thank you friends and family and especially my partner Kim for enduring a fairly lean winter with me and our new baby, the 3 of us gambling that this project might actually be given to me, in spite of other impressive concept proposals by a formidable range on NZ sculptors. Matt

concept sketch of 'Line of Fire/ Sapper Moore-Jones' (original base, new base idea TBC)

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Sapper Moore-Jones project

Known as 'Sapper Moore-Jones', Horace Moore-Jones was a New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) artist who served at Gallipoli. 1915

Possibly Australasia's most famous Gallipoli artwork, Sapper Moore-Jones' image of a man and his donkey has become both a New Zealand and Australian institution. It is recalled every Anzac day in both countries. Is it Simpson the Australian stretcher bearer or Henderson the New Zealand Stretcher bearer depicted in the painting? Does it matter any more? The painting has become an icon in both countries, capturing the Anzac spirit of camaraderie forged in battle. Can you think of a painting more celebrated in both NZ and Australia? Or one that has inspired as many reproductions or sculptures? I can't.  Sapper Moore-Jones painted five original versions of this painting, using a photograph he had taken of the scene at Gallipoli as a reference. (You can see my interpretation in bronze of the same theme on the 'Scrapbook' page on this site)

'Sapper' Horace Moore-Jones 'Private Simpson, D.C.M., & his donkey at Anzac', Watercolour, 1918

'Sapper' Horace Moore-Jones 'The Sphinx', Watercolour, 1915
Ironically, Sapper Moore-Jones painted very few figurative Gallipoli works. He painted very detailed topographical landscapes like this water colour, looking across the Sphinx rock feature out toward Suvla Bay in the distance. His field drawings at Gallipoli were used as Artillery target references as they would clearly indicate enemy positions. His amazing collection of Gallipoli water colour landscapes were sadly not purchased by the NZ Government after the War.  

'Sapper' Horace Moore-Jones, NZEFArtist, Galipoli, 1915

Today, I'm finishing the last details on this little wax sculpture of Sapper Moore-Jones.  This is a small scale statuette for a proposed full size statue and it shows the artist surveying his line of sight as he sketches an exposed ridge at Anzac Cove.  

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Gallipoli art project begins

Sketching on Walkers Ridge, overlooking Suvla Bay, Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey
On my return from Turkey last week, and after adjusting back to New Zealand time, I started drawing many composition studies for the first of my 'Gallipoli Anniversary' series of paintings.

'Armistice,' the biggest of the series, at a proposed three metres wide, will depict the historic truce on 24th May 1915, where Anzac and Turkish soldiers laid down arms for one day in order to collect and bury more than 2000 dead soldiers lying in no mans land. Some of the dead had lay in the summer heat for five weeks, where they fell on the first day of the landing on the 25th April.

I have been up on the ridge line, and sketched between Quinns Post Cemetery and Johnstons Jolly Cemetery, a 150 metre section between many more kilometres of no mans land that snaked along the ridge in either direction between the forward Turkish and Anzac trenches. Some trench systems and tunnels are still clearly visible, making it easier to decipher the lay of the land and imagine what it may have looked like for the soldiers in 1915.  Defence House decided that armistice was the ideal theme for a large painting to gift the Turkish people on the 100th anniversary in 2015. The camaraderie in grief, shared by the Anzac and Turkish soldiers as they were tasked with the terrible job of burying the dead in shallow graves next to where they lay, is widely recalled in the memoirs of men who were there that day. 

Burying the dead Gallipoli, 1915

Barbed wire I found at the front trenches near Quinns Post

For one day the opposing soldiers could look in the eyes of the enemy, swap souvenirs, food and tobacco, share a pipe and size each other up. Most Anzacs drew the conclusion that these 'heathens' from a foreign land were no different from the war-weary, hungry, disease-ridden, homesick men they shared their own trenches with. In a glance, a 'Gidday or a 'Merhaba', or a simple swapping of bully beef for couple of tomatoes, a brief light of human kindness shone through in the dark, filthy and horrifying pit of human tragedy.
Bully beef, 1915
Turkish-Macedonian Tobacco company tin, 1915
It is widely reported amongst the Anzac's in their own words, that the general attitude toward 'Johnny Turk' changed from that day onward. The killing continued in earnest, of course but the mutual respect for the 'gentlemen in battle' continued for the Anzac's for the remainder of the failed campaign.

Video footage taken as we approached the site of Quinn's Post

This photo shows the terraces of Quinn's Post under construction. The ridge line above is the front line trench and the plateau on the top is no mans land where the Armistice took place. The roof on each terrace at Quinn's Post was designed to catch Turkish bombs

Turkish throwing bomb (early grenade)

Placing a poppy at Chunik Bair New Zealand memorial.

Stores on Anzac cove beach, 1915

Stores barges evacuate wounded from Anzac cove
Donkey's on Anzac cove beach, used to haul equipment and water up the narrow paths and evacuate wounded back to the beach
A covered trench, similar to the covered terraces at Quinn's Post.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

First Impressions at Anzac Cove

Anzac Cove, Turkey, with the Sphinx Rock in the background

 I arrived at Anzac Cove on Friday 19th April via a night in Istanbul and Dubai. It was a long journey by plane. I couldn’t imagine how long that journey must have been by boat for the New Zealand and Australian soldiers landing in 1915. I have made this journey with about a dozen New Zealand Defence Force band and honour guards.  We have met up with people from Veterans Affairs and the Australian contingent who are all staying at the hotel in Canakkale.

I met up with New Zealand historian Ian McGibbon yesterday as we walked the New Zealand trail, retracing the perilous plight of the NZ regiments as they climbed through a hail of bullets to take the highground of Chunik Bair. I found some of those bullets as we walked. I also found a human rib bone. The entire area where the Anzacs occupied and fought during the campaign is now classified as a giant cemetery. The beautiful Turkish wild flowers, alpine pines and miniature holly bushes, playful birds and turquoise seas lapping against the stony shore still can’t hide the feeling of what this place actually is.

I have locked down a couple of themes for the Gallipoli series of paintings I have come to research. As the guard rehearses at the memorial over the coming days before Anzac day, I will walk and talk with Ian and trek through the bushes to find the overgrown trenches so I can set my compositions in the exact area, surveying the ridge lines and Turkish trenches as they would have appeared in 1915.

My first impression of Anzac Cove is sadness at the hopeless plight of all the men that landed at such an impassable landscape. It felt familiar, like I’ve been here before. The unstable and eroding rocky cliff faces of the ghostly sphinx feature still watch the shoreline.

Military Historian Ian McGibbon at North Beach. Gallipoli

El Alamein, a toast to fallen friends

'El Alamein, a toast to fallen friends’ 2013, oil and tin on canvas and board

This painting is dedicated to all those who served in the North Africa campaign of WW2, including Mr Wagstaff (pictured below). Thank you for sharing detailed accounts of your experiences as a gunner at El Alamein. Sharing a beer with you in Darwin on the way back from our trip to Egypt, gave me the idea of a 'toast' in this painting. Farewell. Ubique.

Mr Tom Wagstaff

In October 2012 I had the honour of travelling to El Alamein, Egypt with 22 North World War II Africa Campaign Veterans, to commemorate their 70th anniversary of the campaign. My job on this tour was to research and produce a painting on my return that captured events from the tour while acknowledging their service in WWII.  I am pleased to announce that I have now completed, 'El Alamein, a toast to fallen friends.'

I chose to paint the portraits of Mr Tom Wagstaff and Mr Keith Matthews, two of the special men on the tour who I was lucky enough to get to know and befriend.  Both are drinking a toast to their fallen friends with a bottle of Egyptian beer 'Stella', the beer of choice for the New Zealand soldiers in 1942. Behind them is the El Alamein War cemetery as it appeared on the day of commemoration. The 25 pounder gun crew dug in amongst the headstones is a ghostly vision of what the veterans may see, as the rest of the NZDF staff and caregivers walk with them through the rows of sand coloured head stones, reading so many names. 

Looking at the veterans’ far away eyes, it’s clear they see the faces and remember the voices of their friends they trained with, friends they sailed with to the other side of the world and friends they fought in the desert with 70 years ago.

I have made the gun from sheet metal, constructing the metal around the gunners. I wanted to highlight the gunners and surround them by steel, showing the fragility of the bravest men as they confront and operate the heavy metal equipment of war.


Monday, 25 February 2013

New Limted Edition Prints for Sale

Making limited edition screen prints - the giant UV ink drying machine behind me. 
Pulling the red ink through the screen

Colour proofing with cyan print in foreground before the other colour screens

I have produced these limited edition screen prints, personally hand finished in Onehunga, Auckland with the amazing Artrite Screenprinting crew. This is an edition of 75. All handmade, signed and numbered by me. Titled 'Dreaming on the Fergie' after my original oil painting/metal car panel composition, painted in 2011.


Each print is $450, unframed. To purchase one of these Limited Edition prints please contact me by pressing the 'contact' button on the menu above, or get in touch with me at and we can organise a secure credit or debit card payment via Paypal.

Note: I have left a big camera flash on the image of the print above, so you can see the variations in the surface texture.  I have highlighted all the metal in the composition with a heavy gloss finish, giving the print an amazing sense of depth, much like the original painting.  In order to get a full appreciation of the rich surface texture, a viewing can be arranged in either Auckland or Wellington.

Artistico Fabriano heavy Italian paper 560mmx760mm

Image size 420mm x 630mm

Artrite embossed/signed

These are 100% real screen prints using quality German printing inks and hand finished by me.  They are not to be confused with laser prints or other forms of fake 'Art' printing.