“You were a baggie, Aye. Sir?” enquired a young lance corporal as we patrolled the back streets of Honiara, Solomon Islands. Stopping every couple of blocks to report our Location Status back to base, I could feel his tone change and the tense atmosphere in the back of the 4 x 4 begin to calm, when I answered, “Yeah I marched out as a Gunner…. And got this honorary rank to do this Army Art job.” I had been through the same Basic training as him and he knew it. I was there to paint them.
I am Matt Gauldie, born 1976 in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, the youngest of three children to Bob and Gail Gauldie. Like many artists I showed a keen interest in art from a very young age and was lucky enough to have had plenty of encouragement to pursue a creative career.
This also seemed a logical direction for me as I wasn’t particularly good at much else. I went to High School in Hawaii and began to see the benefits to my art as I won a few prestigious art competitions in the United States and received a couple of notable portrait commissions. Although only 16 years old, I could see painting was no longer a hobby for me but fast becoming a profession. In 1995, I returned to New Zealand, 18 years old and keen to repeat my successes in Hawaii at Elam school of art and design. I was excited to be taught by childhood heroes Don Binney and Dick Frizzell, both teaching at Elam at that time. Their prints had been on the walls of our family home for as long as I could remember. However, it was a young tutor named Damien Skinner that inspired me the most with his infectious passion for NZ art history. Through his tutorials I could see the country’s short history of art laid out in front of me. I felt inspired to see the reactions by New Zealand artist’s over the last 200 years, reactions to social, political and religious issues that over the years has helped make New Zealand the place it is today. However, my earlier successes were not repeated at Elam and I left after 2 years in search of my own style and creative contribution in order to have my name mentioned one day in one of Damian Skinners lectures.
I spent the next three years painting portraits and illustrations for school journals in Wellington and Auckland, frustrated and a bit scared, I finally got together enough paintings for my first exhibition in a cafe on Blair St, Wellington. Unbelievably, there I was on the front page of local newspaper The Dominion Post the next day, full of confidence and direction. It was October 2000, this was when my art train left the station and I’ve been exhibiting ever since.
My art has always been my own interpretation of the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been; my life and experiences along the way – from Shearers in dusty Maniototo sheds, painting Rawhiri’s descendants at Whiria Pa in the Hokianga to Nervous Jockey’s preparing to race at Mosgiel’s Wingatui track, Orchard workers at Maraekakaho, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand soldiers on long range missions high in the mountains of Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush, Wharfies tying down container ships at Wellington port, the theatrical world of Wellington’s late night burlesque performers. I feel fortunate as an artist to have had the opportunity to investigate and capture these rich experiences in art.
I’ve continued my philosophy of ‘paint (sculpt) what you know’ through 30+ solo shows, numerous group exhibitions, residencies, fellowships and 12 years as official New Zealand Army Artist.