Matthew Couper & JK Russ, Nosferatu and the Spider Woman, 18 September - 3 October 2015


You could say Nosferatu is the ultimate example of an artist “borrowing” cultural images.

Conjured up for a 1922 German horror film, the character is a reimagining of Bram Stoker’s Dracula — the most classic vampire of them all.

But now Nosferatu himself has been reimagined, this time by artist Matt Couper who tomorrow presents his live visual arts performance to an audience in Gisborne.

Fresh from the prestigious Sydney Contemporary art fair, Couper’s Gisborne gallery PaulNache has returned home with Couper in tow to show just what it was they got up to over the ditch.

Naturally, they showed a bit of art — Couper exhibiting alongside gallery stablemates Peter Adsett, Glen Hayward and Sanjay Theodore.

And Couper also devised a performance piece, Over, Over, Over, Over, Over, Over and Over, in which he appears as the aforementioned Nosferatu (pictured right) and references the repetitiveness of printmaking by handmaking prints on site.

The 90-minute performance is absolutely fascinating, say the organisers of Sydney Contemporary, especially the part where the vampire rips up and discards prints that are not to his satisfaction.

Tomorrow’s performance launches a dual exhibition from Couper and his wife Jo Russ-Couper who, in the five years since they moved to Las Vegas, have both drawn the attention of the arts world with their respective takes on art classics.

In Couper’s case, it is the religious imagery that dominates his retablo-style paintings.

For Russ-Couper, it’s her use of techniques like collage to bring new life — and new meaning — to the pop art imagery of the mid-20th century.

Their combined show, Nosferatu And The Spider Woman, is essentially two different shows displayed in the same space but Russ-Couper says they have created one work together which, she adds, is a pretty rare occurrence.

“Matthew and I live together and we work together but, to be honest, we don’t do a lot of collaborations,” she says. “So it was a lot of fun to do a piece especially for this show.”

Nosferatu And The Spider Woman — works by Matt Couper and Jo Russ-Couper — text by Kristine Walsh