James Cousins

James Cousins, Envoy, 2022

Printed billboard skins, acrylic paint. 3000 x 6000mm.

Landscape painting and tourist advertising are two visual genres with a shared interest in capturing the beauty of a place for the pleasure of its viewer, and modern technologies have enabled anyone with a device to participate in this kind of snapshot representation.

Working outside the gallery and at a large scale for the first time, James Cousins’ contribution to the sculpture trail subverts these traditions to initiate a slower engagement with image and place.

Beginning with a photograph of the surrounding site, enlarged, and printed onto a billboard skin that acts as the work’s canvas, Cousins has subsequently added layers of paint using different application techniques.

The result is a “distorting filter” that shuttles between transparency and opacity, abstraction, and figuration, the real and its representation. Obstructing easy access to the image, Cousins undermines consumption and gratification as habitual modes of perception, calling instead for a slow appraisal of the picture surface that might also direct viewers to look beyond it to the immediate environment that here, as always, exceeds and diminishes the bounds of the picture frame.


Lives and works in Auckland

James Cousins is a Senior Lecturer in painting and art theory at the Elam School of Fine Arts, where he completed an MFA in 2004.

His paintings are recognised for their studied engagement with perception and process and how these play out upon the canvas both during a painting’s conception in the studio and reception in the gallery. ‘What counts as painting?’ and ‘How do we recognise an image?’ are both questions his practice seeks to interrogate, even if the answers remain elusive.

An extensive portfolio of residencies, exhibitions and commissions attest to Cousins’ innovative work, including recently and notably ‘Lateral re boot,’ at Olga Gallery in Dunedin (2019); ‘Necessary Distraction,’ at Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki (2016) and a solo retrospective at Te Uru in Titirangi, ‘Restless Idiom’ (2015).

Represented by Gow Langsford Gallery gowlangsfordgallery.co.nz