Matthew ABBOCK

Matthew ABBOCK
Painter
Column : Fine arts
Vanuatu

Matthew was born in Paama in 1968. His father's family comes from Ambae, and there is a strong family tradition in the visual arts: both his father and grandfather were carvers and painters. Matthew never really enjoyed school, preferring to teach himself to draw and paint.
Matthew's father worked for the artist Nicolai Michoutouchkine, who, spotting the young teenager's potential, gave him a sewing machine and calico and instructed him to start to make clothes. In 1985, Michoutouchkine sent him on a textile scholarship for two weeks to Melbourne, Australia, where he learnt how to work with cloth, and to design clothes. On his return he worked for Michoutouchkine for two weeks only before deciding that he would go off on his own. Michoutouchkine had encouraged him to design clothes and to paint his own designs on them with fabric paint, and after leaving his employment, Matthew began to experiment with a style of his own, selling his clothes from home.
He then went into business with a local Chinese merchant, and started to sell his clothes more commercially, and by 1996 was running a small shop on the main road of Vila, in partnership with a Solomon islands woman. In 1997, he moved into the Centrepoint building, where he continued to sell his sewn and painted creations. There is now a vibrant ni-Vanuatu new tradition of hand-painted clothes that focuses on the Centrepoint centre.

In 1988 the South Pacific Trade Commission came to Vanuatu as part of a survey of the textiles industry, and chose Matthew to participate in a trade fashion show in Melbourne, Australia. The same year heralded the re-opening of the new Tjibaou Cultural Centre in New Caledonia, and Nawita (the contemporary arts association of Vanuatu) were invited to exhibit. One of the curators at the Tjibaou, after buying a dress of Matthew's at the market encouraged him to come under the wing of Nawita. He joined as part of their yearly exhibition in 1999-2000.
After joining Nawita, Matthew started to experiment with different media, beginning to paint in oils and acrylics. His primary subject matters are kastom stories from Paama and Ambae, as well as abstract and figural designs of his own. Matthew was one of the Nawita artists chosen to represent Vanuatu at the cultural village of the 6th Pacific Arts Festival, in Noumea, October 2000, where he collaborated on a New Zealand initiative to paint a collective work of contemporary artists from around the Pacific.

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