Written by Dr. Ken Wach
Associate Professor, School of Creative Arts,
The University of Melbourne
The works of Marcel Cousins are informed by a new Pacific Rim aesthetic.
He has an acute ability to fashion a fresh artistic view of a longitudinal
time zone based slice of the globe. The range of his imagination
covers the signs and images of Australia, Japan and China and he
shuttles back and forth between these countries scanning the characteristics
of their diverse visual cultures. Cousins is typical of a newly
emerged contemporary category of artists in Australia; they are
not concerned so much with identity but more with how an Australian
sees the world they no longer go inland, they go overseas - and
they go equipped with a certain mental detachment and visual discernment.
Thematically, Cousins's colourful and technically accomplished
works are conditioned by the ubiquity of films, cartoons, television
commercials, advertising graphics and the flickering and superficial
qualities of mass culture. Conceptually, his works are discriminating
visual commentaries based upon reflections on todays new floating
world of travel, popular culture, mass media, electronic information
and the ephemeral of daily life. Technically, his varied works range
from airbrush, conventional painting, ink-jet printing, laser cut
works, collage, montage and screenprinting.
Cousins's paintings and prints are based upon a new cinematic visuality
that works through the maze of imagistic offerings presented by
travel and offered up through perceptive observation. Moving through
the Pacific Rim region, Cousins constantly looks for visual characteristics
that seem to condense first time impressions. What we subsequently
see in his works are the results of a new type of mentally nomadic
imagination that has arisen in the art of a new generation. Cousins
is a wandering eye. Therefore, what we get in his artistic works
are graphic, lucid mental snapshots of a cool exoticism. He wanders,
we wait and watch for the results. What we eventually view in his
sophisticated paintings and prints are not the false commercial
images of tourist postcards, but the aesthetic reconstructions of
a highly informed and perceptive artistic imagination.
Obviously, the more foreign the better, as strangeness sharpens
the senses everything must be as though seen for the first time.
The continent of Europe holds few such surprises - its images are
so well-known and recirculated that they seem distantly familiar,
even to the works contain no Australian elements and they are not
perplexed or restricted by local idioms or questions of national
identity such questions or themes draw yawns. Cousins s imagination
is of Australia, but it is not about Australia Cousins's thought
is implanted into other lands and then fertilised by foreign nutrients.
In his artistic reflections a Post-modern love of surface and cultural
edge comes into play and the seductive appeal of difference is always
All of these aesthetic qualities and visual attributes have drawn
notable attention from curators, collectors and galleries - little
wonder then that Cousins has won six major art awards, completed
two large commissions and is represented in many significant private
collections and the National Gallery of Australia.
Cousins is a new type of Australian artist one whose works are
lively and acute visual commentaries, based upon reflections on
the world of travel, popular culture, mass media, pictorial information
and the ephemera of everyday life.