Matthew Payne 
Infinite Horizon
Paintings, Limited Edition Prints
September 3 – October 6

Opening Monday September 3 @6pm with Tinpot Hut Winery & CITC Liquor.

All Welcome.

Fiona Turner, Winemaker, Tinpot Hut Winery
Matthew Payne, Exhibiting Artist
Ben Bergman, Director, Bergman Gallery
Shannon Saunders, CITC.

The magnetic Island scenery and atmosphere of Rarotonga is well regarded. Sunny beaches, protected blue lagoons and waving coconut trees, it is the idyllic South Sea paradise that has captured 44 years of modern tourism and 200 years of European exploration. It is perhaps little surprise that it would enchant a young New Zealand landscape artist.

Matthew Payne is a self-described water baby. Growing up on Auckland’s North Shore, he was surrounded by beaches. He is also a former national representative Water Polo player, competing at World Championship and Commonwealth levels. A graduate of Whitecliffe College of Fine Arts, it was evident from his first year of study that Payne’s love of water would translate to canvas. It is his passion and where he feels comfortable. While Payne draws some influence from landscape artists Tony Ogle and Dick Frizzell, Payne relinquishes the role of observer and becomes an active participant in his composition. His intent is not just to capture the perfect moment, but to transport the viewer into the very place he stands, usually in water, to fully experience what he feels. 

His style is a contemporary blend, fusing elements of realism, impressionism and romanticism. In his paintings, dramatic evening and mid-afternoon light play over lagoons and beaches, veritable postcard imagery encapsulating the complete Island fantasy environment. For this series of works, Payne has also taken influence from the infinite horizon afforded by his environment. Unencumbered by large bays or headlands, the horizon is only interrupted by Rarotonga’s protective reef, a faint line in the distance, defined by surging waves. 

Matthew Payne was invited to show with Bergman Gallery in 2017. This is his first solo exhibition with the gallery.  All photographs Turama photography.

Matt Payne – Capturing a Moment

It’s two weeks and two days until his exhibition and artist Matt Payne has a deadline to meet. An Auckland based painter, Matt and his young family arrived in Rarotonga two weeks ago. A day later and Matt is at work in a studio space above The Print Room at Beachcomber Pearl Market, to finish the final paintings that will complete his upcoming exhibition, Infinite Horizon.

This is Matt’s second visit to Rarotonga, the first coming quickly after a mutual friend, Shannon Saunders, connected Ben Bergman, Director of Bergman Gallery, with Matt and his work last year. Ben saw Matt’s paintings online and then at an exhibition at Parnell Gallery in Auckland. “It was obvious that the artist felt a deep connection to his subject matter,” says Ben. “I was immediately transported to his beaches – I could taste it, I could smell it, I could feel it. I was there.”

Ben invited Matt to show with Bergman Gallery and a month later Matt was there to get started, scoping spots for photographs and getting a feel for the island. In a week of rain, he ending up taking the four photos he needed all on the same day, three of these at Black Rock. “I obviously came over here, and I hadn’t been to Rarotonga before, and wasn’t sure what it was going to be like. I literally turned up with my camera and explored the island. In four days I would have driven around the island about 10 times.” His visit also timed in with the joint exhibition of Benjamin Work and Andy Leleisi’uao, both represented artists at the gallery, and gave Matt the opportunity to experience the quality of Bergman Gallery shows.

Back in New Zealand Matt began work on the four large paintings that would make up half of the upcoming exhibition. His process is straight forward and remarkable. He takes hundreds of shots and selects the best. These are then drawn up on canvas, a base block layer chosen and then the painting begins, layer upon layer, shade and reflection on water and land and sky, “until the image pops out at the end with the white. “I don’t think about it too much,” he says of the painting itself. “I’m just seeing and painting.”

Matt has been working as a full time artist for the past seven years, his usual work pace a standard 9am-5pm from his home studio. This year has been quite different. The birth of his second son, Ash, provided a window for travel, so the family, wife Jenny and son Leo, four-and-a-half years, rented out their home in Auckland and let opportunity take them. Months in baches at beaches north of Auckland, and the weeks based in Rarotonga building up to his show, are followed with a trip to Wanaka for another exhibition. It has been a busy year of painting.

While Matt has always been drawn to water, oceans and swimming pools, his discovery of art as a way of life took a little longer to arrive. Water polo was his first love, representing New Zealand at Commonwealth and World Championship levels. As for art, he studied it at school but “I never gave it much time as I was playing water polo so much – I never took it seriously.”

In 2003 Matt completed a painting as a gift for Jenny’s 21st birthday, and around the same time found that the degree he was finishing in Sports and Recreation didn’t much interest him anymore. What was capturing his attention however was painting. Matt enrolled at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design the following year, received a scholarship for his second year of study and completed a Diploma in Fine Arts in 2005. “I absolutely loved it – so many different types of people doing such different things,” he says.

Early on one of his art teachers noted the affinity Matt had with the ocean and water. And while his work does feature mountains and valleys, water scenes are predominant. This is no more apparent than when he is waist deep in a Rarotongan lagoon taking a photo that will become a painting. “The paintings represent what I feel about the place. I’m feeling so happy to be there and in this moment, to be in the water and see this sunset,” Matt says. “I’m not just painting the photo and the scenes, you know. I am trying to capture a moment, a feeling, so people can see the painting and feel what I’m feeling at the time.”

The month Matt spent in the Cook Islands painting and experiencing life, and the two weeks living with his friend Shannon on the east coast of the island, all played a significant role in his connection to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. “Matthew has an innate ability to capture what he sees and what he feels,” says Ben. “I think that too often, we take for granted the amazing scenery that we are blessed with on Rarotonga, and when we see it, re-presented so beautifully through another’s eyes, it gives us a chance to re-evaluate and appreciate what we have free access to on a daily basis.”

“I just try to capture the best bits about where I am – capturing a little moment of the place,” says Matt. Rachel Smith.