After predominantly producing abstract work in recent years, Ewen Coates’ art practice takes a figurative turn in his upcoming solo exhibition Hummer and Cyclo in which he considers the rise and fall of civilizations.
Inspired by a recent trip to Cambodia, this body of work takes the form of a sculptural installation and is an allegory of love and brutality, evoking the possibility of recurring histories, the forces that shape them and how we, as individuals, take part in this cyclic journey.
The title for the exhibition Hummer and Cyclo is a play on the hammer and sickle, the communist motif displaying the unity between industrial and agricultural workers. In this, Coates cites the kind of Agrarian rule adopted by Pol Pot, its catastrophic failure and its transition into a new society that flaunts its wealth with expensive 4WDs, while the rest make do with motor bikes and tuk-tuks. Cambodia’s motorbike riders, often young couples or families on bikes carrying up to four passengers – array of legs and tangled arms – fascinated Coates. To him the image of these riders was reminiscent of multi-limbed Hindu deities, sculptures of which are prolific within the watts dotted around the country.
Ewen Coates holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts (1999) and a Bachelor of Arts, Fine Art, from Deakin University, Warrnambool (1985). He has held a number of solo exhibitions including Hatchlings, Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne (2011); Post Velcro, Deakin University Art Gallery, Victoria (2010); and Overground, Gippsland Regional Art Gallery and Warrnambool Art Gallery (2007). Coates has participated in group exhibitions at a number of important spaces including presenting his work at the Melbourne Art Fair 2012 with Anna Pappas Gallery, National Gallery of Australia, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. Coates has been a finalist in the Melbourne Sculpture Prize, Mt Buller Sculpture Award, McClelland Sculpture Survey and Award, Deakin University Contemporary Small Sculpture Prize and Lorne Sculpture Festival. His works are held in various public gallery collections in Australia including Heide Museum of Modern Art, Werribee Park Sculpture Walk and Deakin University Collection as well as in private collections in Australia, United States and United Kingdom. Coates is represented by Anna Pappas Gallery.