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Rohan Wealleans

Rohan Wealleans was born 1977 in Invercargill, New Zealand. In 2000 he graduated with a BFA (Painting) Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland and in 2003 he gained a MFA (Painting).

Rohan Wealleans’ monstrous creations morph and bleed between painting and sculpture. Their wild and unruly appearance gives the impression that the artist has grown them in a subterranean lair through a mixture of wizardry and weird science rather than having created them in a white-walled studio. Embarrassingly tactile, the gnarls, knobs and bejewelled facets that either sprout from the wall or create caverns, recesses and bulbous protrusions call up mysterious voids and a grotesque fertility. Born in Invercargill, New Zealand in 1977, Wealleans studied painting at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland in 2002 and went on to win the Waikato Art Award in 2003. He was the winner of the 15th Annual Wallace Art Award in Auckland in 2006, and since then has exhibited regularly in New Zealand and Australia.

Wealleans layers paint on to fibreglass and polystyrene, cutting back into these architectonic layers in a technique that resembles millefiori glasswork in which the multicoloured patterns of glass rods are only viewable from their cut ends. Segments are sliced from one surface and added to another in a joyful accretion of colour and texture. His paintings can amass up to 80 layers of paint, resulting in a psychedelic, visceral, fascinating and at times repulsive surface. The titles of his works combine a love of science fiction and B-grade cinema with a metonymic sense of humour.

Works such as Offering and Head holder (both 2007), made of painted polystyrene and fibreglass, could almost be textured and pocked relics from an arcane and cannibalistic society. Head holder has a yawning chasm whose shiny black depths could house an adult head, and Offering serves up limp skins of peeled paint on a horned shelf, its sinister black background punctuated with painterly jewels in blue and yellow relief. In Baboon Tick (2008), Wealleans releases his sculptural assemblages fully into the third dimension – a spiny, orb-like form displayed on a plinth is implanted with a real shark’s jaw, like a horrifying mutated foetus from a quasi-scientific journal. Wealleans’ exploratory creativity has also ventured into ceramics, and he has given a nod to the spirit world with oversized sculptures of painted and beaded spirit catchers. Blood Crystal Catcher (2006) involves an intricate assemblage of wood, string, rope, ceramic beads, baby rattles and paint, hanging in space, with the feeling that one has encountered the secret rituals of an alien or primitive civilisation. Pushing the limits of paint to extremes, Wealleans has even created a 2.5-metre paint ball, Planet Spore (2004), which was exhibited in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens for the 2004 Scape Biennial. Rohan was included in the 17th Biennale of Sydney in 2010.