‘The more we experience on all levels, the greater opportunity we have to understand ourselves and each other’ – David Rowe
Ingham artist David Rowe has embraced all the trials and tribulations of his 62 years in a new exhibition at Murky Waters Studio.
A Man’s Thing is a compilation of David’s work since 2008 that deals with deep tragedy, simple pleasure and how it takes the full spectrum between to truly make a man.
“By the time he gets to 62, a man should have experienced a lot of things: marriage, children, some questions about sexual identity, the whole thing,” says David.
“They’re supposed to be called the Golden Years, and while I don’t think they’re very golden, you get to look back on all those feelings and make art out of them. That’s the best thing about it.”
Finding religion in his own way
In his exhibition, David cites Jesus Christ as the complete man. One who experienced the greatest love, deepest betrayal and moments of fear, pain, temptation, hatred, pride and joy.
Christ and other Christian symbols abound in David’s work, although he stresses it is not to preach to viewers.
“I’m a very rough one but my wife and I do consider ourselves Christian,” David says.
“I believe there is this man who came down to earth, who wanted to experience everything he had to, to help us in our lives. But I find the church is an organisation and I think Christianity shouldn’t be more of an individual thing.
“I accept people and any theory or belief that is productive for all mankind, womenkind and children. Go with it if it works for you.”
Reinterpreting Biblical characters
Many of the reflections in David’s work are deeply personal, though universally appealing.
In one piece, David takes on the role of God as he crafts his own son.
“God is this big, hairy, almost Islamic looking man, naked, and he’s got this little guy,” David describes.
“My wife Lee came in and said ‘He looks like a Ken doll’ but he’s made this little man, and it kind of relates to myself and my son. God’s putting Adam in the Australian bush. He’s placing Adam there carefully and he wants to commune with him.”
David and his son appear in another work, titled The Imitator.
“I’m standing on a hill with horns,” David says. “All my sins and all the things I’ve done have scarred my body, but my son being 23, he’s imitating me.
“He wants to create, to build, to be a man, He wants to be a father, not like his father, but a father.”
Dealing with the darkness
Two of the pieces in this collection, also touch on suicide. David suggests these works saved him in their own way.
“I think you can – and this sounds really intense – you can take on the idea of dying, of suicide, and instead of actually doing it, you can work through these feelings via art,” David says.
It’s like channelling energy from a very dark area that I’m creating art out of.”
A Man’s Thing also celebrates the good – and perhaps lost – in masculinity.
One striking piece celebrates four radiant male figures, bathing naked beneath a rain tree.
David says it celebrates the kind of male bonding he witnessed growing up around Ingham’s sugar mills and which seems to be lost in modern times.
“Women bond. Women bond well. But if you see a lot of men together and the response is ‘What? Are they bonding?’,” says David.
“I grew up in the sugar mill. I wanted to be a worker. I wanted to shower with the guys and drink beer with the guys. Even though my father was an engineer in the mill he would come home smelling of Champion Ruby and OP Rum and it was this great time.
“It’s kind of a comical piece yet it’s a real strong thing.”
A Man’s Thing by David Rowe is on display at Murky Waters Studio until 28 August 2022.