Matthew Gove and his Surfin’ Rabbit

Matthew Gove

Matthew Gove Surfin’ Rabbit 2015 gouache on paper 29 x 38 cm MAGO15-0013


Matthew Gove (b 1977, Melbourne) is an emerging artist working across a variety of mediums including painting and ceramics. His artworks reveal a penchant for quirky and humorous subject matter often involving animals in ridiculous ‘humanistic’ scenarios.  Gove has worked in the Arts Project since 2012; his work has been included in several group exhibitions in Melbourne and Sydney and is represented in private collections throughout Australia.

In August 2019, Melissa Pesa commented in Art Almanac, “Gove humanises pets, giving them hobbies, careers and everyday chores just like their human counterparts; mice play cricket while smoking, cats indulge in a ‘purrrfect’ massage or read the newspaper while drinking tea. The secret lives of Gove’s anthropomorphised animals are parallel to their owner’s, a result of years of cohabitation and interdependency; consequently absorbing each other’s habits and traits…” 

Echoing Pesa’s succinct analysis, this interview sees Gove exploring the ways in which his attachment to animals fuels his creative practice. While often resulting in playful narratives beyond the realm of reality, Gove’s comical anthropomorphisation resonates with anyone who has ever had a bond with a pet or furry friend.  

Your paintings are so quirky, funny and beautifully done. You have a knack for capturing a moment. Can you tell me about your process and where you source your ideas, like with this piece Surfin’ Rabbit?

I love using colours – reds or browns – as well as finding ideas and how to apply these to paper. I look on the internet and try to find a good picture and funny things. Some are not from there; they are from Rottnest Island on holiday or of my dogs at mum and dad’s place. For Surfin’ Rabbit, I found the idea on the internet through a funny photo of an actual rabbit. Then I made it my own. He’s surfing but not actually surfing because he’s surfing the internet. 

What animals do you feature in your paintings? 

It’s hard to say, but my favourite animal tends to be dogs. I’ve been around dogs a long time and seen them act like humans because they really think they’re humans. At mum and dad’s home, I have three dogs. One is 14, and the others are about 2. Their names are Sunny, Birdie and Alfie. Sunny is 14, so he doesn’t do much, but the other ones are like “me, me, me, me!” I like to paint them cuddling me.

Matthew Gove Bad to the Bone 2015 gouache on paper 29 x 38 cm MAGO15-0011


Can you tell me about some of the other scenarios you have depicted in your work?

A dog playing tennis, and hamsters riding bikes. A dog riding a motorbike in a gang or something with a cigar. He is bad to the bone. So, I called it Bad to the Bone. I got ideas from a holiday at Rottnest Island when I was there on a trip. I won’t be going away this year! I was supposed to go to Europe. We had planned everything – England, Italy, France and a cruise to Greece. I think we will go next year when all this is over.

You will get some great inspirations for paintings on that trip!

Yeah, I really will.

Matthew Gove Not titled 2015 gouache on paper 28 x 38 cm MAGO15-0007


Support Arts Project Australia and browse more of Matthew Gove’s portfolio at Arts Project Australia’s online shop. 

Love from the Studio is a series of interviews and articles bringing you behind the scenes of Arts Project Australia.  Interview by gallery administrator Jo Salt.