Artist Profile - Dan Arps
interview byMeadowlark
Published Wed, 22 Dec 2021

Dan Arps is one of our favourite New Zealand artists. He’s a sculptor, painter and installation artist known for pushing boundaries by using non-traditional mediums, blending order and chaos to create his captivating pieces.

When did you know you were going to pursue art?

I had changed high school form Hagley High which was quite liberal to Christchurch Boys High in the sixth form for some reason - it really didn’t go well, as it was quite disciplinarian and I kept getting in trouble over what I thought was terrible petty shit. I pretty much disengaged from all my school work. Except there were really good art teachers there: Megan McCormack and Margeret Lanyon and I got really into art. In seventh form the only subject I passed was painting- I got 95% and my boards were published in the guide book the next year. It took another year to get into Ilam [School of Fine Arts] because I didn’t have university entrance, but it seemed like the best option.

What are your strongest childhood memories relating to creativity?

I was quite solitary and spent pretty much the whole time making lego spaceships and drawing - I think play for me is really just making things.

What mediums do you work with and which one do you love most?

At the moment I’m really into the classic sculpture materials and processes. My series ‘The New Brutal’ new works come out of a process of making sand casts of things and then pouring a plaster positive from the sand, using very elemental materials - wood and rocks - sand, plaster. I really like casting processes, its sort of magical, and sort of a compelling problem to solve - making an uncanny doppelgänger of a thing or its negative. Then I also like plastics and manufactured objects. Everything lately has been cast in polyurethane, which is a hard material to work with in some ways but makes great objects and its light and strong; one of the great fake materials that can almost stand in for anything.

What is your creative process from concept to finished piece?

I’ll often see something out in the world somewhere and I’ll think about it a lot afterwards - how does it make me feel or what it might mean. Then there is a process of breaking things down and re-arranging them in my head boiling it down and compressing information so that a lot can be contained in a small fragment. In the studio I’m quite experimental and I like try out different ways working - partly playing around making random stuff and partly being quite systematic. Making an installation is more of an editing process - selecting things based based around how the work relates to each other with in the given space.

Who or what inspires you?

The street, things people make - especially kids. teaching, being in the studio.

Which work are you most proud of?

I have favourites from all the different phases, but currently I'm most proud of my two recent shows. The Floral Maze at Michale Lett in Auckland and Sleepers at Robert Heald in Wellington. These shows feature works which are made from multiple casts of the same object that are then assembled into these kind of odd minimalist wall-based sculptures. They are sort of fences or shelves or quasi architectural diagrams of how things go together. These works have a really strong presence in the space and they shift and change a lot depending on your perspective on them. In my mind they have strong resonance with suburban fences - especially around Mt Roskill where I live and I like the way that as abstractions they balance their high minimalism with firmly everyday vernacular architecture.