Psychedelic cave figures in the heart of Wellington

Psychedelic cave figures in the heart of Wellington

Where can you feast your eyes on some psychedelic cave figures “cavorting wildly around large canvases” in the heart of the capital?

Ask Dunedin artist, Ewan McDougall, and he’ll steer you towards the Exhibitions Gallery of Fine Art on Brandon Street.

That’s where you can take in his “vividly colourful” exhibition from the opening at 5pm Thursday June 28, 2018 and on into late July.

From obsessive and careful surrealist works of 1989 and the early nineties, through a metamorphosis into mayhem, he says it’s one of his most exciting exhibitions to date.

Eyes in the Back of his Head is McDougall’s 30-year retrospective, taking up the entire three-gallery space.

“They become the new order and there’s no looking back. Until now. A time for reflection and celebration and then back to the riotous impasto onslaught,” he says.

What started as a passion developed in a garden shed on a Broad Bay property, on the Otago Peninsula, has transformed into a career of 86 solo exhibitions, spanning decades and continents.

You might have seen his work in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Tauranga Art Gallery, Te Manawa and the Southland Museum and Art Gallery.

But his talents have also been his ticket to exhibiting work abroad in locations like London and St Ives, England; Valencia, Spain; Cremona City, Italy; Sydney, Australia; and New York, USA.

Many of his paintings are held in numerous public collections including the Sir James Wallace Collection.

A 10-time finalist in the Wallace Art Awards, McDougall has also found success as a finalist or prize winner in many other prominent NZ Contemporary Art Awards, including the NZ Portrait Adam Awards.


About Ewan McDougall (born 1948)


Ewan McDougall was born in Wellington before his family moved to Oamaru, where he was educated at Waitaki Boys High School and taught to paint by North Otago regionalist painter Colin Wheeler.

Ewan later attended the University of Otago, while also working in freezing works and drumming in rock bands.

After graduating in 1971 with Honours in Political Studies he worked at the university as a junior lecturer before travelling overseas.

Over the ensuing decade Ewan travelled extensively, working on oilrigs and in pubs and mines. In 1983 he married his partner the writer Sarah McDougall in Perth, Western Australia and subsequently returned to New Zealand.

An admission to Queen Mary Hospital in Hanmer Springs in 1988 sparked his love of painting, and he began creating full-time. Developing a vibrant signature style, his witty, outrageous works are inhabited by a wealth of personal references to his sometimes-volatile life.

Throughout his long and established artistic career, Ewan has had 86 solo exhibitions in some of New Zealand’s most prominent dealer galleries, as well as exhibiting internationally.



In 2003, Ewan showed Southern Heat in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and in February 2016, toured the solo show Fun and Fury at the Tauranga Art Gallery. This exhibition was hosted by Te Manawa in April-August 2016, and in August-September a year later it was hosted by the Southland Museum and Art Gallery.

In 1994 he exhibited in Penzance and St. Ives in Cornwall. Ten years later he exhibited in the Sydney Art Show with Gallery 2021.

In 2005 McDougall exhibited in London with the prestigious Rebecca Hossack Gallery, as well as showing with RHG in The Chelsea Art Show and The London Art Fair.

That year he also exhibited with three other painters at Arte Imagini Gallery in Cremona City, Italy. In 2006, he showed in Color Elefante Gallery in Valencia, Spain. And in May 2012, Ewan exhibited with other New Zealand artists in Chelsea, New York City.

In 2017 he exhibited with selected artists in the Dunedin Sister City exhibition at The Yu Yuan Gardens Gallery in Shanghai, as well as in a solo exhibition in the Brighton Arts Festival, UK.

In June and July 2018, Ewan’s 30-year retrospective exhibition Eyes in the Back of his Head is being hosted by Exhibitions Gallery, Wellington.



Ewan has been a multiple finalist or prize-winner in many prominent New Zealand Art Awards.

He was a prize winner in the Cleveland and Mainland Art Awards in the 1990’s, a finalist in the Wallace Awards on ten occasions, a finalist in the Adam NZ Portraiture Awards  four times and a finalist in The Waikato Art Awards. Additionally, he found himself a finalist in the 2006 Park Lane Art Awards, and in the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Adam Art Awards, that same year.

His painting ‘My Dad at El Alamein’ was selected as one of the Portrait finalists to tour nationally.

Ewan has paintings in a number of public collections including: The Sir James Wallace Collection, The University of Otago Auckland Centre Collection, The Dunedin Public Hospital Collection, The Selwyn Hall University of Otago Collection, The Centre of Contemporary Art Collection, The Aigantighe Gallery Collection, The Eastern Southland Gallery Collection and The Forrester Gallery Collection.

In 2011 the hardcover book on Ewan’s life and work Ewan McDougall Paintings [ed. Dr David Marks] was published by art-n-stuff press, London. The book was launched in Gallery de Novo, Dunedin.

A documentary film by Declan Wong on Ewan premiered at Toitu Museum in Dunedin in December 2012, and the film has been shown at Public Gallery exhibitions, and in his dealer gallery shows throughout Aotearoa and in Brighton, UK.

Ewan and Sarah’s collaboration Pearler, with 15 paintings and 15 poems celebrating their 30-year wedding anniversary was published by McDougall Art in 2013.



"I am an expressionist painter. I rarely plan a painting or do preparatory drawing.

I commence the work with a quick wash of strong, primary colour and then begin to hurriedly paint figures / people, animals and hybrid creatures.

I add crude marks for volcanoes, hills, sea, buildings, boats, clouds, sun and moon, working with vibrant impasto.

The painting forms and informs me as to what it is. The last stroke is always the title.

Above all I prize spontaneity, colour and a good dose of irony. I love being a painter."