Monumental Nobodies: Comical artworks that map the rise and fall of Empires

When the US seized Baghdad, the soldiers celebrated by destroying art. Removing contemporary politics, this destruction illustrates how little has changed psychologically in the 1500 years since the barbarian sack of Rome. With one notable difference. Rome was destroyed by uneducated warriors. In Baghdad, it was stage-managed for TV.

This was the inspiration for award-winning Australian artist Matthew Quick's Monumental Nobodies. Punctuating an arc through triumph and failure, the monuments that map the rise and fall of Empires seem somehow more poignant when the event for which they were created has faded into history. With their conscious symbolism, they provide the foundation for a revisionist take on the notions of beauty, pride, and nationalism.

The series refers to the image of power, yet Matthew reverses and distorts its meaning through a conceptual approach that reveals, with a gentle humour, pressing issues of society, unfolding a reality that often hides behind appearances.

The aura of emperors and gods is eliminated by adding ordinary objects to replace their crowns and thrones, turning them into powerless nobodies. By ridiculing them, he plays with their initial grand goal and allows us to take a refreshed look at existence. There are also references to individual freedom, social control and surveillance, the deceitful behaviour of rulers who intentionally fail to act as they speak.

The works of Matthew are a reflection of a world where deification is no longer possible. Try as they might, leaders seeking as they once did to manipulate their image into becoming omniscient and omnipresent super-beings, now confront an educated, media savvy and sceptical audience who by default look see beyond the veil of illusion.

Matthew always painted but managed to distract himself with a few alternative careers – working variously as a lecturer, art-director, photographer & writer. His first novel was short-listed for the Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award. A cancer epiphany in his 30s prompted a return to making art.

He was featured in BRW as one of Australia’s top 50 artists. In the past few years he’s won, or been a finalist for, 70 national juried art awards. He’s had 14 solo and more than 80 group shows.

He’s lived in Australia, the UK, Portugal & Malaysia, and once camped for several months beneath a grand piano. He’s spent nights under stars in India, underground in Bolivia, under surveillance in Burma and under-nourished in London. His scariest moment was having a machine-gun shoved in his face during Nepalese anti-monarchy riots, although crashing a para-glider into a forest was also something of a highlight. Discover more of his work at

Via Creative Boom submission


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