Supporting a Pacific Presence
In 2022, the Gallery received an extraordinary gift: fifty-seven works by thirty-two artists from the private collection of writer, researcher and lecturer Karen Stevenson. Of Tahitian heritage, Stevenson was raised in Los Angeles and moved to Ōtautahi Christchurch in 1995 to take up the position of lecturer in art history at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts. She told Felicity Milburn just what the gift means to her.
The More we Learn, The Less We Know
In July 2023 Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū welcomes Te Rā. This taonga from the collection of the British Museum will be on public display in Ōtautahi for three months before travelling to Auckland Museum and then returning to London. The homecoming of this taonga is a deeply significant moment. In March, pouarataki curator Māori Chloe Cull, was joined by Ranui Ngarimu ONZM (Ngāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Ngāti Mutunga) and Dr Catherine Smith, two members of the research group that has led the project to bring Te Rā to Aotearoa, to talk about what this homecoming means to them.
Ripples and Waves
Melanie Oliver: In the exhibition Ripple, an ocean horizon line locates us geographically and temporally, connecting Aotearoa to your home in Sydney, Australia and also Suva, Fiji. How does the ocean operate in your work?
Salote Tawale: The ocean is a number of places and spaces for me. Physically, I get so much from the energy of the ocean; it helps to centre me and place myself as a small element in a much larger picture. It’s important as a connector, between the horizon, as a way to Fiji.
Almost everyone that I know who has come from elsewhere lives on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. So when I met a First Nations artist from Los Angeles, the first thing that she wanted to do in Sydney was stand in the water and feel that energy.
Melanie Oliver: I first saw your work in 2016 as part of a one-night-only exhibition, NOWNOW held at 17 Tory Street in Wellington. It was a sculptural installation with fluids dribbling from a hanging form and I was at once delighted and disgusted. It was visceral and bodily, the drips a reminder of saliva, snot, discharge or cum, but also beautiful and joyful. It had vitality. While your more recent work is primarily video, it retains this abject, sculptural, gooey, oozing quality – it’s biological, or ecological. Why are you interested in grossing people out, in a pleasurable way?
Laura Duffy: I like to think I am interested in (my version of) bodily honesty, more than grossing people out, which could be read as the same thing, especially in earlier works...
New Photographs in the Collection
Our new collection exhibition Perilous: Unheard Stories from the Collection features a number of newly acquired works from Aotearoa New Zealand artists that expand our contemporary photographic collection. Melanie Oliver asked a few of these artists to share their thoughts on photography and the works that have found a new home at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū.
Felicity Milburn: Judy, it’s great to be working with you again, this time on a work for the entry wall leading into our new collection rehang, Perilous. It’s made up of a frieze of photographic panels combining images of handwritten lists and pieces of bread that have been partially eaten away by birds, and you’ve called it Pecking Order. Can you tell us a little about how it came about?
Judy Darragh: Thanks, it’s great to have this new work included in Perilous, it was already in existence and fitted well with ideas in the show.
Life over lockdown became reduced – we were at home, everything was shut down and it became a surreal and shared experience for us all. While out walking I observed the flourishing of bird life, and I had time to hear and feed them in the back garden every day. Feeding the birds was very satisfying.
Hard and Slippery – HAHAHA (Wait, is that the title?)
Kommi: This is a courteous introductory message to the two of ya’ll and regarding the collab comms between Turumeke and I, and the editing of it by Kirsty, along with additional notes/commentary as like a third voice freaky irirangi concept (but in written/electronic messaging/note adding stuff form),* all towards the art concept workings and discussions in conversations leading to the finished arts ’n’ stuff resulting in a publication of our ponderings and explorations within te ao buzzy buzzy art stuff that we gonna do. I hope my whakamārama there was nice ’n’ clear.
Tui/Turumeke this is Kirsty. Kirsty, this is Tui/Turumeke.
Turumeke: Kia ora! Great articulation Kom!
Kirsty: Wait? Have we started? Was that a test? Hahaha
Kommi: I do not know.
Raising the Clay
One of the themes explored in the Gallery’s new exhibition Leaving for Work is local industry, particularly in relation to pottery. The show includes an 1896 painting by Charles Kidson of well-known early Sydenham potter Luke Adams; three late nineteenth-century pots by Adams; and projections of a number of exceptional photographs by Steffano Webb. Keen to learn more, exhibition curator Ken Hall met up with local pottery historian Barry Hancox – perhaps best-known as former Smith’s Bookshop proprietor – and leading New Zealand photographer, Oxford-based Mark Adams. Mark’s links to this story include a distant family connection to Luke Adams; photographing many celebrated New Zealand potters of the 1970s and 1980s; and an abiding interest in land and memory.
Texture of the Time
John Miller (Ngāpuhi) is a special figure in Aotearoa, having photographed protests and important events throughout the country from 1967 right up until the present moment. His work covers everything from the 1960s and 1970s anti-Vietnam war and anti-nuclear protests to the 1975 Māori Land March, 1977–78 Bastion Point occupation and 1981 Springbok Tour protests, as well as many more examples of civilian dissent. John uses the camera as a witness, capturing moments of collective voice in action, and he also honours the people who have led the charge for changes in thinking and our society. Looking at his work is like walking through our history backwards into the future. Curator Melanie Oliver sat down with activist John Minto and photographer Conor Clarke (Ngāi Tahu) to talk about John Miller’s work.
A Passion for Clay and Pots
In recent months, retired potter and former president of the Canterbury Potters’ Association, Rex Valentine – a man passionate about clay – and art consultant Grant Banbury have been working behind-the-scenes in the Gallery alongside registration, curatorial and conservation staff. They’ve been assisting with an audit of a part of the collection that we’re excited to be working with more – the Gallery’s ceramics holdings.
Here Banbury and Valentine discuss the latter’s own production and involvement in pottery circles in Canterbury from the late 1960s to the 1980s; his time spent in studying pottery in Japan, and his involvement with pottery acquisitions during Brian Muir’s directorship of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery. The edited extracts that follow are from an interview recorded at Valentine’s home in Christchurch on 10 April 2021.