Michael Parekowhai

New Zealander, b.1968

My Sister, My Self

  • Purchased 2008
  • Fibreglass, mild steel, wood, automotive paint
  • 2700 x 1500 x 1000mm
  • 2008/016.a-c
  • 2006

Michael Parekowhai’s My Sister, My Self recalls a once-common sight in suburban New Zealand front gardens: the concrete seal with a chrome ball on its nose, a home-grown version of the performing circus seal. Connecting to other histories, it also recalls the kekeno, the New Zealand fur seal, which had an unfortunate central role in our pre-colonial past.

At the pinnacle of this spectacular balancing act is a replica of the artist Marcel Duchamp’s famous 1913 Bicycle Wheel – a bicycle wheel upside down on a wooden stool. Duchamp made it for his own pleasure – he liked spinning the wheel in his studio – and later described it as his first ‘readymade’.

(Beasts)

earlier labels about this work
  • ‘My sister, my self’ is a balancing act by one of New Zealand’s renowned sculptural performers. Like many of Parekowhai’s sculptures, this one pays tribute to something ordinary – concrete seals found in suburban front yards. But this South Pacific seal is playing with one of modern art’s most famous ‘ordinary’ objects – the bicycle wheel Marcel Duchamp attached to a stool in 1913 and described as a ‘readymade’. It’s not the first time a version of Bicycle wheel has appeared in Christchurch. In 1967 an exhibition of Duchamp’s works was toured to the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, meeting fierce controversy and even censorship. (Brought to light, November 2009)

    One of Christchurch Art Gallery’s major acquisitions in 2007, My Sister, My Self is a dazzling balancing act by one of New Zealand’s most renowned sculptural performers. Like many of Michael Parekowhai’s sculptures, this one pays tribute to something very ordinary – the concrete seals balancing balls on their noses that can be found in suburban New Zealand front yards. On the nose of this seal, Parekowhai has balanced a copy of one of the most famous ‘ordinary’ objects in modern art – a bicycle wheel which the artist Marcel Duchamp attached to a stool in 1913 and later described as a ‘readymade’.

    (Label from 2007)

Related

Exhibition
Michael Parekowhai: Chapman's Homer at the Christchurch Civic Building

Michael Parekowhai: Chapman's Homer at the Christchurch Civic Building

Michael Parekowhai's powerful bronze sculpture of a bull standing on a piano captured Christchurch's heart. After spending the winter in his crate, he's back in time for spring.

Exhibition
Michael Parekowhai: On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

Michael Parekowhai: On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

Michael Parekowhai's spectacular Venice Biennale installation returns home for its first post-Biennale showing in New Zealand.

Notes
Philadelphia

Philadelphia

Last Friday I visited the Philadelphia Art Museum for the day. PAM was founded 135 years ago (so is 10 years older than Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Auckland Art Gallery). But what a huge difference a great history of philanthropy and generous gifts in kind makes.

Notes
My Sister My Self by Michael Parekowhai

My Sister My Self by Michael Parekowhai

This article first appeared with the headline Top-stair sculpture in The Press on 30 April 2008.

If you've done your first year art history, you're probably familiar with the story of How Sculpture Fell from Grace.

Exhibition
Beasts

Beasts

A generous, multimedia selection of animal-themed works, both lively and thoughtful.

Collection
Untitled (Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica)
Connie Samaras Untitled (Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica)

The Weddell seal inhabits the ice shelves around Antarctica, living and breeding further south on the planet than any other mammal. The known record for holding its breath is ninety-six minutes – an incredible feat which allows it time to find or make breathing holes in the ice, and to stay down long enough to capture its preferred prey, which often live very deep.

Los Angeles-based Connie Samaras made this video in Antarctica in 2005 while on a special study grant for artists and writers.

(Beasts, 2015)

The images shown here are stills taken from the video.

Collection
Tuatara, Stephens Island
John Johns Tuatara, Stephens Island

Tuatara means ‘spiny back’ in Māori. This unusual creature is found only in Aotearoa New Zealand. There are two species of tuatara, the last surviving members of an order of reptiles that existed alongside the dinosaurs 220 million years ago. That isn’t the only unique thing about the tuatara: they have a light-sensitive ‘third eye’ beneath the scales on the top of their head; its purpose is still not completely understood by scientists.

(Beasts, 2015)

Notes
Zoology

Zoology

I'm pretty sure the kids at my daughters pre-school haven't seen Cai Guo-Qiang's Heritage, which was commissioned for his show Falling Back To Earth at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane last year.

Notes
The Mouse-trap by Petrus van der Velden

The Mouse-trap by Petrus van der Velden

This article first appeared as 'Cleverly caught' in The Press on 14 February 2014.

Notes
It's Showtime!

It's Showtime!

Today is Show Day here in Canterbury. Over at Canterbury Agricultural Park you can see thousands of animals being put through their paces or if you'd rather, you can look at some of these equally beautiful beasts from our collection.

Notes
Eileen Mayo

Eileen Mayo

It's 107 years since this multi-talented artist, described by art historian Kenneth Clark as 'outstandingly good', was born in Norwich, England.

Notes
Lizard's Lounge

Lizard's Lounge

I stumbled into their lair on accident, and found myself in a madhouse of reptilian decree. I immediately froze, in a vain hope they had not noticed me in my peculiarity, but my attempts were feeble, I had been seen. I felt a cold sweat and a shiver ran down my spine as they glared at me with beady black eyes from a nebulous of smoke and dust that choked the room. I was their intruder. One of the lizards mockingly hissed a welcome, 'Please take a seat, you look weary.'

 

Collection
Large Mammal Storage Bay #1, Canterbury Museum
Neil Pardington Large Mammal Storage Bay #1, Canterbury Museum

For a large, intensive photographic project that he called The Vault, Neil Pardington used his camera to see what discoveries could be made in the hidden storage spaces of museums and art galleries throughout New Zealand.

This assemblage of taxidermied beasts was found in a storeroom at Canterbury Museum, kept in safekeeping while unneeded for display. All facing the same direction, it’s almost as if they’re waiting for their moment to escape.

(Beasts, 2015)

Collection
The Mouse-trap
Petrus van der Velden The Mouse-trap

The Dutch painter Petrus van der Velden arrived in Christchurch in 1890 for what was intended to be a short visit to New Zealand. Staying longer than he had planned, he made an impact on the local scene as a ‘real artist’ from old Europe in their midst.

This painting was shown by a Christchurch art dealer in 1893, and described by a reporter:

The picture is entitled ‘The Mouse-trap’, and represents a boy holding the trap with a mouse in it which he has just caught. The face of the boy is beautifully painted, the expression of pleasure being very cleverly caught.

(Beasts, 2015)

Notes
Loads of bulls

Loads of bulls

Looking out of the library window at the Kings Manor here in York I can see a bronze calf.

Notes
A Well Timed Care Package

A Well Timed Care Package

One of the best-timed gifts my family and I have ever received arrived at our home on Mt Pleasant in May. 

Notes
Animals

Animals

The Gallery's Registration department keeps a close watch on our collection of art, with regular audits to make sure all is as it should be.

Notes
Urban fauna

Urban fauna

My final days at Julia Morison's 'Meet me on the other side' at NG

Notes
When is a dog a mouse?

When is a dog a mouse?

Throughout the centuries man has delighted in creating representations of his canine companions.

Collection
Living Large 6
Bill Hammond Living Large 6

Pale, birdlike figures look into the distance from tall trees, like so many watchers on a ship’s mast. Behind and above the windswept waves, a Victorian gentleman-horse is seated with his whippet and double bass. Watched by an assembly of shadowy birds’ heads, he remains dignified and untroubled, appearing destined for a life of ambitious success. He seems oblivious to the impact of his presence.

(Beasts, 2015)

Exhibition
Menagerie: Animals from the Gallery's Permanent Collections

Menagerie: Animals from the Gallery's Permanent Collections

Menagerie brings together 17 historical and contemporary paintings, prints, photographs and sculpture from the Gallery's Permanent Collections, all of which feature an animal of some description, from cats, dogs and birds to horses, bulls, fish and even a hippopotamus!

Collection
Collie Dog
Duncan Grant Collie Dog

Collie Dog is from a set titled ‘Six Lithographs’, a collaboration between Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, with each artist contributing three works. Grant’s three lithographs also included Hawk and The Cat and were produced at Miller’s Press. Grant was an active printmaker throughout most of his career, producing prints alongside his activity as a painter, designer, potter and decorator. He is a major figure in 20th century British art and was a central member of the Bloomsbury Group. He was also closely associated with the Omega Workshops which operated in London between 1913 and 1919.

Collection
Armadillo
Graham Sutherland Armadillo

The armadillo lives in South America. Its name means ‘little armoured one’ in Spanish. Among the twenty different species of this interesting creature, the three-banded armadillo is the only one that can roll itself into a tight ball when it needs to for protection.

The painter Graham Sutherland made this print as part of a ‘Bestiary’ published in 1968, a collection of twenty-six lithographs featuring different animals, each one suggesting a particular human-like quality. Curling tight, this armadillo may be expressing fear.

(Beasts, 2015)

Collection
A Cow
Balthazar Paul Ommeganck A Cow

This cow belongs to an ancient breed of cattle, once common in Belgium and the Netherlands, but now almost extinct. Called the Kempens rund (Campine cattle), it was bred for milk, cheese, butter and beef; its numbers were greatly reduced during World War I when the farming area where they lived became a battlefield.

This painting is probably by the Flemish painter Balthazar Paul Ommeganck. He was one of many admirers of the Dutch seventeenth-century painter Paulus Potter, who had started something new in painting by making farm animals his main subjects, rather than minor, incidental elements.

(Beasts, 2015)

Collection
Husband
Francis Upritchard Husband

Francis Upritchard’s baboon-ish Husband and Wife are like animals from an imaginary zoo, though their expressions may have been borrowed from the human visitors who come to stare at the beasts. Husband, absorbed with his own cleverness, does not mind such attention; Wife seems less comfortable, cringing under the viewers’ gaze.

Based in London, Upritchard is a sculpture graduate (1998) from the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts. Since her first exhibition in London in 2000, she has shown in many different parts of the world.

(Beasts, 2015)

Collection
Cats In The Trees
Eileen Mayo Cats In The Trees

Cats were a particularly favourite subject of Eileen Mayo but all animal and botanical subjects were a constant source of inspiration for her. She illustrated several books on nature subjects, including the monumental The Story of Living Things and Their Evolution (1948). A major influence on Mayo was Claude Flight, under whom she studied the linocut technique at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in 1928. She exhibited regularly with the British Linocut exhibitions held in London between 1929 and 1937. Mayo emigrated to Sydney in 1953 and settled in New Zealand in 1962. She taught at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Art from 1967 to 1972.

There is an information sheet available about this work.

Collection
Hill Leopards
Arthur Wardle Hill Leopards

Animal studies were popular in Victorian and Edwardian times and Hill Leopards is typical of their kind. It is unlikely that Arthur Wardle would have ever seen the African leopards in their native habitat. Rather, he observed the animals at the London Zoo and placed them in an imaginary landscape. Wardle was continuing the tradition of earlier English animal painters such as George Stubbs (1724 -1806). Painted with the fine brush treatment of the Academic tradition, the silkiness of the fur, feathery grasses and smooth rock surfaces are all presented very realistically and would have been a quite convincing likeness for the contemporary viewer. Born in London, Wardle received no formal art training but was a popular artist specialising in both domestic and wild animal subjects. Although he was self-taught, he was accepted into traditional art establishments such as the Royal Academy. He was also a member of the Royal Institute of Painters and the Royal British Colonial Society of Artists.

Collection
Povi Christkeke
Michel Tuffery Povi Christkeke

Michel Tuffery, a Wellington-based artist of Samoan and Tahitian Cook Islands descent, has taken cues from pop art in his use of food packaging to create the spectacular Povi Christkeke (which translates from Samoan as Christchurch Bull).

Constructed from recycled corned beef tins, this bull tells us that corned beef has become a staple food throughout the Pacific. Because of this it may be seen as a monster, an introduced beast grown powerful by replacing more environmentally friendly traditions of food production and gathering.

(Beasts, 2015)

Collection
Persimmon (Study of a Racehorse)
Betty Harrison Persimmon (Study of a Racehorse)

Nora Elizabeth (Betty) Harrison grew up in rural Canterbury, where she developed a passion for horses. She brought her knowledge of horses to creating this plaster sculpture, painted to resemble bronze. It is believed to have been modelled after a photograph of a famous stud racehorse owned by King Edward VII.

Harrison was at the Canterbury College School of Art when she made this work. A top student there in the 1920s while in her teenage years, she studied there until 1930 and then went into nursing. Tragically, she caught tuberculosis from a patient and died aged just twenty-five.

(Beasts, 2015)

Collection
Wife
Francis Upritchard Wife

Francis Upritchard’s baboon-ish Husband and Wife are like animals from an imaginary zoo, though their expressions may have been borrowed from the human visitors who come to stare at the beasts. Husband, absorbed with his own cleverness, does not mind such attention; Wife seems less comfortable, cringing under the viewers’ gaze.

Based in London, Upritchard is a sculpture graduate (1998) from the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts. Since her first exhibition in London in 2000, she has shown in many different parts of the world.

(Beasts, 2015)

Collection
A Shot in the Dark (Bear Rug)
Steve Carr A Shot in the Dark (Bear Rug)

Apparently testing the limits of incorrectness, Auckland-based multimedia artist Steve Carr commissioned a skilled woodcarver to realise his highly improbable carved bearskin rug.

Bearskin rugs during the Victorian and Edwardian era craze for taxidermy were almost a standard feature in British country houses, typically in a gentleman’s trophy room or study. They came to symbolise wild nature and distant lands, ultimately tamed. Carr’s project, however, has little to do with tameness, either in conception or in its surprisingly lifelike growling effect

(Beasts, 2015)

Collection
The Bruiser, C. Churchill (once the Revd), in the Character of a Russian Hercules, Regaling himself after having Kill’d the Monster Caricatura that so Sorely Gall’d his Virtuous friend, the Heaven born Wilkes
William Hogarth The Bruiser, C. Churchill (once the Revd), in the Character of a Russian Hercules, Regaling himself after having Kill’d the Monster Caricatura that so Sorely Gall’d his Virtuous friend, the Heaven born Wilkes

Here’s some beastly behaviour: William Hogarth, a famous eighteenth-century British artist, trading insults with two gentlemen whom he had greatly upset. Hogarth had published an engraving attacking the journalist Charles Churchill and the politician John Wilkes, and another showing Wilkes being tried in court. Churchill, in return, published a vicious poem about Hogarth. He retaliated by making this print, picturing Churchill as a drunken bear, clutching a beer tankard and a club covered in ‘lyes’. The picture in the lower right-hand corner shows Hogarth whipping Churchill and Wilkes (as a performing bear and monkey) into line. Meanwhile, Hogarth’s pug passes judgement on Churchill’s poem.

(Beasts, 2015)

Notes
Cats in the Trees by Eileen Mayo

Cats in the Trees by Eileen Mayo

The pair of domestic tigers slink slyly across the surface of the paper, prowling through the branches of a suburban tree, dispatching terror throughout the bird world and trepidation into the lives of assorted dogs.

Notes
Povi Christkeke by Michel Tuffery

Povi Christkeke by Michel Tuffery

Povi Christkeke (Christchurch Bull), a large bullock constructed from flattened and riveted re-cycled corned beef tins, is a colourful and seemingly celebratory sculpture. Artist Michel Tuffery constructed two of these corned beef bull sculptures for a ritual performance entitled Pisupo Lua Afe at the 1997 Christchurch Arts Festival. Pisupo Lua Afe was also included at the inaugural Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane 1993.