Shane Cotton

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1964
Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Rangi, Ngāti Hine, Te Uri Taniwha, Māori

Dust, Smoke and Rainbows

  • 2013
  • Acrylic on linen
  • Gift of the artist, 2013
  • 2200 x 1800mm
  • 2013/079

Made following the 2020/11 earthquakes, Shane Cotton’s painting crackles with a supernatural energy. It reveals a swirling, in-between space that recalls the Māori concept of te kore, the void, a realm of potential. Within a canvas full of trailing smoke, dust clouds and gleaming rainbows, physical matter and ideas collide, allowing for connections across time and space. Cotton includes a reference to a modernist carving by Northland artist Clive Arlidge, acknowledging how earlier generations of Māori artists contribute to the whakapapa (genealogy) of today’s artists. Part-ruin, part-vision, the work is charged with echoes of the recent and distant past – and full of anticipation about what may come next.

(Absence, May 2023)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Now, Then, Next: Time and the Contemporary, 15 June 2019 – 8 March 2020

    Dust, Smoke and Rainbows pictures an unbounded space – not of this world, but a place of potential that exists beyond and in relation to this one. In Māori cosmology the genealogy of phenomena accounts for a time before Te Ao Marama, the world of light. Before light there was Te Pō, the night; and before Te Pō there was Te Korekore, the void, the realm of potential. “All my work, in some form, has a relationship to Māori cosmology,” says Cotton, “because a lot of what I paint is about the relationship of matter and ideas to one another, and where things sit in context to one another: whakapapa.” Cotton’s dark sky is filled with matter linked by a network of relationships. Here a painted version of a modernist carving by Northland artist Clive Arlidge acknowledges an older generation of Māori artists who laid a foundation for contemporary practitioners; it also affirms that the cultural representations of previous generations continue to exert active agency.

  • Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016

    Partway through the development of The Hanging Sky, Christchurch Art Gallery’s touring survey of Shane Cotton’s work, Cotton told curator Justin Paton that he wanted to donate a new work, Dust, Smoke and Rainbows, to the Gallery in honour of the way Christchurch had faced the challenges presented by the earthquakes and in recognition of the Gallery’s continued commitment to his exhibition, despite circumstances that could easily have derailed it. Here, Cotton transports a Māori modernist sculpture forward in time and space, allowing it to re-materialise in a context that crackles with supernatural energy. Part-ruin, part-redemptive vision, this halfway space is alive with omens; charged with the echoes of the recent and distant past and full of anticipation at events to come.