Govett-Brewster Art Gallery opens "Several degrees of attention: Thinking with the collection"

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Govett-Brewster Art Gallery opens "Several degrees of attention: Thinking with the collection"
Turumeke Harrington, Michael Parekōwhai, Ralph Hotere, Several degrees of attention, 2022. Installation view, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Ngāmotu New Plymouth, Aotearoa New Zealand. Photo: Bryan James.

NEW PLYMOUTH.- Featuring four curatorial projects, each departing from a work or group of works in the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery collection, Several degrees of attention proposes four ways into, and out of, certain contemporary art histories that we live with.

Spanning more than five decades, the Govett-Brewster’s permanent collection tells a story of artistic practice in Aotearoa New Zealand through the lens of those who have guided its growth. The collection reflects their affinities, the ideas of the time, and the priorities they set for the collection and the institution. Like any institutional collection, the Govett-Brewster’s contains gems, anomalies, loose ends, and stories that remain to be told.

Each of the four curatorial projects acts as a chapter, thinking closely with individual artists—the contexts they inhabited, the material and intellectual problems they worked through, and the stakes at play in approaching and navigating their practices now.

Contemporary artistic voices have also been invited into the conversation to open new points of entry into Aotearoa’s art histories and pose relationships between artists across generations. Each project is distinct in its approach, and poses the question: What is of continuing value in re-examining and re-contextualising these artworks and artists now?

Māia Abraham’s project Tāheke looks towards three generations of contemporary Māori artists: Ralph Hotere, Michael Parekōwhai and Turumeke Harrington. Speculating on what tuakana/teina relationships might be drawn between practices across time, Abraham examines possibilities for rethinking how institutional logics have determined through the story of contemporary Māori art.

Elle Loui August reconsiders W. A. Sutton’s life-long engagement with the Canterbury landscape through his ambitious series of paintings Te Tihi o Kahukura and Sky (1976–77). Bringing together most of the series for the first time since its original exhibition in 1978, August poses restorative questions about our relationship to language, story and place.

In Thresholds, Simon Gennard explores the 1980s sculpture and painting of Maria Olsen, which evade easy readings or interpretation. Olsen’s work appears alongside new sculptural and moving image works by Sonya Lacey, which extend the Lacey’s research into the metabolic and philosophical implications of sleep and sleeplessness and by association heightens both artists’ interest in the metaphysical.

In her project, This hand that is every stone, Amy Weng looks into printmaker Kate Coolahan who, during the 1970-80s, created an eclectic suite of works reflecting migrant women and ideas in the South Pacific that were at odds with dominant practice at the time. Situating Coolahan’s work alongside large-scale batik fabrics by Rozana Lee, Weng offers a counternarrative that foregrounds emerging diasporas in Aotearoa during the late 20th century. Weng, like the other curators, proposes a conceptual affinity between two artists working across generations, and an interrogation of questions of encounter, identity and artistic meaning across time.

Kate Coolahan, Turumeke Harrington, Ralph Hotere, Sonya Lacey, Rozana Lee, Maria Olsen, Michael Parekōwhai, W A Sutton

Curated by Māia Abraham, Elle Loui August, Simon Gennard, Amy Weng

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