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

July 9–November 13, 2022

The exhibition Several degrees of attention offers four ways into and out of specific contemporary art histories that we are familiar with. It consists of four curatorial projects, each of which draws inspiration from a specific work or collection of works in the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery collection.

The permanent collection of the Govett-Brewster chronicles the story of artistic practice in Aotearoa New Zealand over more than five decades through the eyes of those who have influenced its development. Their preferences, prevailing ideologies, and priorities for the collection and the institution are all reflected in the collection. The Govett-collection, Brewster’s like any institutional collection, has treasures, oddities, unfinished business, and untold tales.

Each of the four curatorial initiatives functions as a chapter, delving deeply into the lives of particular artists—the environments they lived in, the practical and conceptual issues they faced, and the risks involved in addressing and navigating their practices now.

In order to provide fresh perspectives on Aotearoa’s artistic pasts and explore relationships between artists of different generations, contemporary artistic voices have also been invited to the discussion. Each project takes a different stance and asks: What current relevance does revisiting and recontextualizing these works of art and their creators have?

Ralph Hotere, Michael Parekwhai, and Turumeke Harrington are three generations of contemporary Maori artists who are the focus of Mia Abraham’s project Theke. Abraham explores opportunities for revisiting how institutional logics have determined through the story of contemporary Mori art by speculating on whether tuakana/teina linkages might be made between practices across time.

Eleanor Lou Through his enormous sequence of paintings Te Tihi o Kahukura and Sky (1976–77), August reexamines W. A. Sutton’s lifetime commitment to the Canterbury environment. Since its initial exhibition in 1978, the majority of the series has never been collected together, and August asks provocative questions about our relationship to language, story, and place.

In Thresholds, Simon Gennard investigates Maria Olsen’s enigmatic sculpture and paintings from the 1980s. Olsen’s work is displayed with fresh sculptures and moving image pieces by Sonya Lacey, which further both artists’ interest in the metaphysical by expanding Lacey’s investigation into the metabolic and philosophical implications of sleep and restlessness.

Amy Weng’s project, This hand that is every stone, examines the work of printmaker Kate Coolahan who, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, produced an eclectic collection of pieces that reflected migrant women and South Pacific ideals that were in opposition to the time’s mainstream practice. Weng provides a counternarrative that highlights the burgeoning diasporas in Aotearoa throughout the late 20th century by placing Coolahan’s work beside large-scale batik fabrics by Rozana Lee. Weng, like the other curators, suggests an exploration of issues of encounter, identity, and artistic significance over time, as well as a conceptual kinship between two artists who operate across generations.

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

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
Corner King and Queen Streets
New Plymouth 4342
New Zealand
Hours: Monday–Sunday 10am–5pm