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What’s hot in contemporary New Zealand art?

Media Release

9 December 2004

What’s hot in contemporary New Zealand art?

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery presents the next instalment of BREAK SHIFT the acclaimed series of Govett-Brewster summer exhibitions reviewing the latest developments in contemporary New Zealand art. BREAK SHIFT: the 2004 Govett-Brewster Art Gallery biennial review of contemporary New Zealand art tracks the impact of immigration on recent New Zealand art by showcasing the work of artists who have immigrated to this country.

Curated by Gallery Director Gregory Burke and Curator of Contemporary Art Simon Rees, BREAK SHIFT opens on Saturday 18 December 2004 and runs until 27 February 2005.

“Migrant artists have always influenced New Zealand art. BREAK SHIFT primarily acknowledges that the migratory mix and momentum is changing and that the consequent impact of migration on developments in contemporary art has increased in recent times,” says Director Gregory Burke.

Artists from new immigrant groups often make work influenced by their cultural background but reflecting their experience of working in New Zealand. Trained in the United Kingdom as a sculptor and installation artist Caroline Rothwell made a shift to painting. Rothwell’s paintings and sculptures track the introduction of European weeds into the New Zealand environment and the negative impact they have had. Recently she has started depicting New Zealand native weeds that are getting their own back on the English landscape.

The artists in BREAK SHIFT have their origins in a range of countries, with the highest number from Asia reflecting the make up of New Zealand’s immigrant population. Mia Ou, originally from Taiwan, stars in her own slap-stick style video animations following the trials and tribulations of a heroine forced into domestic drudgery. The videos lampoon clichéd Asian femininity which looks tragic and ridiculous from a New Zealand point-of-view. Similarly, Korean-born Hye Rim Lee plays with the stereotypical wide-eyed and big-breasted characters typical of cartoons and comic books in Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea. These artists bring a new set of references about gender and sexuality into the New Zealand frame.

New Zealand’s broadening ethnic diversity includes increasing numbers of South African and Croatian immigrants. South African born photographer Victoria Webb has taken slightly otherworldly photographs of pairs or groups of siblings (though the brother and sister might be in a separate photo) and all of whom are immigrants to New Zealand.

Many of the artists in BREAK SHIFT focus on travel, exploration and mobility in their work. Senior artist John Di Stefano (from Canada) whose video work Hub 2000-2001 is about the metaphysics of travel. The video shot on several international flights and airport terminals contains a fragmentary voiceover about the alienating affect of long-haul travel.

This dynamic multimedia exhibition presents a new generation of artists including Mladen Bizumic, Kah Bee Chow, John Di Stefano, Toshi Endo, Milan Haber, Jae Hoon Lee, Hye Rim Lee, Mia Ou, Caroline Rothwell, Edith Sagapolu, Sriwhana Spong, Liana van Rensburg and Vickie Webb.

The Gallery is publishing a special issue of the magazine VISIT that records and contextualises the BREAK SHIFT exhibition, including information about the artists and essays by leading international writers on the topics of immigration and globalisation.

As part of the Govett-Brewster’s dynamic summer programme of contemporary art, the Gallery is pleased to present Transindonesia: scoping culture in contemporary Indonesian art and an exciting new project by leading New Zealand artist Ann Shelton. Ann Shelton: a kind of sleep features photographs of locations associated with urban myth and superstition. The exhibition has been developed through the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery’s New Zealand artist in residence programme in partnership with the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki and supported by Creative New Zealand.

Special events
Opening weekend: BREAK SHIFT exhibition tour:
3.30pm Sunday 19 December 2004
BREAK SHIFT artists John Di Stefano, Milan Haber and Mia Ou lead a discussion tour of the exhibition.

Summer forum: New languages, technologies and identities
2.00pm Sunday 27 February 2005
Director Gregory Burke leads a panel discussion with Ian Clothier, Sean Cubitt and Ruth DeSouza to contextualise the emergence of new languages, technologies and identities in the new millennium.


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