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Fiona Jack: Living Halls

Media Release

1 June 2010


Fiona Jack: Living Halls

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery’s 2009/10 New Zealand Artist in Residence, Fiona Jack presents her collaborative archival endeavour Living Halls at the Gallery from 19 June to 5 September 2010.

Dotted throughout towns, suburbs and rural settlements across the country, War Memorial Halls occupy an iconic place in the cultural and geographic landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand. Fiona Jack’s Living Halls project looks at the significance and history of these buildings to our communities and individual lives, as well as their function and status in today’s society.

Following the Second World War, the New Zealand Government offered subsidies for war memorials to be constructed throughout the country as new community spaces – 'living memorials' – for those who sacrificed their lives fighting overseas. Spanning almost two years and counting, Jack’s project engages with this phenomenon, tapping into personal, social, architectural and art histories.

Govett-Brewster Director and curator for the exhibition Rhana Devenport says, “Jack’s three months in Taranaki during the summer of 2009/10 as part of our Residency programme allowed the project to open out and become entwined with hundreds of souls across Aotearoa, whose involvement with the story of War Memorial Halls in New Zealand was particular, personal and until then, somewhat invisible. The archival and research nature of the project has unearthed innumerable architectural plans, drawings, histories, memories and stories and has generated literally hundreds of new artworks.”

Living Halls comprises accumulations of paintings, drawings, photographs and archival materials. The paintings are generous contributions from artists throughout the country and form a rich visual archive, reflecting close and active relationships between these buildings and their communities.

Jack’s project also comes at a time when councils across the country are considering selling off assets such as War Memorial Halls in a move to realise income, seen locally with the debate about South Taranaki’s Kaponga Memorial Hall.

The Govett-Brewster’s Artist in Residence programme is offered in partnership with Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT) and with support from Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa. The Gallery also wishes to acknowledge the support of Radio Network Taranaki and Te Kairanga Wines in delivering the winter suite of shows.

Living Halls will be accompanied by a comprehensive programme of public events including talks by the artist herself on Sunday 20 June, a War Memorial Hall Forum on Thursday 8 July and a bus tour of a selection of Taranaki’s Halls on Sunday 5 September. A book about the project co-produced by the Govett-Brewster and art publisher Clouds is due out later in the year.

Also presented in the Govett-Brewster’s winter suite are China in four seasons: Song Dong + Yin Xiuzhen (19 June – 12 September 2010) and Collection Focus: NZPop (17 July – 19 September 2010).


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