Always Song in the Water at New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui Te Ananui a Tangaroa, Auckland
This compelling exhibition acknowledges our bond to the broader Pacific region, drawing attention to its inhabitants, plant life and wildlife. It takes inspiration from the 2019 book of the same title, written and compiled by curator, artist and writer Gregory O’Brien.
After entering, head to the far end of the wharf and up the stairs to the Edmiston Gallery. You’ll find the main gallery painted in a pale blue colour straight ahead, and the exhibition walls are painted in various shades of ocean blue to go with the artworks’ themes around whales, our oceans, exploration and conservation.
There are 40 renowned artists in this exhibition, including Māori tapa (barkcloth) artist Nikau Hindin; NZ-Niuean painter, printmaker, poet and writer John Pule; Waiheke-based, Japan-born maker Kazu Nakagawa; and seminal New Zealand artist Robin White. The artists have used many different materials and mediums, from woven sails and weavings to paintings, photography, video, jewellery and sculpture.
In artist Chris Charteris’s impressive installation titled Itutu, 18 intricate whalebone carvings are displayed in a carefully considered wall arrangement. One of Robin White’s displays is a large traditional tapa barkcloth, featuring a sail and waka, seabirds, tropical fish, crustaceans and seashells. The exhibition presents timely questions around climate change, conservation and the health of the oceans that surround the islands we inhabit. On until February 28, 2024. Corner Quay and Hobson Streets, Viaduct Harbour, Auckland. Free entry for Auckland residents.
Spectral Evidence by Virginia Leonard at Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
Virginia Leonard is known for her ornate ceramics and, for this show, she was inspired by both the Rococo Rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the set and costumes of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Working with clay, resin and lustre (an overglaze) as her materials, her artwork blends gilded beauty, intricate decoration and vivid colours with distorted shapes, fractures, and delicate imperfections.
There are 14 of these otherworldly ceramics in the show. In the main gallery, you’ll find them displayed on either painted baby blue plinths or white wall shelving. There’s so much to look at when you get up close: some of the pieces are roundly shaped, others are slightly crooked, each one varying in size, embellishments and disfigurements. A sculpture titled Golden inner thighs looks solid and sturdy, rendered in yellows, peachy oranges and pale green with gold accents. The resin and lustre oozes from between the clay. There are several works with the title of Urn for unwanted limbs and other things. One of them – a small, flesh-toned vessel – is applied with a spectrum of bold colours and features several delicate red finger-like growths, not unlike an unusual underwater sea anemone or an exotic tropical flower.
On your way out, don't miss one of the artist’s smaller sculptures in the gallery’s Wellesley Street window space. On until September 23. 28/36 Wellesley Street East, Auckland CBD.
Te Hau Whakatonu, A Series of Never-Ending Beginnings at Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth
This show commemorates the diversity and richness of Māori art, featuring works spanning five decades by 22 Māori artists. It’s the first survey exhibition of this kind taken from the permanent Govett-Brewster collection (there are more than 900 works) and is curated by Taarati Taiaroa, the gallery’s assistant curator of Māori art.
The artworks are spread across several galleries, displayed on white gallery walls and stand-alone installations. Photographs, paintings, sculptures, drawings, hanging installations, text-based art, screen prints and collages are just some of mediums on display. There’s a significant series of seven vertical paintings by Ralph Hotere (titled Black Painting 1-7) on one of the gallery’s white walls, each painting illustrating a fine cross shape in a spectrum of colours. Brett Graham’s 10-metre-high carved wooden sculpture is unmissable; named Cease Tide of Wrong-doing, it has a refined conical shape and extends to the ceiling heights of the gallery. There is plenty more to see from other notable artists such as Fiona Pardington, Ayesha Green, Peter Robinson, Lisa Reihana and Shane Cotton, setting the tone for a future-oriented approach to Māori art at this gallery. On until February 11, 2024. 42 Queen Street, New Plymouth.
Encountering Aotearoa by Cora-Allan at Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin
Niuean and Māori artist Cora-Allan is known for her work with hiapo (Niuean barkcloth) and was chosen for the 2021 Parehuia artist residency at McCahon House in West Auckland. The residency was a short walk from the beach, and – inspired by McCahon himself – she started painting while floating on the water in a dinghy, using natural pigments derived from the land. This experience shifted her practice and perspective and she’s continued to work this way in different water-borne locations. This exhibition is the result of a specific two-week boat trip (accompanied by her father), along with substantial research on James Cook’s first voyage, Tahitian navigator Tupaia, early Pacific travel and colonial encounters.
First, you’ll see digital films of Cora-Allan and her father by artist Emily Parr, who accompanied them on their voyages. There are four large hiapo installed vertically from the ceiling, painted with seascapes and text: “Maunga”, “Whenua”, “Moana” and “Waka”. On the left side of the gallery, you’ll find a wooden wall structure displaying large-scale panoramic paintings made of several panels, each painted with earth pigments featuring rocky outcrops and landscapes viewed from the sea. There is more to discover including smaller works, the artist’s equipment and tools, and her father’s journals from that time – all worth immersing yourself in. On until November 12. 30 The Octagon, Dunedin.
Anita Tótha is an art consultant working between New York and Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland.