Reviews, News and Commentary

Aotearoa Art Fair showing the diversity of contemporary art

John Daly-Peoples

A number of the galleries exhibiting at the Aotearoa Art Fair opening next week (March 2 – 5) will feature solo shows but most will exhibit a several of their exhibiting artists. These galleries will show the range of work and the  variety of materials used by contemporary artists as well as showing the extent of ideas being investigated.

Among these galleries are  Sanderson Gallery Trish Clark Gallery and Bartley & Company Art

Sanderson Galley is showing three different approaches to art making – a multi-disiplinary artist, a photo image artist and an artist focussed on drawing.


Josephine Cachemaille Four-to-the-floor, 2022, fired clay, 220mm x 80mm x 200mm, $1,100

‘Cachemaille’s work has this active and charged quality, as the artist sees herself in ‘collaboration’ with her objects, materials, and media, “It’s not ‘me’ ”, she says, “it is ‘US’”. Cachemaille draws on philosopher Jane Bennett’s concept of “material vibrancy”. This informs her artmaking strategies; by intentionally anthropomorphising objects she aims to in- crease our awareness of what they are contributing.’ Four-to-the- floor references the structure of disco and house beats, which traditionally use four beats to a bar in their construction. Cachemaille describes the experience of watching 90s DJ’s stomping in time with the beat while mixing their songs as inspiration for the work.

Kate van der Drift Waning Cresent to Waxing Gibbous, June, -37.429838, 175.510886, 2022, Chromogenic Photograph from 4×5” Negative, edition of 5 + 2AP, 1423mm x 1100mm, framed, $5,850


Kate van der Drift’s site-specific camera-less ‘river exposures’ are created by placing unexposed colour negatives in the Piako river for a period between two and four weeks. While the large format film rests in a light-proof container in the river, a durational augmentation occurs, created by water flowing past and interacting with the film’s chemical compounds. After weeks of comingling with cyanobacteria, agricultural waste, salt and freshwater currents, each field recording is transported back to the darkroom. Here the intangible and the toxic is translated by van der Drift’s hand from negative film to contact print; exposed to light, enlarged and transformed into a dazzling chromatic image.


Liam Gerrard Tutaritari Rd, Hahei, 2022, charcoal and pastel on paper, 710mm x 550mm, $5,750

Liam Gerrard is a painter whose practice explores the dichotomy between life and death, and the fragility of existence. The artist has most recently explored these themes through the depiction of plants and flowers, or other aspects of life that one can find in a rural or urban garden. Gerrard has become known for his depictions of the hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) in various states of blossom and decay.

Bartley & Company Art is presenting an exhibition of four artists whose work looks to the past to look to the future, in referencing the famous Māori proverb.

The intentions of these four distinctly different artists are both political and poetic. They speak across diverse media to the importance of history and whakapapa in creating contemporary beliefs, thinking and meaning. All share an interest in whakapapa as a primary means of making sense of the world and their connection to self, others and the wider environment.

Entangled histories, the ancient and contemporary, and the place of place play out in all their work

Brett Graham one of the country’s most eminent sculptors examines indigenous histories; Lonnie Hutchinson addresses whakapapa and hybridity. Cora-Allan Lafaiki Twiss takes customary traditions into contemporary art.  Roger Mortimer combines foundational beliefs of the Western world with a deep respect for tangata whenua. 


Brett Graham, Manawanui, 2022, hand carved American ash, lacquer, wax 1345 diameter x 370mm depth $75,000

Brett Graham creates conceptually rich, formally strong, beautifully crafted large sculptures that are grounded in Te Ao Māori while engaging with the best of 20th century Western sculptural traditions.

Across sculpture, drawing, prints and moving image works, he explore indigenous histories, politics and philosophies. His work, which has great presence, is imbued with poetry and metaphor. Materially and conceptually, he brings together traditional and contemporary to speak to the current moment. The local is combined with universal and topical issues on the shaping of historical narratives in colonised countries, the Anthropocene and role of monuments in the public domain. While works are often abstract, titles provide a way into the complex political, historical and cultural ideas embodied in his forms.

His large hand-carved spherical timber shields, here for example, reference the history of Parihaka and the leadership of the great pacifist leader Te Whiti. Manawanui, is the Māori word for forbearance which implies tolerance, patience, restraint. Manawanui was Te Whiti’s response to Government intervention at Parihaka. In these works Graham appears to suggests forbearance as a strategy for addressing differences and Aceldama, which references betrayal, as a reminder that differences in human values and beliefs have always existed.

Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura) has a doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Auckland and an MFA from the University of Hawaii. His work has been included in exhibitions and biennales all over the world and is in public and private collections around the world. He has also produced several major public artworks throughout New Zealand and undertaken artist residencies in Europe, the United States and across the Pacific.

His 2020-23 “career-defining” solo exhibition Tai Moana Tai Tangata is considered one of the most powerful and historically significant solo exhibitions ever to be staged in New Zealand. Large monumental sculptures explore the legacy of the New Zealand wars of the mid-19th century.

A few of the last remaining Tai Moana Tai Tangata prints are available.


Lonnie Hutchinson, Whakahā, 2023, stainless steel, 1200mm diameter, $12,000

Lonnie Hutchinson is a much acclaimed artist whose work is concerned primarily with whakapapa.

“Whakapapa,” she says, “accounts for the way in which the earth, sky, oceans, rivers, elements, minerals, plants, animals and all people have been created. All things are linked through whakapapa, as well as having their individual place in the world. Ultimately, it is whakapapa that connects people to each other, to their ancestors, to the land, to the oceans and the universe.”  

Hutchinson’s ancestry is Samoan, Māori (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kuri) Scottish and English and this rich mix is brought to play in her circular stainless-steel discs, which operate as heraldic devices or clan shields, to assert and celebrate all aspects of her identity and heritage and the reality of hybridity in the 21st century. The forms themselves allude to round Saxon shields and the cut-out patterns incorporate kōwhawhai and kawakawa leaves referencing rongoā, traditional Māori medicine. The result a distinctive multi-cultural emblem for Aotearoa.

Cut-out works have become Hutchinson’s signature and are made in a variety of media – most prominently heavy black builders paper but also vintage wallpaper, aluminium and steel. The cut-out forms play with shadow, which becomes part of the work. That shadows captures a non-materiality, inherent in whakapapapa and the Samoan notion of ‘va’, which refers to the space between places, things and people, and connections across time.

Hutchinson has been exhibiting nationally and internationally for more than 20 years with work included in significant international exhibitions A survey show, with accompanying catalogue, Black Bird: Lonnie Hutchinson 1997 – 2013, was shown in Auckland and Wellington in 2015. A major solo exhibition was held at Christchurch Art Gallery in 2021. Her work is many significant public and private collections in New Zealand and overseas and she has also produced several major site-specific installations – most prominently for Hamilton Gardens, the Justice Precinct in Christchurch, the Convention Centre in Christchurch and the Britomart in Auckland.


Cora-Allan Lafaiki Twiss, Sighting a snow-capped mountain in the Kaikoura Range as they headed for the open ocean, 2022, Whenua paint, 18ct Lemon bright gold, Kāpia ink on Hiapo, 1300 x 1750mm, $13,000

Landscape and narrative, place and history, traditional and contemporary, tangata whenua and moana, combine in the the contemporary hiapo paintings of Cora-Allan Lafaiki Twiss.

Her practice is built on the foundations of Niuean hiapo barkcloth traditions which she is credited with reviving. In the past two years her contemporary practice has expanded signficantly with the introduction of colour and new iconography drawing on her both her Niuean and Māori (Ngāpuhi, Ngatitumutumu) whakapapa. Significantly, even ground-breakingly, she materially incorporates her Māori heritage into her hand-made Niuean hiapo practice with the use of what she calls, whenua paints made from local clays. Gold leaf is a recent addition to her palette following an artist residency in Wānaka where she responded to that region’s gold-digging history.

Stories of migration and arrival have been a theme of Lafaiki Twiss’s work and here the embedded narrative shifts from the personal to draw on historic accounts of Tupaia the Tahitian navigator on board the HMS Endeavour’s first encounters with Aotearoa in 1769. The works survey markers and artefacts of this historical journey through a Moana lens with her mixed whakapapa we are offered a distinctive wahine response to land seen from the sea – contained in the grid form of a traditional hiapo composition.

Cora-Allan has a Masters in Visual Art and Design from AUT and although early in her career is attracting attention. In 2021, she had artists residencies at Te Whare Hēra Massey University Wellington, and McCahon House”. She was the recipient of an Arts Foundation Springboard Award which came with mentoring by leading New Zealand artist Shane Cotton. In 2020 she won the Creative New Zealand Arts Pasifika Award and received a Arts Foundation Springboard award in 2021.  She has exhibited in New Zealand, Australia, Niue, England, France and Canada. A solo exhibition of paintings from the McCahon residency was shown at Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery in the first half of 2022.


Roger Mortimer, Miro, 2023, watercolour, gold dust and acrylic lacquer on canvas, 800 x 700mm, $10,000

Roger Mortimer creates fantastical paintings and jacquard weavings depicting epic and metaphorical stories of navigation and transformation. Charting terrains both recognisable and strange, his map works are visionary topographies in familiar geographies.

The maps are drawn from contemporary marine charts from Aotearoa New Zealand. This setting – complete with Māori place names, indigenous flora, finely rendered compasses or mandala, and contemporary guidance for mariners including depth markings and gold stars marking navigation light – points to the universality and timelessness of way-finding and the human search for meaning. The role of mapping in the colonisation process, with its naming and claiming of territory, is also directly suggested. The replacement of European settlor names on the maps is a political act acknowledging Aotearoa’s prior occupation.

The overlying graphic imagery, in which Mortimer has framed his interests over the past decade, comes from illustrated manuscripts of the 14th century Italian Dante Aligheri’s famous poem, the Divine Comedy, which traces the poet’s journey through hell to purgatory and heaven.

This distinctive juxtaposition of medieval European imagery and local setting provide a rich commentary on this country’s cultural history and led to him being describe as a “contemporary visual mythologist”.

Mortimer has Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Auckland, where, although Pākehā, he went through the Te Toi Hou (Māori Arts) programme at the Elam School of Fine Arts. In 2014 he was the Paramount Award Winner in the Wallace Art Awards.The judge described his work as “medieval in appearance and utterly contemporary contemporary in intent”. In 2017, a survey exhibition was shown in public galleries in Wellington and Auckland. His work is a range of collections in New Zealand, Europe and Asia. In 2020, a 160 page book was published on his map paintings-

Trish Clark Gallery


Julia Morison, Segue 14 (2022) $38,000

Trish Clark Gallery will be showing Segue is a new series of large paintings by veteran artist Julia Morison, nationally and internationally renowned for her five-decades-long practice that has seen her innovate consistently across media and subject matter. While previous works utilised materials as diverse as blood, gold, hair and beeswax, these new large-scale paintings are notable for their gestural expressiveness standing in animated counterpoint to their gridded structure, and are exemplary of Morison’s persistent parallel investigations of form over decades. Referencing the internal gridded structure are a number of individual small works that are titled Pivot.

Julia Morison, Quadruple Pivot 1 (2021) $4,200

There are few artists working in New Zealand whose work so aptly suits the descriptor ‘embodied knowledge’, and a potent physical relationship exists between the viewer and the work. Morison’s use of a spectrum of materials has tested our assumptions and associations always eschewing easy categorization with multiple points of formal and symbolic return throughout her oeuvre. She has explored a range of subjects including Euclidian geometry, the legacies of constructivism and formal abstraction, through to interrogation and re-imagining of alchemy, number symbolism and in particular the Jewish mystical tradition called Kabbalah. How she draws upon or extrapolates from source materials is never slavish – the potency and veracity of a sign or symbol is something to be tested and toyed with.

Julia Morison, Pivot 1 (2021) $1,200 

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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