Taranaki descent
Shaun Gladwell


Shaun Gladwell
Taranaki descent
Production date:
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8.13 min

Collection Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth. Purchased with funds donated by the TSB Community Trust to the Govett-Brewster Foundation, 2005.

Shaun Gladwell is a Sydney-based, multimedia artist within whose practice references to art history and contemporary street culture collide. Taranaki descent was commissioned for the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery’s exhibition Gridlock: cities, spaces, structures in 2004 and shot on location in New Plymouth. In an act of picturesque movement, the skaters in Gladwell’s video transform the vast yet mundane (Centre City) car park in New Plymouth into a ballet-like venue. Skateboarding is a form of street culture and mode of transport that reinvents buildings and urban space. Skaters cut across cities independent of regular mapped direction and transform practical (and often disregarded) public architecture into the base for aerial tricks. Gladwell’s video, and the skaters in it, transform the car park into an alternatively-functioning, poetic space, highlighting the stunning views of the Tasman Sea afforded by the car park, and its good skating conditions.

In spite of its superficially casual street style, Gladwell’s work is carefully composed. He uses slow motion, framing and considered viewpoints to open a range of readings that play with and against art historical genres and concepts such as romantic portraiture, landscape and religious allegory. Gladwell’s poetic and critical approach often makes overt references to the history of painting and philosophy through the aperture of his personal experience.