05 Aug 2019
Taranaki artist Fiona Clark’s new exhibition Raw Material at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery includes local figures from the artist’s past including renowned Opunake bodybuilder Quentin Smith.
The title of Clark’s exhibition, Raw Material, hints at untreated or unedited material, and makes reference to the exhibition’s focus on a careful selection of elements from her own extensive archive.
As part of her exhibition (10 Aug - 17 Nov 2019) Clark has been researching and tracking down people who are connected to her photographs. This included appealing to the Opunake community for related materials on the 1958 Mr New Zealand, Quentin Smith that she could show in her exhibition.
Clark’s exhibition includes photographs from her bodybuilding series, first exhibited at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in 1981.
“A key role for our gallery is to support and foster the work of Taranaki artists and we are delighted to be exhibiting Fiona’s work nearly 40 years after her first exhibition,” say Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre co-directors Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh.
Growing up in Opunake, Smith was a naturally gifted swimmer and surfer, whose interest in physical strength and fitness led him to pursue weightlifting and body building in his teens. Smith quickly became a regular fixture at local fairs and carnivals, such as the Opunake Carnival Colossal, where his feats of strength were captured in issues of New Plymouth Photo News.
At age 20 Smith won the ‘Mr New Zealand Contest’, and in 1959 went on to compete in the Mr Universe contest at the London Palladium, representing the best in bodybuilding. Smith’s international success saw him feature in the pages of ‘muscle’ and bodybuilding magazines. He retired from bodybuilding contests shortly after, when only 22 years of age, following 11 months in the United States, attending college and the US national weightlifting championships.
Clark is a leading figure of New Zealand photography and is known for her intimate photographs that explore issues around the representation of marginalised and under-represented communities.
In the Raw Material exhibition, she starts from her personal records of her own prolific and varied archive of creative practice, and asks what it means to work in an archive that is built on personal connections, and on objects that summon and remind her of those people and relationships.
Visitors to the exhibition will also see images of the artist herself, as a dancer and in past personas as an art student, her aunt’s hockey mate Valerie Deakin, who went to choreograph at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and prominent dancer Da Katipa.
Clark welcomes us into a networked vision of her career, her archival practice, and her connection to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. The artist establishes relationships with the people in her photographs, researching and linking people connected via her work.
Clark grew up in Taranaki and now lives in Tikorangi. As a student at Inglewood High School she found an interest in contemporary art under the tutelage of Leon Narbey a renowned cinematographer and the first artist to exhibit at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery at its opening in 1970.
Gallery fast facts:
The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery was founded on a visionary and collection policy by Monica Brewster.
It’s owned and operated by New Plymouth District Council.
Focus has been on contemporary art and links with Len Lye date back to 1977 and display of his kinetic art.
The Gallery defines itself as a ‘contemporary art museum’ of the Pacific.
The Len Lye Centre wing of the Govett-Brewster is the only gallery in New Zealand dedicated to one artist.
The Len Lye Centre opened in July 2015 as part of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery contemporary art museum and is a joint initiative by NPDC, GBAG and the Len Lye Foundation.
The Gallery is the New Plymouth District’s cultural hub featuring galleries, a 60-seat cinema, a shop and Monica’s Eatery café.
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