New shows at the Govett-Brewster set to fire the imagination this March

Thu 22 Feb 2024
Sorawit Songsataya, Research image, 2023. Courtesy of the artist.

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery welcomes two new exhibitions - Fibrous Soul and Set Dressing into the gallery from 2 March; collectively exploring ideas of change, transition, relationships and realms beyond the physical.

Fibrous Soul will see major new works by Aotearoa-based artist Sorawit Songsataya, incorporating materials from the places Songsataya has inhabited—Taranaki andesite, Ōamaru stone, rattan from Chiang Rai where the artist’s mother lives, and sedge mats woven by women from the artist’s grandmother’s village in Thailand.

Following time spent in Taranaki in 2023, Songsataya has invited Parihaka-based artist Maata Wharehoka (Ngāti Tahinga, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Apakura, Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Kuia) to create an installation based on her work revitalising Kahu Whakatere—tikanga Māori death and burial practices. The installation is made from harakeke and muka taura (rope) braided by the artist and her whānau.

“This season of exhibitions celebrates the kinds of thinking art and artists make possible. Sorawit Songsataya’s material investigations into states of transition, relationships to place, and the many forms of life and knowledge we live among lead naturally into Maata Wharehoka’s poetic evocation of the philosophy of Kahu Whakatere—a process embedded within tikanga Māori and in rhythm with Papatūānuku,” says Govett-Brewster Art Gallery’s Ringahāpai Kaitakatū Assistant Curator Contemporary Art and Collections Simon Gennard.

Hellyar, Cocker Kumara, 1985

Christine Hellyar, Kumara, photograph by Gary Cocker, 1985. Courtesy of Christine Hellyar.

In Set Dressing, three generations of artists explore photography’s capacity to harness, distil, and complicate desire. The exhibition features a series of photographs of New Plymouth-born artist Christine Hellyar’s Apron sculptures, taken by Gary Cocker in 1985. The aprons, which feature latex casts of food—a plucked chicken, kūmara, flounder—are pictured worn by Cocker’s then-lover and a friend and transpose a queer sense of glamour onto Hellyar’s works. Last publicly exhibited almost forty years ago, these images appear alongside works by emerging Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland-based photographer Cao Xun in his most significant institutional exhibition to date.

Set Dressing brings together important historical and contemporary explorations of how humans shape and are shaped by the social and material worlds around them. Reading the work of Hellyar, Cocker and Cao together invites us to consider that the gendered, sexualised body remains as much a site of contestation as it was forty years ago.” Simon says.

Sean Hill 2 Cropped

Sean Hill, Funky Fizz, 2022, detail, acrylic and spray paint on wooden pallet. Courtesy of the artist.

“Hill’s playful, experimental approach to painting’s possibilities plays on form, pattern, and surface to create a vibrant presentation which will be restacked and rearranged through its duration, giving viewers multiple viewpoints and allowing changing relationships to emerge,” says Simon.

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre Director Zara Stanhope notes how these new exhibitions present artists who have had a long relationship with the Govett-Brewster, as in the case of Christine Hellyer, or have responded to and created relationships in Taranaki while on a residency as for Sorawit Songstaya. In addition, they extend conversations relevant to our time and place more globally.

“The Gallery’s purpose is to support artists and reflect their concerns in order to create dialogues about the world we live in, and we are honoured to present these exhibitions and the critical reflections that they encourage,” Zara says.

All exhibitions open on Saturday 2 March, with a programme of artist talks and conversations throughout the day to share kōrero and works with Gallery visitors. For more information visit the events section of our website here