Media Release: May, 2015.
City Gallery Wellington is pairing two highly acclaimed artists from two very different fields in a new exhibition, From the One I Call My Own, 27 June – 8 November. Drawings by self-taught, non-verbal artist, Susan Te Kahurangi King will feature alongside a language-based video work and performance by artist, Shannon Te Ao. At the heart of both these artists’ work is a clash between the verbal and the visual, communication and non-communication.
King and Te Ao are both recognised on the international stage at, supposedly, opposite ends of the contemporary art spectrum. When King was showing at the prestigious Paris Outsider Art Fair in 2013, Te Ao was the sole New Zealand artist included in the 19th Biennale of Sydney with his video two shoots that stretch far out. This is the first time the video will be exhibited in New Zealand.
“King’s drawings counter her inability to speak,” says curator Aaron Lister, “Te Ao takes found language and embeds it into performed actions and gestures. By showing the artists side by side, we expose difference but also reveal connections, providing an opportunity to explore each practice in different ways.”
Susan Te Kahurangi King is a prolific artist who has been drawing in earnest since she was four. Despite being a chatty toddler, her ability to speak began to decline due to autism and by the age of seven, she was mostly silent. As her speech declined, her interest in drawing grew. However, in the late 1980s her drawing stopped for almost 20 years. In August 2008, her interest was re-sparked, evidently by the making of a documentary on her, Pictures of Susan by Dan Salmon. King had her first solo exhibition at Callan Park Sydney in 2009 and has not looked back, exhibiting around the world including at MADmusée, Belgium and Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York. Now 64, she has produced thousands of works and continues to draw, endlessly and inventively—in graphite, coloured pencils, pastels and inks on paper and card, including found materials like letters and invoices. from the one I call my own features new and old drawings, including a previously unseen suite of work based on a set of paper dolls sent to her by musician Alastair Galbraith.
Shannon Te Ao (Ngati Tuwharetoa) holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (University of Auckland) and is a lecturer at Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Massey University. His videos and performances often incorporate spoken language drawn from Maori cultural forms such as whakatauki and waiata. two shoots that stretch far out features a cast of animals appearing to respond to the text that Te Ao is reciting to them—an adaptation of the lament A Song About Wives. The waiata was written by a Ngati Porou woman in response to her husband taking a second wife. Te Ao says the work, which was filmed on the animals’ home turf (their training barn), is an analogy for long distance communication, and relationships that are inherently flawed or heading in different directions (the title refers to the two shoots of a gourd, equally heading in different directions).
Susan Te Kahurangi King | Shannon Te Ao: From the One I Call My Own
27 June – 8 November 2015 | Free | citygallery.org.nz
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Image above: Susan Te Kahurangi King Untitled 2014