CURATOR Justin Paton ORGANISER Christchurch Art Gallery, with Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane OTHER VENUES Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 8 December 2012–2 March 2013; Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney, 23 March–19 May 2013; PUBLICATION publisher Christchurch Art Gallery; texts Geraldine Kirrihi Barlow, Robert Leonard, Justin Paton, Eliot Weinberger
In the 1990s, Shane Cotton (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Rangi, Ngāti Hine, Te Uri Taniwha) emerged as a provocative voice in New Zealand art. His detailed, probing paintings took his dual Pākehā and Māori heritage as a starting point, and contributed to the debates around identity politics and biculturalism in New Zealand. In 2002, City Gallery staged a survey of his work.
In the mid-2000s, his paintings changed. Instead of focusing on the land and its histories, Cotton turned his attention upwards, to the expansive canvas of the sky. Jettisoning many of his trademark images, removing references to stable horizons, and employing an uncanny nocturnal black-and-blue palette, he opened up a new painted space. It suggested both the outer spaces of science fiction and a mythic spirit realm or underworld.
The Hanging Sky offers a journey through this distinctive airborne world as Cotton has explored and complicated it over six years of energetic art making. It brings together skyscapes from the recent past and a similar number of new works. Curator Justin Paton says it ‘places the emphasis firmly on the present tense.’