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Ann Shelton, Tracy Keith and Essi Airisniemi Group Show


Thu 22 Apr 2021, 5:30pm–7:30pm

Where: Bartley + Company Art, 56a Ghuznee St, Te Aro, Wellington

Restrictions: All Ages

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Listed by: gallery8bq

Contemporary narratives of disrupted ecologies meet ancient mythologies in this exhibition of three artists whose work, in the age of the Anthropocene and human-induced climate change, invokes the Gaian sensibility of an ancient earth mother rising to protect her land from exploitation.

Overlaying the complexity of these conceptual underpinnings are visually charismatic, carefully crafted surfaces, which serve to seduce consideration of the ways nature intersects with human knowledge and belief systems.

The exhibition includes works from Ann Shelton’s series the missionaries - a multi-layered examination of the plants brought to Aotearoa by early settlers. Writer Emil McAvoy has described these plants as “photogenic ambassadors… envoys without clear knowledge of the impact of their arrival — colonists without a game plan.” Transported into a new and very different land in the southern seas, the plants responded in unanticipated ways. Shelton, who is an established artist and Honorary Research Fellow in Photography at Whiti o Rehua, School of Art, Massey University, has long been interested in plant histories and their relationship to power structures. She grows some of the plants she employs and, drawing on the arts and crafts movement which developed in the mid-19th century in response to industrialisation, creates these arrangements which can be read as hyper-real large-scale plant portraits.

Tracy Keith produces distinctive raku-fired vessels and sculptures. With their sense of dystopian industry, weathered surfaces and splashes of intense and vibrant colours drawn from deep in the earth, they speak to alternative paradigms embedded in sci-fi and fantasy genres of film and literature. Poneke based, Keith (Ngā Puhi) uses uku, clay, to awaken a nascent awareness of how far humanity has moved from the pure and primeval place where people once lived in "the close and perpetual embrace of Papatūānuku (mother-earth)". Keith has a Master of Fine Arts from the Whitecliffe College of Art and Design.

We are delighted to introduce the work of Essi Airisniemi, a Finnish artist who lives in Wellington having completed a Master in Fine Arts at Massey University in 2018. Airisniemi draws on Finnish folklore and traditional knowledge of plants and forest ecologies. Elements of her work are also informed by a feminist reading of the characters and their agency in the old stories, particularly around the Finnish goddess of the forests. Working predominantly in plywood, she creates cut-out forms of plants and female characters that stand freely or are suspended in space, and navigate between the ancient and ‘modern’, the fairy and the scientific, the natural and constructed. Shape-shifting and ideas of transformation and metamorphosis are central interests in her practice.

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