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Hannah Kidd: Could God be a Dog? (2021)

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All Ages

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Milford Galleries

There is an overt nostalgia in the extraordinary artworks of Hannah Kidd. Drawing from rural life and using that most ubiquitous of materials, used corrugated iron, the sculptures speak of a dwindling New Zealand of cow cockies and sheep shearers, number eight wire and the ghost of Fred Dagg. We are presented with a New Zealand that has become mythical. We know it existed, and still exists, but it is somehow unreal.

The sculptures are not mere Footrotflatsiana, though an element of that romanticism remains. These are real creatures caught in the moment, imbued with an astonishing life that defies the materials used. The watchful doe, the barking sheepdog, and the tumbling mass of peeping chicks are not stereotypes, but each have their own unique character. Even the unlikely colours of the chicks are based on a real practice, that of dyeing eggs, an industry approach used to differentiate batches of chicks from each other (1). While the industrial process may seem callous, it is pragmatic, and the sculptures which have emerged from it are both charming and wryly humorous.

Nostalgia is a bittersweet emotion. Literally, it means "Pain for home", and carries with it that mix of warmth at the familiar and anguish at its loss. The anguish may be expressed as sadness, but it may also become closer to anger if there are feelings that the familiar has been lost through deliberate action or neglect. As such, it can veer towards the political, with the fight to retain what is slipping away.

While this has always been a thread in Kidd’s art, notably in work depicting endangered species, it becomes explicit here with the new second string to the artist’s bow. Here, the artist has paired sculptures with ceramic works, large, ornate vessels which bear on their surface narratives which are an earthy, humorous lament and jeremiad of political neglect of and disregard for the country’s great hinterland.

1. Hannah Kidd, Artist’s statement, 2021.

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