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Te āhua nei: form and content

Press Release – City Gallery Wellington

In te reo Māori the word āhua means shape, form or likeness and is often used when describing the physical appearance or character of a person, place or situation. The same word is also applied to photography, portraiture or sculpture
Form or photograph?

In te reo Māori the word āhua means shape, form or likeness and is often used when describing the physical appearance or character of a person, place or situation.

The same word is also applied to photography, portraiture or sculpturethe key mediums in a new exhibition by artists Gina Matchitt and Susana Lei’ataua, on display at the Deane Gallery at City Gallery Wellington in Te āhua nei: form and content from Saturday 25 February until 8 April 2012.

Gina Matchitt (Te Whakatōhea, Te Arawa) was raised in Rotorua and has lived in Washington DC since 2007. For this exhibition Matchitt has joined forces with performance artist Susana Lei’ataua. Lei’ataua, like Matchitt, was born in New Zealand and divides her time between New York City and Titahi Bay, Wellington.

Their distance from the Pacific combined with their interest in turning photographic images into sculpture, forms an integral part of their joint exhibition curated by City Gallery Curator Maori Art Reuben Friend. “Both women are international citizens working between New Zealand and the United States and are attempting to reconcile an identity that is inherently global while bound up with ideas of tūrangawaewae, home and belonging” says Friend.

Ironically, while Gina’s home in Washington DC is only a few hours drive from Susana’s apartment in New York, the pair have not yet met in person. They will come together for the first time back home, in Aotearoa, at the opening of their joint exhibition.

Matchitt creates large sculptural works by weaving brightly coloured duct tape and photographic images of Māori into forms and shapes symbolic of New Zealand identity such as the Beehive, the silver fern, tiki or kiwi.

“The weaving of these materials also affirms the traditional raranga concept of weaving together the threads of the past; present and future,” says Friend. “The themes are based around ideas of conquest, colonisation and the control of image making. They’re commenting on the fact that whoever is taking the picture has control of the image, and by extension, the ideas they transmit,” says Matchitt.

By engaging the audience in this way Matchitt asks the viewer to rethink the icon’s significance, origins and meanings. Her juxtaposition of customary pattern and modern materials also brings the sense of modern relevancy to Māori art in the public space.

“The bright and fluorescent colours also make reference to the earliest European materials used by Māori weavers such as brightly coloured wool incorporated into piupiu and korowai,” explains the artist.

Susana Lei’ataua’s sculpture Wall of Light – Memorial for New York 01/02 features hundreds of photographs taken in New York City during the first winter after the destruction of the World Trade Center, when the city was awash with US flags.

Lei’ataua brings the form of a brick wall, (synonymous with New York City) together with the form of the US flag, in a memorial for a city that has changed so dramatically during the past 10 years. The bricks are clear and contain individual images.

‘It was a hushed city during the beginning months of 2002’, Lei’ataua says. ‘Subway trains pulled through stations watched over with automatic weapons. Security alerts were colour coded and the radio was advertising gas masks. Bodies were being recovered from Ground Zero where tourists flocked to stand on specially erected viewing platforms.’

Borrowing a camera from a friend, she began documenting what she saw and found particular significance in the USA flags draped upon every surface. These dramatic scenes create her installation Wall of Light—Memorial for New York 01/02 (2012).

During this time she wrote of her experiences and produced through windows, a dramatic poetic solo performance which premiered at Bats Theatre in Wellington. A decade has passed since Lei’ataua first performed through windows, and as part of her exhibit she will be doing a special performance of this work on March 9 at 1pm at City Gallery Wellington.

Te āhua nei: form and content
Exhibition dates: Friday 24 February – Sunday 8 April 2012


Artists’ talk with Curator Reuben Friend
Saturday 25 April, 1pm. FREE ADMISSION
Artists Gina Matchitt and Susana Lei’ataua speak with curator Reuben Friend about their photographic sculptures and issues of globalisation, colonisation and belonging in the Deane Gallery at City Gallery Wellington.

Poetry Performance—Susana Lei’ataua
Friday 9 March, 1pm—1.45pm. FREE ADMISSION
Artist and poet Susana Lei’ataua was born in Wellington and is from generations of orators and storytellers. Susana was the recipient of the New Zealand Fullbright Senior Scholar Award for 2008 and her artwork features in the City Gallery exhibition Te āhua nei: form and content. Join us as Susana Lei’ataua presents her poem, through windows, at City Gallery.

Susana Lei’ataua was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1967. She is part of the Lei’ataua and Taupa’u families of Manono, Samoa. In 1992 Lei’ataua studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, New York and has since produced and performed in numerous productions. Her solo performance through windows premiered at Bats Theatre, Wellington in 2002 and subsequently toured internationally. In 2007 she received the New Zealand Fulbright Senior Scholar Award and was Artist-in-Residence at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute of New York University where she produced and performed the theatre work Breaking the Surface Lei’ataua currently lives in Titahi Bay, Wellington.

Gina Matchitt (Te Whakatōhea, Te Arawa) was born in Rotorua, New Zealand in 1966. She completed a Diploma of Design in Jewellery from Unitec School of Design, Auckland in 1994 and in 2011 completed a Masters in Māori Visual Arts at Massey University, Palmerston North. Matchitt’s work is featured in various public collections including The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, the Dowse Museum of Art, Lower Hutt and the Auckland Art Gallery. She has exhibited widely in Aotearoa New Zealand as well as showing internationally in Australia, the United States, Netherlands and Switzerland. Since 2007 Matchitt has resided in Washington DC.

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