Art & creativity  |  4 Nov 2022

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu is readying for the opening of two new exhibitions that showcase the work of two contemporary New Zealand artists.

James Oram Spectral hands (detail) 2022. Cyanotype prints of found imagery. Courtesy of the artist.

Beginning on Saturday 5 November, the gallery is hosting a new solo exhibition by local artist James Oram, who brings a humorous edge to an exploration of capitalism and the free market.

The exhibition titled By Spectral Hands exhibition includes video pieces, sculptures and a series of spooky cyanotypes. Woven throughout the exhibition is the suggestion of the invisible hand of the free market.

“These compelling works use marketing techniques, advertising imagery and symbols to explore the idea that we’re all a part of the capitalist system,” says curator Melanie Oliver.

“In a series of cyanotype blueprints, hand gestures are extracted from advertising imagery and isolated from the products they are selling,” says Ms Oliver.  “These ghostly, haunting images allude to the unseen forces of the free market and also our ability to participate as consumers.”

Oram received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of Canterbury in 2004. He has exhibited throughout New Zealand and Australia.

“We’re thrilled to be presenting Oram’s work on this scale for the first time and to be addressing critical issues for our time,” says Ms Oliver.

From 9 November, visitors stepping into the foyer of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū will encounter a towering kauri sculpture when a new exhibition by artist Brett Graham opens.

The 9.6 metre kauri sculpture, Cease Tide of Wrong-Doing is one of a number of sculptures by Graham that will be on display in the gallery until mid-February 2023 as part of his Tai Moana Tai Tangata exhibition.

Brett Graham, Cease Tide of Wrong-Doing 2020. Kauri panels on wood and metal structure. Courtesy of the artist and Bartley & Company Art.

Graham is one of New Zealand’s most accomplished sculptors. He is best known for large-scale artworks and installations that explore indigineous histories, politics and philosophies.

Lead Curator Felicity Milbrun says the sheer scale and artistry of Graham’s Cease Tide of Wrong-Doing is striking.

“Visitors will feel the power of this work as they enter the gallery and carry that through to the other spaces of the exhibition,’’ she says.

The Tai Moana Tai Tangata exhibition was developed by Graham in collaboration with curator Anna-Marie White for the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in Ngāmotu New Plymouth and was inspired by Graham’s residency in Taranaki in 2019.

During this time, he researched the history of the relationship between Taranaki and Tainui Māori, and the pact of solidarity they forged during the New Zealand Wars.

“Tai Moana Tai Tangata is a rich, complicated show from one of our most exciting contemporary artists and we are thrilled to bring it to Te Waipounamu,” says Ms Milburn.

“Brett’s extraordinary sculptures and films revisit key events from the colonisation of Aotearoa by the British. They borrow the imposing visual language of military architecture and public war memorials, inviting us to stop and think about those events, and how their impact continues to affect our lives in the present.”

The exhibition also contains a new work on an epic scale created by Graham especially for this show with the generous support of Creative New Zealand. The Great Replacement takes the form of an inverted boat’s hull, and responds to the history of Ōtautahi Christchurch.