4 May 2023

Absence, the newest exhibition at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, argues that sometimes the most compelling thing is what isn’t there.

Running from 6 May to 20 August 2023, Absence brings together works from artists working across diverse mediums and eras.

All connect with that central theme – from things that have been and gone to those we think may soon arrive. Covering a wide spectrum that includes the mournful and the mischievous, the monumental and the hardly-there-at-all, Absence invites viewers to fill in the gaps.

“Artists have always been fascinated by the power of people and things not shown,” says Lead Curator Felicity Milburn.

“In art, absence creates mystery, tension and anticipation – it can imply loss, transformation, exclusion, isolation and much more. It’s the unspoken subject in some of the Gallery’s most interesting works, and we’ve brought many of them together.

“Absence features some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most respected artists, but isn’t the type of exhibition you need to bring a lot of expertise with you to enjoy. It’s full to the brim with stories and is a great way to experience many different styles and types of artmaking.

“There’s a rich mix of sculptures, paintings and works on paper and it’s a chance for visitors to see some treasures from our collection, including The Physician, painted in 1653 by Gerrit Dou, a leading figure in the Golden Age of Dutch painting.”

The exhibition includes a wide range of works, with everything from a stained glass window recovered from the Barbadoes Street Cemetery Chapel, to a sculpture assembled from discarded furniture parts found in a Christchurch junk shop. 

Enjoy one of the Gallery's best-loved paintings, Petrus van der Velden's Burial in the Winter on the Island of Marken from 1872. 

Take a look at a variety of works by Aotearoa artists on display, such as Rita Angus, Ralph Hotere, Colin McCahon, Séraphine Pick, Shane Cotton and Bill Hammond.

Ghost, a 2022 painting by Claudia Kogachi that recreates the much-parodied pottery scene from the 1990 film is included in the exhibition – without either Patrick Swayze or Demi Moore.

Also, find an unexpected Margaret Mahy portrait, a sombre and personal suits of 12 prints, a 1934 litohraph and a photographic documentation of Ōtautahi’s former residential red zone.

Image: Petrus van der Velden Burial in the Winter on the Island of Marken [also known as The Dutch Funeral] 1872. Oil on canvas. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, gift of Henry Charles Drury van Asch, 1932.