Solo exhibition at Pātaka Art + Museum
27 August 2017 – 22 January 2018
Artist, Kerry Ann Lee’s new body of work celebrates Aotearoa New Zealand as a remote archipelago and an imaginative site of possibility – a place where diverse citizens have a chance to grow roots deeper than they might in more densely populated centres – but these fertile islands are not a perfect paradise.
Found photographic imagery, nostalgic advertising and tourism campaigns are all called into question in new light box works. Drawing from inspiration both on and off-shore, ‘Fruits in the Backwater’ asks the viewer to look closer, and reconsider our cultural positions and complex settlement histories in flux in Aotearoa. What seems idyllic at first glance is marred by fractures and verging on rupture and reveal hopeful potential within static images.”
Kerry Ann Lee’s practice focuses on themes of home, difference and hybridity. The majority of her work takes the form of installation and digital collage of found images but she has also established a following for her self-published fanzines over the past two decades. Lee’s artwork can be found in public and private collections throughout New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the US and China but, as well as being one of Wellington’s most dynamic contemporary visual artists , Lee is connected to the underground punk music scene.
Lee is a Wellingtonian of third generation Chinese decent. Since immigrating to New Zealand in the 1920s, her family helped establish some of the early Chinese restaurants in Wellington. Key works to date have explored the tensions of making a home in the margins, alternative histories, and the legacy of Cantonese Chinese settlement in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Drawing upon her recent travels to Central America and Europe, Lee’s Fruits in the Backwater explores new perspectives she gained while away from home, and her realisation of the cultural and social benefits of our county’s relative geographic isolation.
While in Rome, Lee observed a tension within herself. As a New Zealander searching for external cultural reference points from these huge international centres of social, economic and artistic power on the other side of the world, Lee states, “I hit a crisis point while in Rome and Athens, amidst the tourists voraciously consuming images and documenting the ruins and monuments... I got 'image fatigue', and put down my camera". In doing so Lee gained a different and unexpected perspective of herself and Aotearoa New Zealand that can only be seen from a distance.
Rather than returning home with a slew of international cultural referents to infuse and fuel her art practice, Lee’s experience of introspection while abroad meant she returned home with a new perspective on ourselves as New Zealanders.
By distancing herself from home she was able to approach difficult cultural and political subject matter from a different perspective, taking note of the cultural and social dynamics of our nation in relation to our relative geographic isolation, and being able to see the value of ‘the fruits’ that grow in isolation.
Lee’s work begins with images taken from tourism and commercial advertising. She then places these externally focused depictions of New Zealand and 'elsewhere' in conversation with more locally specific social and cultural reference points. In essence the work is about perspective, decoding the globalised cultural symbols of this island nation portrayed in media, to take stock of the cultural nuances and experiences that make New Zealand New Zealand, and learning to value that difference for the benefits and perspective it provides.
Kerry Ann Lee’s Fruits in the Backwater for Pātaka Art+Museum will be her first solo exhibition at a major public art museum in New Zealand. Fruits in the Backwater will be exhibited alongside a suite of exhibitions by Muslim-Australian artists Abdul Abdullah, Abdul-Rahman Abdullah and Khaled Sabsabi collectively titled Dark Horizons and two animated films by Indian based artist Nandita Kumar. These projects are presented as part of ANZ Bank’s Season of Exhibitions at Pātaka Art+Museum exploring the challenges and achievements of ‘New New Zealanders’.
18 Jul 2017