Sydney art fair filled with Kiwi artists
Happy Buddha III - Red Strands, embossed painted print 2015
"Just getting there is the goal," says Kim Lowe, a Christchurch printmaker whose work is being exhibited at the Sydney Contemporary International Art Fair this week by Queenstown gallery Toi o Tahuna.
The Sydney Art Fair opens on Thursday, September 10 and is described as "Australia's largest and most diverse gathering of Australian and international galleries".
It has taken just two years for it to become a major visual arts event. Established in 2013, the presence of more than 90 galleries from 13 countries (including 11 New Zealand dealer-galleries) and an anticipated crowd of 28,000 visitors has prompted the scheduled Auckland Art Fair to delay its plans for this year until 2016, safeguarding galleries and visitors from having to choose between Sydney and Auckland.
A sense of the Australasian nature of the Sydney event is evident, not just in the strong representation of New Zealand galleries, but also in the presence of work by more than 60 New Zealand artists.
Lowe is excited by the opportunity to exhibit, not only because of the potential benefits it offers for her career, but also because it represents a commitment to her work from Toi o Tahuna, a gallery that advocates for the work of indigenous artists. Its stable of artists includes Paratene Matchitt and Robyn Kahukiwa, influential figures who have contributed to two generations of contemporary Māori art.
Gallery director Mark Moran made space for Lowe's work at Toi o Tahuna immediately after the February 2011 earthquakes. This was followed by further support for a touring exhibition to Japan that Lowe coordinated in 2012, Shared Lines: Sendai-Christchurch Art Exchange, a collaboration between artists from Christchurch and Sendai. Lowe organised exhibitions for Sendai and Shiogama, followed by Christchurch and Queenstown. She comments that, "Mark and Toi o Tahuna gallery are interested in cross-cultural and multi-cultural work".
Following Shared Lines, Lowe provided further opportunities for Christchurch artists, setting up Toi Te Karoro (Art New Brighton), a workspace for artists and musicians in central New Brighton. As valuable, hard-to-find studio space in Christchurch, it has continued to remain in demand for workshops and classes, community arts activities, seminars and events.
"The studios have been running since last November and it represent a new initiative for New Brighton and for me," says Lowe. "The idea came from the public community arts project, Teza (the Transitional Economic Zone of Aotearoa) held in New Brighton in 2013 by Wellington curators Mark Amery and Sophie Jeram. It made me realise that making art is not just about an exhibition or arts projects. My art is also about all the other things I do as a teacher as well. I had not really done anything in New Brighton up to that point and it made me realise that everything that I do as an artist affects social change. I have started to see that as an important part of my practice.
"We have done community stuff at the New Brighton studios. We had a lot of communities use the space over summer this year and will continue to do so. Lots of kids classes. Whenever we have seen a need we have usually done something. I have undertaken 13 weeks of teaching to a private group. I had a printmaking group with fortnightly sessions, but I also need this space to do my own work. For the Sydney Art Fair I needed a good space to work on my prints leading up to it."
Lowe's prints for exhibition in Sydney reveal a commitment to her Chinese heritage through a multi-cultural perspective, living and working in Aotearoa New Zealand. Happy Buddha III – Red Strands depicts an arms-in-the -air, joyful Buddha figure that she describes as a "Pacific figure". "It seems to be a familiar and popular Buddha that is often identified as important to Chinese communities in New Zealand."
In its title and treatment of subject, Schoon's Birds and Radiola acknowledges the important influence on New Zealand art of Javanese and Dutch artist and immigrant, Theo Schoon in the 1950s and 60s.
Lowe describes him as "a hybrid". "An immigrant who lived much of his life in New Zealand. Half-Javanese and half-Dutch, he was interested in European Modernism and had this understanding and empathy for Māori art. He brought all these cultural influences together in his work. A hybrid art form. An artist who made multi-cultural work."
Sydney Contemporary international Art Fair. September 10 to 13, Carriageworks, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh, Sydney. Participating New Zealand Galleries include Bartley and Company Art, Jenson and Fox Jenson, Page Blackey, PaulNache, Sanderson contemporary art, Starkwhite, Suite, Toi o Tahuna, Tim Melville Gallery, Trish Clark Gallery and Two Rooms.