Exhibition exploring queer activism 'feels like a brave project'

Sian Torrington is a visual artist, working in drawings and sculpture.
PHOTO: TASH HELASDOTTIR-COLE

Sian Torrington is a visual artist, working in drawings and sculpture.

Courtenay Place springs to life this month with artwork colourfully exploring what it can be like to come out in New Zealand.

We don't have to be the Building is an assembled artwork that shares stories of activism and sexuality spanning the past 30 years.

Artist Sian Torrington was inspired to search for her own whakapapa of sexuality and protest in the community as she approached a personal milestone.

Queer activism information revamped into art by Sian Torrington.
PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Queer activism information revamped into art by Sian Torrington.

Torrington, originally from England, will be celebrating twenty years in New Zealand in December.

Over the past six months Torrington has been making use of the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand to research activism during the passing of homosexual law reform in New Zealand.

Torrington also reached out to the community to include contemporary stories.

Sian Torrington's art in We Don't Have to Be the Building will feature in Courtenay Place light boxes.
PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Sian Torrington's art in We Don't Have to Be the Building will feature in Courtenay Place light boxes.

She created a space where people could share stories that would later help shape her artwork, called Out in the Park.

There was also an "I wish box" for collecting personal messages.

Torrington believes messages are often so simple that everybody can relate. "I wish I could just be myself," one message says.

Figurative drawing sessions also helped Torrington bring these kind of stories to life.

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During these sessions she created seven large charcoal drawings of various genders that are included in the final product.

Up to a hundred different voices have been integrated into Torrington's artwork.

"One of the real threads is solidarity and what that means," she says. 

"Which can be hard to build and sustain."

It's about knowing "how to stick up for each other when it doesn't directly affect you", she says.

By showcasing this artwork on a street where many people have experienced bullying and discrimination due to their sexuality, Torrington hopes the work will speak back to oppressive attitudes.

"It feels like a brave project."

The exhibition will run in the light boxes in Courtenay Place from August 12 till December.

 - Stuff

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