Visual Arts - 10 Years: Lonnie Hutchinson

Lonnie Hutchinson
Artist Lonnie Hutchinson on 10 years in the visual arts. Also read responses from artists Judy Millar and Peter Madden and curators Reuben Friend and Rob Garrett.


As part of The Big Idea’s celebration of ten years online, critic Mark Amery has brought together a discussion of those years in the visual arts from five leading visual arts practitioners - in response to his own thoughts.

In our final installment we hear from artist Lonnie Hutchinson.

Also read responses from artists Judy Millar and Peter Madden curator Reuben Friend and Rob Garrett.

Some of the things that have characterised the visual arts in the last ten years in relation to my particular interests and experience.

There are more Maori and Polynesian studying Fine Arts and Design than ever before. Of those who graduate many make the decision to study further post-graduate studies in art and education. The outcome is more artists, designers and architects, and more educators in secondary schools and universities. It’s not only happening in Aotearoa New Zealand but also strongly in Sydney and Brisbane and other Australian cities. There are also quite a few Polynesian artists based in the Pacific, Europe and the United States.

Communication re: email, Skype and social network sites are well utilised among artists’ communities and are also a major platform for communication between Polynesian and other indigenous arts communities around the world. Funding has been allocated to indigenous projects in New Zealand and cultural exchange between aboriginal artists in Australia, Canada and Aotearoa NZ have strengthened and enriched artists with amassing projects and exhibitions.

What are some works of art that speak strongly to the tenor of the last ten years?

‘Rubbish Art’. Popular in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world. And very small few do it well. Rubbish Art is a term I (we) apply to formal/informal constructions of consumerist junk. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the issues the artist is alluding to by using these materials. It’s the installation of these materials I often find tedious.

What are some changes in the visual arts sector in the past 10 years that have made it easier and harder for New Zealand artists to build a career?

I think the opportunities have increased for projects, especially temporal and public art projects. Artist run spaces and funded arts organisations have been very active in gaining support for artists in the areas of promotion/exhibition and education regarding arts management/business. Not everybody is going to like what you do. Being declined funding for projects is the nature of the beast.

What are some of the opportunities and challenges for the next decade?

Opportunities will shrink with banks going bust. As we have already seen, austerity measures have had to be implemented in some countries. The challenge for most artists economically has always been keeping the wolf away from the door... recession or not. I think if anything we/artists are more prepared mentally for adversity. I think we will see a strong re-emergence of more ‘in your face’ political art concerned with world poverty, cultural/religious racism, food production and environmental issues.

What does The Big Idea mean to you?

I flick through it quickly (usually the ‘Opportunities’ highlights) I must admit, and if I see something I think might be of interest to a friend I often flick it their way. I think it’s great at keeping all the creatives informed.

Further information:

Acknowledging and informed by the rich cultural resources of her Polynesian heritage (Maori -Ngai Tahu, Samoan), Lonnie Hutchinson is a multimedia, visual, and installation artist. In 2000 Hutchinson was the first woman recipient of the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies residency at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and was also a recipient of the first International Indigenous Art residency in 2003 at the Banff Art Centre, Alberta, Canada.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

15 Dec 2011

The Big Idea Editor

Samantha Lissette
Trust the process: Artist Samantha Lissette reminds herself that life is a messy business - and you don’t have to clean it all up at once
Graphic:  Report on Arts and wellbeing in the UK
Michael Moynahan talks strategy and wellbeing and how New Zealand is beginning to, and needs to, see itself and the arts with fresh eyes.
Tānemahuta Gray, photographed by Philip Merry
Tānemahuta Gray reflects on the resurgence of te reo in Aotearoa’s mainstream culture and media.
Ross Murray. Photo: Swift & Click Photography
Ross gives us a downright honest view - he is still trying to work it out, and always will be. And that is perfectly ok.