Whakatāne Museum continues to build a reputation for the support and proliferation of contemporary art in Aoteaora. With the Molly Morpeth Canaday Awards now firmly established and growing, a $5 million collections and research facility almost finished, and a new Volcanic Artist Residency off to a robust start, the Eastern Bay of Plenty institution is on the rise. The latest exhibition, Kutarere Sunrise by mixed media artist Lauren Lysaght, harkens back to fond memories of the artist's childhood, her father's butcher shop, and spontaneous holidays to a remote beach near Opotiki. The exhibition opens on Saturday 8 September and will be on view through 25 November at the Whakatāne Museum's galleries at Te Kōputu.
"On the surface, most of these works are whimsical and playful,"says Museum Director Eric Holowacz, "but there are layers underneath that speak of family relationships, nostalgia, hard work, and Lauren's persistent memories of her father the butcher."
With Kutarere Sunrise, the New Zealand mixed media artist encourages audiences to revisit her childhood and venture into the butcher shop once owned by her father, Nelson Lysaght. Inside, pinkish-red strings of saveloy and polony sausages hang on bright gold hooks. Behind the glass front of the display cabinet, the roasts are readied for the Sunday oven. Gleaming silver trays of fresh ground mince greet the visitor. On the counter in the back, a meat pack patiently waits to be adorned with parsley for an upcoming R.S.A. raffle—a job once performed with great honour by a young Lauren.
"We all have our own special set of childhood memories, carried within us wherever we go," says Holowacz. "Here, the artist has chosen key flashbacks and—using textile and mixed media—has served them up for our own consumption."
With its mixture of dead seriousness and humour, female craft and reflections on male labour, Kutarere Sunrise, is an extended tribute to a kind and loving father. As a child, Lysaght and her dad would often wake up at sunrise, jump in the car and head to Kutarere, on a remote stretch of coast near Opotiki.
"It was his favourite holiday spot," recalls Lysaght, "And he was always the happiest there, as the sun beamed over the horizon."
After her parents separated, and Nelson remarried, the artist and her father became estranged. Lysaght sees this latest exhibition, and the care she took in harnessing old memories, as her way of addressing that—and putting things right with him.
"I think our visitors will agree that with Kutarere Sunrise, the Whakatane Museum galleries are filled with a sweet sense of nostalgia, and a creative tribute of objects, memories, and a bit of time-travel," says Holowacz.
Lysaght is a self-taught artist who deliberately works in non-traditional ways. As one of New Zealand’s foremost social conscience artists, she is committed to pushing boundaries. Her mixed-media and multi-disciplinary work often comprises 'low-rent' materials that found at a $2 store or op shop. Lysaght always transforms these raw materials into seductive and provocative works, often bringing attention to social issues, injustices, poverty, and mental illness.
"We smile at the playful nature, and charming textile objects," says Holowacz, "and then the more provocative thoughts come out, sometimes like a slap of profound new meaning."
The artist has exhibited extensively since the mid-1980s, and has been involved in numerous community art projects in New Zealand and internationally. She was the Gold Medal Award Winner of the Art Addiction Annual Exhibition in Venice, Italy and has been awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council Grant and Creative New Zealand funding. Her work is held in numerous private and public collections including Te Papa Tongarewa and the Chartwell Collection. She is represented by Whitespace, Auckland, and Rayner Brothers Gallery, Whanganui.
Her latest exhibition, Kutarere Sunrise, is on view at Whakatāne Museum through 25 November. The artist will offer a free gallery talk on Saturday 8 September at 11am. The public is invited to meet the artist, view Kutarere Sunrise, and be part of the robust new programming at the Eastern Bay of Plenty's leading cultural institution.