Michael Parekowhai’s Strange Resonance with Australia
New Zealander Michael Parekowhai’s exhibition, The Promised Land, has opened at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and is expected to be a “local blockbuster” to rival the other imported one, David Lynch.
Curator Maud Page discusses with ArtsHub the enigma of Parekowhai and his attraction to Australian audiences.
Spatially this exhibition, on until 21 June, will be dramatic and immersive. Space is a preoccupation across Parekowhai’s career, but one perhaps overshadowed by an acute sense of humour and colonial undercurrent. Look a little deeper – as this exhibition encourages – and visitors will step over the threshold into the layered world of Parekowhai – one that has a strange resonance with Australia.
“Parekowhai nudges the collective national memory of both countries, New Zealand and Australia. What is remembered? What is retained as important? Taught in schools? What adorns our public spaces? Is heroicised?” asks Page.
Among the highlights, which is on loan from Te Papa, is Parekowhai’s He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: story of a New Zealand river (2011), an elaborately carved, fully functional, red Steinway concert grand piano which took the artist ten years to make.
It was the centerpiece of his 2011 Venice Biennale installation, and is carved with Maori customary iconography, including Parekowhai’s own family emblems. It sums him up so superbly: technically so exquisitely proficient; incredibly intimate and personal in its story-telling and yet bold and public and erudite in the way it commands a space and charms a viewer. It does not disappoint.
Original article by Gina Fairley, ArtsHub, March 27, 2015.