Wanda Gillespie

Wanda  Gillespie

Golden Boy, 2023, carving in Jelutong, sand, paint, steel rod, metal hook, abacus, 360mm x 1450mm x 280mm


Wanda Gillespie is a contemporary artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa New Zealand. 

A belief in the spiritual potency of physical objects drives her work. Through pairings or groupings, a cause and effect occurs, an alchemy of form, material and space. Wood is chosen for its energetic qualities, a conduit connecting to whenua/place. A once living growing entity, now ripened for the sculptor’s chisel, peeling back layers of seasons, to extract a truth in shape from the invisible worlds. Gillespie has established a unique practice centred on the form of the abacus. With her bespoke interpretations of this ancient counting instrument, she explores systems of value and how, within them, the material and the sacred become entwined. 

Over the past decade Gillespie has refined her craft as a woodcarver through the creation of evocative figurative sculpture; combining detailed and abstracted, ancient and contemporary form. Familiar objects are reimagined with alternate uses, history, culture and ceremony.

Gillespie has established a significant practice with numerous solo exhibitions, awards and residencies. Her work has been included in several noteworthy museum exhibitions including An Alternative Economics at the Institute of Modern Art, Numinosity at Contemporary Art Tasmania, Future Inheritance: 20 Speculative Objects for a Time to Come for the National Gallery of Victoria Design Week, and several of her pieces are currently exhibiting in the Tel Aviv Craft and Design Biennale, Israel. She has been finalist and highly commended in many sculpture prizes including the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize, Molly Morpeth Canaday 3D Award, National Contemporary Art Award, Deakin University Contemporary Small Sculpture Award, Waiheke Small Sculpture Prize, John Fries Memorial Prize, the Blake Prize, and the National Sculpture Prize. She received the Art and Australia Credit Suisse Private Banking Contemporary Art Award in 2014. Her solo projects have been funded by the Australian Arts Council, City of Melbourne, Arts Victoria, Creative New Zealand, and Heart of the City (Auckland Council). 

Solo exhibitions include the Portrait and the Abacus, Waiheke Art Gallery, the Ministry for Mystical Reckoning, Stockroom Gallery, Counting Frames for a Transient Era, Te Uru Gallery, Nests, Art Week Auckland, Higher Thinking, Vivian Gallery, Higher Thought Forms, Sanderson Contemporary, Levitation Practice, MARS Gallery, the Ceremonial Processions of Dreamers, Lindberg Galleries, the Antarctic Kingdom of Gondwanaland, Craft Victoria and Fehily Contemporary, Into the Void, Linden Contemporary Centre for the Arts, and Tana Swiwi, Westpace, Melbourne. 


LIVES: Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

EDUCATION: Certificate in Whakairo – Māori wood carving, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, New Zealand (2022); Master of Fine Arts by Research with First Class Honours, Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne University, Thesis topic – The Museum of Lost Worlds Presents: Reconstructed Artefacts from the Island of Tana Swiwi (2009); Bachelor of Fine Arts (Intermedia), Elam School of Fine Art, Auckland University (2003)

COLLECTIONS: The Arts House Trust; Vulcan Steel Collection; Institute of Technology, Bandung, Indonesia; Various private collections, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia 

AWARDS AND RESIDENCIES: Waiheke Island Artist in Residence (2023); Barry Brickell Driving Creek Ceramic Art Residency (2022); Karekare House Artist Residency (Eden Arts Trust) (2021); Wallace Art Awards (2020), Jury Award prize; Creative New Zealand Arts Continuity – to create a new sculpture for Brick Bay Sculpture Park (2020); Creative New Zealand Arts Grant – to attend a specialist woodcarving school in Austria (2020); Waiheke Small Sculpture Prize – Runner Up (2017); Darebin Art Prize – Highly Commended (2015); ARTAND Australia Credit Suisse Private Banking Contemporary Art Award – Winner (2014); Lorne Sculpture Biennale Artist in Schools Residency(2014); Artspace Residency, Sydney (selected but was unable to take up the residency) (2014); Australia Council for the Arts New Work Grant (2013); City of Melbourne Arts Project Grant (2013); Art Gallery of NSW, Cite´ Internationale Des Arts, Paris Residency (2012); Arts Victoria Arts Development Grant (2011); Australian Arts Council Artstart Grant (2010); Australian Arts Council Jump Mentorship Program (2010); Victorian College of the Arts Vulcan Steel Tutorship Award (2009); Arts Victoria Cultural Exchange Grant (2008); Victorian College of the Arts Anthony Ganim Postgraduate Award (2008); Victorian College of the Arts Vulcan Steel Merit Award (2008) Asialink Residency Indonesia (2007); City of Melbourne Youth Arts Funding (2006); National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Prize Finalist (2005); Auckland University Access Award (2003); Elam School of Fine Arts Intermedia Technicians Award (2003); Auckland University Final Year Grant (2002)


2023 The Portrait and the Abacus, Waiheke Art Gallery - Te Whare Taonga O Waiheke, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland 

2022 Counting Frames for a Transient Era, Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland 

2020 Nests, Art Week Auckland, Public Sculpture/installation Durham Lane, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

2017 Levitation Practice: Lesson two, Artists Alliance, Art Week Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

2014 The Ceremonial Processions of Dreamers, Lindberg Galleries, Naarm Melbourne


2023 The Tel Aviv Biennale of Craft and Design 2023, Eretz Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel; Waiheke Small Sculpture Prize, Waiheke Art Gallery; Aotearoa New Zealand Aotearoa Art Fair and Brick Bay Sculpture trail, the Cloud, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

2022 An Alternative Economics, Institute of Modern Art (IMA) Brisbane, Australia; Out of Karekare, the Grey Place, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland; Molly Morpeth Canaday 3D Award, Te Koputu a Te Whanga a Toi, Whakatane, New Zealand Perpetual Guardian Sculpture on the Gulf, Waiheke Headlands and Waiheke Gallery, New Zealand 

2021 Future Inheritance; 20 Speculative Objects for a Time to Come, NGV; Melbourne Design Week Numinosity, Contemporary Art Tasmania, Hobart

2020 The Wallace Art Awards, Jury Award Winner, Pah Homestead, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and Pataka Art and Museum, Poneke Wellington; Molly Morpeth Canaday 3d Award, Te Koputu a te whanga a Toi, Whakatane  


2023 Sian van Dyk, WANDA GILLESPIE The Ministry for Mystical Reckoning, Art News Aotearoa Issue 199, Spring 2023; Paul Mitchell, A Sense of Wanda, Waiheke Weekender, September 14 5; Emma Hughes, Artist let the Wood Chips Fly, Gulf News, September 7 

2022 Virtuous Cycle, Gulf News, Waiheke Community Newspaper, March 17; Pamela Walker, Waiheke's Sculpture Crawl is a delight for Walkers, Stuff NZ, March 7; Ginny Fisher 'Sculptural Transcendence', Viva NZ Herald, February 23; Connie Brown ‘A Counting Frame for Circular Economies’, Sculpture on the Gulf Catalogue 

2021 Dr Eliza Burke 'Numinosity - Contemporary Art Tasmania' Art Link Magazine, November 15; Nikita Bhopti ‘Review: ‘Future Inheritance’ exhibition at NGV Melbourne Design Week’,; “Future Inheritance” curated by Marsha Golemac at Melbourne Design week, 2021, 

2019 Victoria Garnons-Williams, ‘Rites of Passage’, Exhibition Catalogue ‘Art Chat Sessions Ignite Thought and Discussion’, ‘Workshop with a Difference’, Gympie Living, April ‘What’s On at the Gallery’, Cooloola Bay Bulletin, April ‘Challenging Your Ideas’, Gympie Times, Saturday March 23rd; Emil McAvoy, ‘Higher Thought Forms,’ Exhibition Essay, Sanderson Contemporary, March; Camilla Wagstaff, ‘In the Stockroom’, Art Collector, February; Wanda Gillespie, ‘Abacus’ Garland Magazine, Artist Interview, January 

2018 Aimee Ralfini, Who Arted Artist Interview Podcast 95BFM, October 25th Ilona Nelson, This Wild Song, Artist Interview Podcast 

2017 Bruce Hunt, Fact from Fiction, Fremantle Gazette, August 7th; Wanda Gillespie, This Wild Song, Artist Interviews; Rachel Ashby, Art Banker, Artist Interview Podcast 95 BFM, October; John Mateer, ‘I Was Here’ curated by Anna Louise Richardson, Fremantle Arts Centre Catalogue National Contemporary Art Awards Catalogue; Cadence Seeger, ‘Spirits and Ghosts in Gillespie’s Work’, Artists Alliance Blog October

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