A selection of 20th-century Pakeha women painters have served as the starting point for Paris Kirby’s latest exhibition Fertile Ground. Small-scale painted reproductions of iconic works by artists including Rita Angus, Dorothy Richmond and Doris Lusk are inset in each of Kirby’s large-scale paintings. The inserted reproductions serve both as an inspiration for the artists chosen palette, and as a reference point for her exploration into Aotearoa’s colonial and art historical past.
Fertile Ground proposes a parallel between the colonial notion of unease (isolation and nostalgia for a distant motherland) and the contemporary alienation of neo-liberal societies. Kirby nods to the creative endeavours of her female forebears while musing on the natural and social impact of the process of colonisation.
The painted ground we see connecting these inserted reproductions acts as a site of possible revelation, pitching a subjective topography of Aotearoa’s painting/painted landscape. Fluid strokes and painterly layers offer a formal contrast to the rectangular bounds of the historical references. The artists abstracted topographical mark-making acts as a map that spills over, bleeds into and connects the inserted reference points.
These large-scale landscapes are immersive, difficult to negotiate and at odds with themselves. Perhaps paralleling the disorder and confusion of post-colonial Aotearoa. Kirby’s use of gold throughout each of the canvases in the series elegantly connects each piece also operates as a signifier of commodification of both art and the land. An exhibition of new works exploring New Zealand's landscape painting history.
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