Francis McWhannell

Writer and curator

Latest stories

On building bridges

An interview with Shannon Novak

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The past few years have been busy ones for Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland-based artist Shannon Novak. He’s produced solo projects, like the multi-site Cultivate (2021) in Ngāmotu New Plymouth, and participated in group shows, such as Sympathetic Resonance (2019) at the Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson, and Queer Algorithms (2020) at the Gus Fisher Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau. Francis...

Portraying growth

Gina Matchitt’s Autonomous Bodies

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Discovery When I take the Broadsheets out of their museum boxes, the covers are familiar. I open one and brush my thumbs over the pages. The newsprint is velvety. I think of the strange little patch of downy fur at the base of my newborn baby’s back. I put my face to the magazine and breathe in. It smells as sweet and musty as the inside of my mother’s room.[1] —Tusiata Avia On the kitchen table...

Weighted yet free

Marlee McMahon’s Heavy Kite

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A heavy kite is a complex construction. There is a warmth and softness to Marlee McMahon’s Heavy Kite, a consequence of materials and methods as much as colour. The artist speaks of wanting to shift her practice, not radically (the graphic strength associated with earlier works persists), but meaningfully. She has utilised more curves, opted for oil paint over acrylic, and moved away from...

Contending with complexity

Georgie Hill’s Prismatic Tectonics

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I looked at the natural world, and it seemed to share my feelings, to be trying in vain to escape its approaching doom. The waves of the sea sped in disorderly flight towards the horizon; the sea birds, the dolphins and flying fish, hurtled frenziedly through the air; the islands trembled and grew transparent, endeavouring to detach themselves, to rise as vapour and vanish in space.[1] —Anna...

I bow my head

Emily Karaka’s Rāhui

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The kauri surrounding Otitori Bay Road in Titirangi stand near the edge of Te Wao Nui a Tiriwa, the Waitākere forest, on which Te Kawerau ā Maki placed a protective rāhui in late 2017. Many of the trees are afflicted by the disease known as ‘kauri dieback’. Their golden leaves fall on the paths that lead down from the roadside to McCahon House, the dwelling inhabited by Colin McCahon and his...

Resistant to wear

Claudia Kogachi’s Rugged Heart

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In Rugged Heart, Claudia Kogachi uses pictorial rugs to explore family ties and personal anxieties. The show has its roots in the global pandemic. Last year’s nationwide lockdown limited the artist’s access to painting supplies and encouraged her to experiment with new modes of making. She began to create tufted rugs, being attracted to the functional and sensuous aspects of the objects. Although...

Spectacular catharsis

Claudia Kogachi’s It Is What It Is

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Claudia Kogachi’s work leans into the personal. The artist frequently depicts herself and members of her family carrying out everyday and leisure activities, using these to explore interpersonal dynamics and emotional states. Early paintings show her and her mother engaging in competitive pursuits, such as boxing and table tennis, which become metaphors for the combative dimension of the...

A moment of optimism

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These communities were also coming to terms with the fact that they were no longer a reviled minority and realised that, if they wished to keep an identity that had been created through legal and social oppression over the course of two centuries, they needed to work to maintain their unique culture and to remember its long history.[1] —David Herkt, 2013 Is this feeling optimism? It is certainly...

Questions of place

Jhana Millers’ The Right Place?

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The Right Place?—Jhana Millers’ 2021 Auckland Art Fair presentation—features work by six early-career artists: Will Bennett, Harry Culy, Tyne Gordon, Ayesha Green, and Elisabeth Pointon of Aotearoa, and Lucy O’Doherty of Australia. The title of the show was a relatively late development. Millers’ initial intention was to focus on the dark sensibility of the ‘Antipodean Gothic’, an extension of...

No other way

On Paul Johns’ BEEN HERE LONG?

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Interesting what your parents say to you at the end. I said to my mother, ‘I’m probably not the type of son that you would have aspired to have,’ to which she replied, ‘I wouldn’t have wanted you any other way.’ —Paul Johns, 2021 BEEN HERE LONG? is the first solo exhibition by Paul Johns to be held in Tāmaki Makaurau in two decades. It represents a compact survey, spanning almost his entire...

Francis McWhannell Writer and curator

About

Francis McWhannell (b. 1985, Aotearoa New Zealand) is a writer and curator based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. He is curator of the Fletcher Trust Collection, a major private collection of Aotearoa art founded in 1962.