Francis McWhannell

Writer and exhibition-maker

Latest stories

Spectacular catharsis

Claudia Kogachi’s It Is What It Is


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...

Questions of place

Jhana Millers’ The Right Place?


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?


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...


Jimmy Maʻiaʻi


In Samoasonite, early-career artist Jimmy Maʻiaʻi explores his Samoan/Palagi heritage and questions the term ‘Afakasi’ (‘half-caste’), often used to refer to a person of such heritage in a derogatory manner. The title of the show combines ‘Sāmoa’ with ‘Samsonite’, a luggage brand. Central to the presentation is a kind of mass-produced woven plastic bag that is sometimes pejoratively called the...

No end in sight


To look at Bushmiller as an architect is entirely appropriate, for Nancy is, in a sense, a blue-print for a comic strip. Walls, floors, rocks, trees, ice-cream cones, motion lines, midgets and principals are carefully positioned with no need for further embellishment. And they are laid out with one purpose in mind—to get the gag across. Minimalist? Formalist? Structuralist? Cartoonist![1] —Mark...

I subjects and we objects

Elisabeth Pointon’s WHERE TO FROM HERE


Elisabeth Pointon sends me a video via Instagram. She has just received the central work for her new show, WHERE TO FROM HERE—no question mark. On screen, a fan fills an enormous inflatable form the dusty black of tyres. The camera/phone, presumably wielded by the artist, moves along the face of the work to reveal the expression ‘BIG TIME.’—with full stop. The text puts me in mind of Microsoft...

James Wylie

Contending with consequences


Aotearoa artist James Wylie uses video to examine the nature and consequences of contemporary technologies. His works tend to combine real-world footage with digital animations of his own creation, hinting at overarching narratives, while resisting straightforward interpretation. At times, Wylie foregrounds the close interaction between humans and computers, or between natural and artificial...

Jiggly bits

On the sculptures of Caitlin Devoy


My initial impression is of a queer kind of museum. A long, low piece of furniture—resembling both a bench seat and a display case—supports a parade of condiments: squeezy bottles of mustard, cannisters of Tatua Dairy Whip cream, a huge jar of mayonnaise. They’re not the real things but immaculate casts made of pink silicone and black rubber urethane, visibly supple. Tall Perspex boxes are...

Fitting the pieces together

A Diasporic Pulse of Faith & Patience by Andy Leleisiʻuao


Kia orana. Welcome everyone to Andy Leleisiʻuao’s A Diasporic Pulse of Faith & Patience, his twentieth show with Ben Bergman. I would like to begin by extending warm congratulations and thanks to Andy and the team at Bergman Gallery. I feel honoured to speak here, both because Andy is one of the most highly respected painters practising in Aotearoa New Zealand, and because I have personally...

A grand tour

Considering Frances Hodgkins: European Journeys


Few artists from Aotearoa deliver escapism like Frances Hodgkins (1869–1947). She has a gift for teasing out the transcendent in the world about her. An early watercolour depicts a Marseille so drenched in sun that balcony railings dissolve and women in no-nonsense skirts fuse together in the shadows. A late oil titled Zipp (1945) emphasises texture and colour so intensely that its sartorial...

Francis McWhannell Writer and exhibition-maker


Francis McWhannell (b. 1985, Aotearoa New Zealand) is a writer and exhibition-maker based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. He is Curatorial Adviser for the dealer gallery Visions, and Curator of the Fletcher Trust Collection, a major private collection of Aotearoa art founded in 1962.