Francis McWhannell Writer and exhibition-maker

CategoryWriting

Beyond the looking glass

Narcissus by Angela Tiatia

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It’s nearly the appointed hour and I’m panicking. I begin to fold washing, but it’s still damp, so I resort to shunting the drying rack out of frame. I rotate a pot plant, so its handsome new leaf is on display. I nudge a painting straight, consider hanging another, reposition my computer on top of a stack of books, in order to improve the camera angle. For many years, Angela Tiatia and I lived...

To rework and divert

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2018 marks twenty years since the founding of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, which saw the amalgamation of two major institutions, the National Museum and the National Art Gallery, and the beginning of a grand project: to tell the stories of the nation in an interdisciplinary manner.[1] In March, Te Papa unveiled a revamped art gallery complex named Toi Art (each word translating...

Re-evaluating values

An open letter to Creative New Zealand regarding exhibition attendants at the Biennale Arte

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The conditions of the art industry in Aotearoa are not optimal, nor will they be any time soon. At every level, artists and arts professionals struggle to secure sufficient funding to get projects off the ground. I recognise that all who work at Creative New Zealand, our national arts development agency, believe in the importance of the arts and feel a personal investment in their flourishing. I...

To name and amend

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How best to name him? In essence, he was my employer. But perhaps it is more accurate to call him a benefactor. We first met at a funeral. He approached me after the service and observed that he had been wanting to meet me for some time. The context was unfortunate, but you can’t always help context. He suggested that I might assist him with some tasks that needed doing. The pay would be good...

Oh the humanities!

On the state of arts study at New Zealand universities

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‘The building is crumbling round us—which is scary, coz I just got in the elevator.’ This comment was made to me the other day by fellow art writer Lucinda Bennett. Those of us whose careers are hitched to the visual arts are accustomed to thinking of our positions as vulnerable. The notion of the struggling artist, slaving away as a dishwasher to support her practice, is so well known as to be a...

Critic’s choice

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Independent writer and curator Francis McWhannell looks at five artists with a commitment to community and compassion. These five artists from Aotearoa New Zealand span different generations and backgrounds, and employ diverse media in their respective practices. They were initially chosen for the simple reason that their works caught my attention and refused to let go. However, points of...

All together, at once

Morning/Homework Town by Robert Fraser

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Robert Fraser’s Morning/Homework Town brings together two distinct bodies of work: Morning, a group of three square-format paintings with a central motif evocative of a box, and Homework Town, a series of nine smaller rectangular works that feature band forms derived from the width of the masking tape habitually used by the artist. At first blush, the paintings seem easy to locate, to grasp. They...

A gentle communion

Considering Sleeping Arrangements

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I sit in the gloomy, almost oppressive environment of the Blumhardt Gallery at the Dowse Art Museum, in which a small but dazzling piece of curatorial handiwork is on display. Beneath me is a bench covered in pale-green vinyl, patterned with spots that are rough to the touch. The surface feels non-slip. It would not be amiss on the floor of a bathroom. I quickly think of urinals and just as...

There’s nowt so queer as folk

A note on the paintings of Laura Williams

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On Instagram, Laura Williams goes by ‘takingthepastiche’. The moniker could hardly be more appropriate. Williams’ practice is grounded in pastiche, voraciously sampling art, design, and popular culture from different periods in time. A quick look a clutch of her paintings reveals a Hieronymus Bosch creature, a Frida Kahlo self-portrait, a Meissen-style figurine, a Richard Parker pot, a wartime We...

Passion project

LOVE THY LABOUR by Kay Abude

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Kay Abude’s LOVE THY LABOUR explores conceptions and conditions of work. The ongoing project stems from the experiences of the artist and her family. Relocating to Australia from the Philippines in 1986, Abude’s parents moved from white to blue collar jobs. Her mother worked in an electrical factory, supplementing her income by bringing components home that were assembled by members of the family...

Francis McWhannell Writer and exhibition-maker

About

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