Francis McWhannell Writer and curator

A gathering gravity

Anticipating Grant Lingard: Needs and Desires

My encounters with the artist’s works have been few and fleeting. My information derives largely from the archive. The show has yet to open and I know only the title. But I am deep in speculation about what it will bring. I envision multiplicity. Bewitching constructions of salvaged wood—things bashed together from things previously smashed apart. Effigies cloned using stencils and stamps, recalling branded boxes, home-made stationery, punk tattoos. Parades of hospital-white linen, the antithesis of dirty laundry. I anticipate sensitivity. Poetic reflections on the group and the self, on gender expression and sexuality, and on the ways these things flutter their wings and metamorphose. Whimsy and pathos in potent balance. A wit that traverses materials and words, trading in pure sensation.

What is certain is that Needs and Desires carries a weight of expectation. Its subject, Grant Lingard (1961–95), was born and raised on the West Coast of Te Waipounamu and spent his adult life in Ōtautahi and Sydney. The last major retrospective of his work, Desire and Derision (1996), took place at the Jonathan Smart Gallery over a quarter of a century ago.[1] The gap is not entirely surprising. As Jeremiah Boniface—one of the artist’s keenest champions, and an important contributor to the body of research on his work—has observed, Lingard faces special challenges when it comes to renewed attention.[2] Many of his pieces are fragile, and the question of remaking them is fraught, since both the artist and his partner, Peter Lanini, have passed away. Yet a retrospective now feels necessary, as well as desirable. …


Essay commissioned by Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū for Bulletin 208 (June 2022). Full text available online.

[1] Jonathan Smart was not only Lingard’s gallerist, via the Jonathan Smart Gallery and the Jonathan Jensen Gallery, he also wrote early and insightful commentaries on the artist’s work.

[2] Boniface runs a website, which is an invaluable source of information concerning Lingard. See

Francis McWhannell Writer and curator


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.