Francis McWhannell

Writer and exhibition-maker

Latest stories

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...

Refining abundance

Considering Queer Algorithms


I recline on pieces of a knobbly kind of foam I think is used to soften ambient noise in recording studios. Beneath me is an expanse of printed water, doubled like a Rorschach blot. It flies up at my feet, begins to curl, and dissolves into a sheet of balloons, evocative of both sea spume and an end-of-night balloon drop in a club. A few of the globes are puckering. It’s May, and the party has...

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...

Inducing blooms

Some notes apropos of an orchid by Sharnaé Beardsley


For several months now, I’ve been living with an orchid. The relationship was arranged, and unanticipated. The plant turned up one day, an apology gift for my partner from a friend, and immediately became a source of anxiety for me. I’ve no green thumb—I can cause the demise of the least fussy of plants—and I’ve a particularly acute fear of destroying the beautiful: the panic of the art writer...

Tracing the contours

Scarlett Cibilich and Denys Watkins


When we describe a process, or make out an invoice, or photograph a tree, we create models; without them we would know nothing of reality and would be animals. Abstract pictures are fictive models, because they make visible a reality that we can neither see nor describe, but whose existence we can postulate.[1] —Gerhard Richter   When presented with the pairing of Scarlett Cibilich and Denys...

Serious fun

Who the heck is PĀNiA!?


Ka tīaho mai he marama pai, puta pō rere wai, mai a Pānia. When the night is still and the moon is clear, you can see Pānia appear. —Sam Freedman (nā Alby Bennett i whakamāori) Let’s begin by addressing the elephant in the room, or—given the artist’s enthusiasm for all things equine—the thoroughbred in the room: who the heck is PĀNiA!? In the literature put out by Mokopōpaki, the art space on...

On the Lam

Christina Pataialii


Christina Pataialii is a painter of multiplicity. The works in On the Lam, her first dealer gallery show, are marked by an assured visual brevity, giving you more the more time you give them. They’ve an immediate and enduring formal and sensual appeal. The mint green background of Ace in the Hole is the work’s own winning card. It tugs at my visual memory days after encountering it for the first...

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.