Shane Cotton is one of New Zealand’s leading contemporary artists. The first comprehensive survey of his work was held at the Wellington City Gallery in 2003. His works are held in all major public collections in Australia and New Zealand.
Since the early 1990’s Cotton has explored issues surrounding land, spirit and identity that are at the core of New Zealand post-colonial identity. His paintings draw on the symbolism of early contact period Maori folk art and engage with the forms of international contemporary art, and the politics of appropriation. The imagery in his work, particularly from the mid 1990s onwards, draws on the interaction of Maori and Christian cosmology particularly in the Northland (Nga Puhi tribe) region of New Zealand (Aotearoa).
I wanted to paint the land, but the only way you can paint it is to look at the stories and events connected to it, and you come to appreciate it in a personal way. Shane Cotton.
From the time he took up a teaching appointment at Massey University in Palmerston North in New Zealand, he began researching Maori figurative painting from the period of the late 19th century, and was immediately drawn to the simplicity of the images and the weight of what they were saying. At the time of this rediscovery, the warm tones and glowing umbers of the first folk art paintings began to give way to a more emphatic though equally restricted palette of burnt sienna, dirty cream and red ochre. These palettes suggest age. The process of the paintings themselves is to slowly glaze oils to create a luminescent effect.
I think of my painting as landscape painting, but not in an obvious way. The landscapes within the paintings are generic, they are based on specific places but not depictions….There is also a theme of journeying in the work, which reflects what Maori do, as a people, are still doing.
I paint in the evenings, weekends, whenever I have time. I like to have things worked out before I do a painting- my work’s not whimsical; it’s tight and regimented, at the moment anyway. I used to find the image through process; nowadays I come up with an idea, do a quick schematic (drawing)…then a collage…then dive into a large painting. Once I’ve got the painting down in terms of the general shapes I’m going to use, it doesn’t change much. The type of art I am making at present involves following as strict rationale it terms of theme and concept. The challenge is to stick as closely as possible to a set framework, but still remain involved in the painting process.
Cotton recognises and appropriates elements of international contemporary art and popular culture as sources of enrichment and tension to the iconography and motifs he sources from earlier Maori visual culture. Similarly as 19th century Maori adapted elements of European visual culture to reinforce their own identities.
Scale View In Virtual Gallery
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View In Gallery
Collection of the artist, Palmerston North
Private collection, North Island
Private collection Auckland
‘Seppelt Art Award’ Museum of Contemporary Art, 1998
Linda Tyler (ed), Shane Cotton (The Hocken Library, Dunedin, 1998), pg. 21
Elizabeth Caughey & John Gow Contemporary New Zealand Art 3 (Auckland, 2002), pg. 82
Signature and Inscriptions
Top panel inscribed lower right: I RANGI HEKE TINI I 1998 C
Middle panel inscribed lower right: II 1998 C.
Bottom panel inscribed lower right: III 1998 C
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Artwork Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Artwork Dimensions (including frame, if applicable): 173 x 105 x 5 CM
Artwork Weight: TBC
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