"Seven Sisters " 2019
Alcyone – Matariki, eyes of Tāwhirimātea
Atlas – Tupu-ā-rangi, sky tohunga
Electra – Waipuna-ā-rangi, sky spring
Taygeta – Waitī, sweet water
Pleione – Tupu-ā-nuku, Earth tohunga
Merope – Ururangi, entry to the heavens
Maia – Waitā, sprinkle of water
Finalist of the 28th Wallace art Awards 2019
This installation extends my Oceanids series to achieve scale and affect and bring new materiality into the conversation. This series comprises symbolic portraits representing Oceanids – female eco-warriors from Greek mythology with parallels to Taniwha. Among the best-known Oceanids are the Pleiades, known as the Seven Sisters or Matariki, stars in the constellation of Taurus. Each panel represents one of the seven sisters, and the viewer’s passage past the panels is a navigational journey in space and time. These astronomical Oceanids relate to navigation and agricultural seasons in many cultures. In Aotearoa, these stars are Matariki, and their rising marks the new year for Maori. More fully, they are ‘Nga mata o te ariki o Tawhirimatea’, the eyes of the god Tawhirimatea, god of weather, thunder, storms and clouds. The panels are acrylic (PMMA) covered with a dichroic film. The acrylic, made from petroleum, provides a reflective ‘oil slick’, and presents material formed at the end of the Devonian era around 400 million years ago from collapsed coral reefs during Earth’s fifth extinction event. Today, in the midst of the sixth great extinction, we stand terrified that our unleashing of hydrocarbons will return us to the watery depths or force us into the stars to look for a new home. The imagery on the panels reference the ‘age of the fishes’ (as the Devonian era was known). I am motivated to encourage new thinking and a new navigation as we journey into the Chthulucene.
This installation references the minimalist painted plywood panel works of John McCracken but while his works pursue the properties of clarity, conciseness and effectiveness my work looks at properties of reflectiveness, obscurity, diffuseness and inconclusiveness to create a sense of the shifting ground upon which we find ourselves in this current time in the history of this planet. The use of reflective materials both the acrylic and dichroic film places the work in the context of the widespread and sustained use of reflective surfaces in art that arose concurrently with Minimalism and continues today. These industrially-produced materials are also associated with Minimalism, although the dichroic film is a very contemporary product. Artists that I have referenced include Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Dan Graham and Robert Smithson who use reflective surfaces and engage actively in the discourse surrounding their work in ways that should be considered “reflective” as well. The other important cultural location for this work is the Chthulucene or Anthropocene, the geological era we are entering so named because it may be the first (and only) epoch in which human activity on Earth is a critical factor. However, even ‘Anthropocene’ as a term is problematic because it continues the Anthropic discourse embeded in our crisis – hence ‘Chthulucene’ (see Harroway et al). The latter emphasises the ambiguity, uncertainty and feminine element, a return to greater connectivity to all things, including the non-human majority. Exploring mythology, like Oceanids, informs us as to how earlier cultures represented this need to protect resources and remain connected to our ecology.
 “I am aligned with feminist environmentalist Eileen Crist when she writes against the managerial, technocratic, market-and-profit besotted, modernising, and human-exceptionalist business-as-usual commitments of so much Anthropocene discourse….But an unfurling Gaia is better situated in the Chthulucene, an ongoing temporality that resists figuration and dating and demands myriad names.” (Donna Harraway, “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene” from ‘Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene’, Duke University Press, 2016)