Cultural symbols glorify a unique art exhibition

‘Fruits in the Backwater’ open in Porirua

A collection of works of Wellington based artist Kerry Ann Lee is now open at the Pataka Art and Museum, located at the corner of Norrie and Parumoana in Porirua.

Called, ‘Fruits in the Backwater’ it will be on show every day until January 22, 2018.

Ms Lee held another exhibition at the Whitespace Contemporary Art, 12 Crummer Road, Grey Lynn, Auckland on Tuesday, December 5, 2017.

Titled, ‘Foreign Correspondence,’ it was her last solo-exhibition.

‘Fruits in the Backwater’

‘Fruits in the Backwater’ celebrates Aotearoa New Zealand as a remote archipelago – a place where diversity has a chance to grow roots deeper than it might in more densely populated centres.

Photographic cut-outs of tantalising images from glossy commercial advertising are suspended amongst lightboxes with locally-specific references. This installation has the look and feel of a glossy tourism brochure, but it is fractured and verging on rupture as Ms Lee takes stock of the cultural nuances that make us who we are.

Clive James

Writer and TV Presenter Clive James wrote the following:

You could call it progress, but surely the imbalance remains: New Zealand is necessarily the Canada to Australia’s US, and Australia in its turn has been a long-time learning to count the blessings of comparative isolation.

The trick is to take pride in cultivating the kind of vegetation that grows only in a backwater, but that the world desperately needs: the fruits of contemplation.

With a background in graphic arts, Ms Lee creates digitally collaged works that are both expressive and socially engaged, playfully investigating issues of identity and cultural hybridity.

Artistic realisations

Drawing upon recent first-hand research conducted by Ms Lee in Europe, South America, Asia and Aotearoa New Zealand, this new body of work explores the perspective she gained through the process of distancing herself from home, and the realisations she came to around the cultural and social benefits of our nation’s relative geographic isolation.

Rather than returning home with a slew of international cultural references to infuse and fuel her art practice, Ms Lee experienced a period of introspection while abroad, and has come back with a more objective perspective on ourselves as New Zealanders.

As source material for these works, she takes images from tourism and commercial advertising and places these externally-focused depictions of New Zealand and ‘elsewhere’ in conversation with more locally-specific social and cultural reference points.

Cultural symbols

In essence, ‘Fruits in the Backwater’ is about perspective, decoding the globalised cultural symbols of this island nation portrayed in the media, to take stock of the cultural nuances and experiences that make New Zealand a country that values those differences.

Fruits in the Backwater is Kerry Ann Lee’s first solo exhibition at a major public art gallery in New Zealand.

About Kerry Ann Lee

Kerry Ann Lee is a Wellingtonian of third generation Chinese descent.

In 2007, Ms Lee was the recipient of the Asia New Zealand Emerging Researcher Award, and in 2008 she created Home Made, a national touring exhibition and seminar series that celebrated an alternative cultural history of Chinese settlement in New Zealand.

In June 2009, she received a Fulbright Award to attend the Summer Residency Programme at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City, and in September 2009, she was an artist-in-residence at island6 Art Centre Shanghai through the WARE (Wellington Asia Residency Exchange) Programme, culminating in a solo exhibition, AM Park at AM Art Space Gallery, responding to Shanghai’s ‘future city’ aspirations during the 2010 World Expo.

Ms Lee is also known for her work with self-published zines which have gained international exposure and readership over the past 15 years.

She worked as a senior lecturer and researcher at Otago Polytechnic School of Design in Dunedin before returning to Wellington.

Bartley + Company Art and Whitespace Contemporary Art promote her works respectively in Wellington and Auckland.

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