Connecting and empowering artists across the globe

A website focusing on New Zealand artists overseas has featured some of the University of Auckland’s most successful arts graduates.

Contemporary HUM has given Kiwi artists and creative professionals a platform to discuss, inform and document visual arts activity across the world, which alumni have contributed to in thought-provoking essays.

An essay written by alumna Eleanor Woodhouse was recently published on the work of the late Joanna Margaret Paul, a graduate of the Elam School of Fine Arts, as well as essays about the work of alumni including Cat Auburn, Zac Langdon-Pole, Luke Willis Thompson and Jennifer Flay.

Founder and Editor of Contemporary HUM Pauline Autet said the website aimed to provide critical discussion about the practices of these artists and the pressing contemporary issues they engaged with, as well as showcasing high quality art exhibitions and projects.

She added having such a platform was important, due to the geographical distance between New Zealand and the rest of the world, which often resulted in artistic achievements being overlooked or poorly publicised in New Zealand.

The idea for the website came about in 2015, while Autet was working at the Venice Biennale and the artist selected to represent New Zealand was the University of Auckland’s 2013 Young Alumnus of the Year Simon Denny, with his project Secret Power.

“Based in Berlin since 2009, Denny is quite a star in the art world and his project for Venice was huge in global media. Yet, when I returned to New Zealand, I realised the local media coverage, and consequently awareness and debate about the artist and show, was disproportionately low.

“As a young curator based in New Zealand, yet internationally focused, I wasn't the only one to feel frustration at the difficulty of keeping in the loop and following what artists, curators, arts professionals from New Zealand were doing overseas, whether they lived there or momentarily travelled for a project.”

Following that experience, for the next year she developed a database of New Zealand artists and arts professionals abroad which transformed into a project to make it accessible to others and encourage international discussion. With the help of alumna Winsome Wild, who contributed to the initial phase of the project, and “quite a few sleepless nights” the website launched in December 2016.

Autet said another of the key aspects to the website was to encourage in-depth discussion and increase the visibility of NZ arts within an international context.

“A well-written critical text that brings a thoughtful interpretation to an art practice can be a significant tool for an artist to develop their practice and gain further opportunities… The other crucial section of our website is the calendar, short listings of who is doing what, when and where, to provide a global view of New Zealand's participation in the international art sector.”

Autet hopes to continue expanding the website’s reach.

“In the next five years, it would be wonderful to see sub-editors join us from different parts of the world to ensure a local and well-informed editor is responsible for the publication programming of each region.”

Pictured above: Zac Langdon-Pole, Assimilation Study, 2017. Ring wing Mallard Duck, left human scapula model, left wing Ringneck Parrot, right human scapula model, right wing Pigeon, left human scapula model, left wing Mallard Duck, right human scapula model, right wing Ringneck Parrot, left human scapula model, left wing Pigeon, right human scapula model. Photo: Dirk Pauweis. Works courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett.