Find a PhD Supervisor

Academic staff at Elam have a wealth of experience and expertise in fine arts research.

Jon Bywater

Research interests

  • critical readings of contemporary art, with an emphasis on theories of politics and place
  • philosophy and critical theory
  • the relation between language and creative practice

Jon's writing has addressed work in a broad range of media and artistic modes, and he is also widely published as a music critic. He has contributed to British and American periodicals including Art Forum, Frieze, Afterall, Wire and Mute, and national journals including Art New Zealand, Landfall, NZ Listener and Reading Room, as well as numerous monographs and catalogues.

On the significance of place from a colonial perspective, excerpts from his essay Interrupting Perpetual Flight are included in the anthology Situation (Whitechapel & MIT Press, 2009) in the series Documents of Contemporary Art.

Recent publications

  • a letter for Wellington-based artist Maddie Leach’s project When You Find The Good Oil Let Us Know, the chapter NZ Art Can’t Exist for a history of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery,
  • an essay French Sticks for a monograph on Warsaw-based artist Daniel Malone
  • Too Many Records for Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, the first installment of the Paraguay Press series The Social Life Of The Record

Doctoral supervisions

  • Co-supervisor: Charlotte Andrew, Evaluating and Adapting Participatory Art as a Process to Contemplate The Birdman Motif in New Zealand Rock Drawings

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Lisa Crowley

Fields of work:

  • photography
  • video and installation

Research topics:

  • the aesthetics of photography, with a particular focus on the relationship between the printed image and notions of subjectivity
  • the complexities of Modernism, with a specific focus on the tensions between ideology and lived experience. 

Lisa's practice uses description as a method which enables her to highlight complex dynamics within these fields of research. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally in contemporary public museums and art galleries throughout Europe and Australasia.

Doctoral supervision

  • Co-supervisor: George Hajian, Masculinity and the Male Exhibit

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James Cousins

James works to prise open new sets of critical possibilities for painting.

Unique to his approach is a practice that builds upon processes connected to post-minimalism and contemporary painting, mapping a convergence of figurative and abstract modes of representation.

Recent ideas exploring forming of painting as a space of transmission have opened new terrains ... spaces that seek to demonstrate a new phenomenology of information transfer, via a re-enactment and relocation of recycled images in different places and times.

Recent works have conceptual and material links to fields of practice emerging in contemporary painting dealing with topics influenced by forms of information transfer.

Doctoral supervisions

  • Co-supervisor: Adrienne Ranson, Picturing Buddhist Paradigms: a Practice for Mind Transformation
  • Co-supervisor: Han Kim, The Act of Drawing

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Gavin Hipkins


  • contemporary fine arts
  • photography and experimental film, including landscape traditions and postcolonial theory
  • digital montage and discourses of hybridity
  • photo and filmic experimental narrative structures

Gavin has exhibited widely in New Zealand and internationally over the last two decades, working primarily in expanded photographic series.

Exhibitions and film screenings include: 

  • This Fine Island, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2011, and Armory Film, New York, 2012
  •  Envisioning Buildings: Reflecting Architecture in Contemporary Art Photography, Austrian Museum of Applied Art and Contemporary Art (MAK), Vienna, 2011
  • Unnerved: The New Zealand Project, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2010

Gavin is currently supervising ten Master of Fine Arts studio and research portfolio candidates working in a range of contemporary and historic visual arts fields, including documentary photography, video, and emergent abstract painting.

Doctoral supervisions

  • Co-supervisor: Toby Raine, Contemporary Meaning through Nostalgic Imagery
  • Main supervisor: George Hajian, Masculinity and the Male Exhibit

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Dr Lucille Holmes

Dr Lucille Holmes is a cultural theorist, writer, psychoanalyst and lecturer in fine arts at The University of Auckland.

Fields of research and writing

  • contemporary art
  • art education
  • the application of psychoanalytic theory to visual art practice

Lucille is also an executive and founding member of the Centre for Lacanian Analysis (NZ), a member of the NZ Forum of the School of Psychoanalysis of the Forums of the Lacanian Field

Her editorial roles include Journal for Lacanian Studies and Cyborg Subjects: Discourses on Digital Culture.

Dr Holmes teaches at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and since 2001 has supervised masters and doctoral students in art therapy, art and performance art.

Doctoral supervisions

  • Co-supervisor: Mark Harvey, Performance, Test, Labour
  • Main supervisor: Adrienne Ranson, Picturing Buddhist Paradigms: A Practice for Mind Transformation
  • Main supervisor: Jorge Santana Molina, The Index as a Disruptive Presence
  • Main supervisor: Han Kim, The Act of Drawing
  • Main supervisor: Kirsty McNeil, Mobilities and Place-making
  • Joint supervisor: Leo Baldwin-Ramult, Digital Symptoms in Computer Generated Moving Image
  • Joint supervisor: Natalie Guy, The Provisional Space between Appropriation and Defamiliarization as Contemporary Installation

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Dr Simon Ingram

Since 2008 Simon has developed a way to build on and collaborate with abstract problems inherent to both painting history and science's attempts to plot living systems and cosmic radiation.

More recently he has extended this by disrupting the technical-aesthetic framework central to his approach.

Doctoral supervisions

  • Main supervisor: Isobel Thom, Pathways of Oblivion
  • Main supervisor, Toby Raine: Contemporary Meaning through Nostalgic Imagery
  • Main supervisor, Martin Basher, Gates of Heaven: Beauty, Utopia and the Sublime in American Consumer Culture

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Alex Monteith

Performance-based projects

  • Aotearoa surfing culture
  • acrobatic/stunt flight
  • helicopter alpine search and rescue flight
  • motorcycle culture

Performance art issues are explored in relationship to contemporary cultural activities that are radically sensitive to geography. Within adrenalin and speed sports-genres, relationships of technology to the body, technology to territory and action to site are explored, including implications of on-board video culture.

Doctoral supervisions

  • Maria Walls, Casing the Joint: The Behaviour of a Medium – in Modo
  • Main supervisor: Rebecca Hobbs, Approximately Fifty-Three Performative Gestures
  • Main supervisor: John Chrisstoffels, Neo-Non-Place: Neo-Plasticism, Non-Place & the Film Set
  • Co-supervisor: Joyce Campbell, On the Last Afternoon: Making Art in This Time of Ecological Crisis

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Associate Professor Peter Robinson

Peter is an internationally acclaimed artist whose research interests include installation, sculpture, painting and art education theory and practice.

His recent work investigates both the materiality and metaphoric potential of his chosen medium. Whether it is the massive weightless volume of polystyrene forms or the densely contracted materiality of felt, Peter's sculptural propositions play out various oppositions such as density and lightness, dispersion and compression.

Doctoral supervisions

  • Co-supervisor: Matthew Crookes, Displacement – How Meanings Migrate
  • Co-supervisor: Graham Fletcher, Myth, Magic, Mimicry and the Cross-Cultural Imaginary
  • Co-supervisor: Julia Teale, Easel Painting’s Malaise
  • Co-supervisor: Jorge Santana Molina, Towards a Subjective Realism
  • Main supervisor: Charlotte Andrew, Evaluating and Adapting Participatory Art as a Process to Contemplate the Birdman Motif in New Zealand Rock Drawings

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Associate Professor Peter Shand

Research interests

  • Contemporary creative practices, principally art and fashion design
  • the inter-relationship of art and law, notably issues in copyright and cultural heritage

Peter holds a PhD in Art History from The University of Auckland and an LLM in Intellectual and Cultural Property Law from King’s College, London.

Recent publications 

  • Essays in Art New Zealand and for publications by the National Gallery of Victoria, Te Papa Press and Routledge
  • Catalogue essays on the work of Bepen Bhana, Nuala Gregory, Rebecca Ann Hobbs, NOM*d and Peter Robinson


  • Assume Nothing: Six early career artists at the Gus Fisher Gallery (2012) 
  • Shows at Elam’s projectspace B431

Doctoral supervisions

  • Main Supervisor: Fiona Pardington: Towards a Photographic Kaupapa of Ancestral Power and Talk
  • Main supervisor: Sharon Tengblad: Binary Psychosis – A Visual Response
  • Main supervisor: Matthew Crookes: Displacement – How Meanings Migrate
  • Main supervisor: Nuala Gregory: The Afterlife of Painting
  • Main supervisor: Joyce Campbell: On the Last Afternoon: Making Art in This Time of Ecological Crisis
  • Main supervisor: Aindriu Macfehin, Fidelity to the Artwork as Event
  • Main supervisor: Julia Teale: Easel Painting's Malaise

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Allan Smith

Allan Smith is a writer whose research links languages of making and object ensembles with modes of subjectivity and ways of being in the world.

Allan is particularly interested in following accented, emergent and improvisational materiality in the 19th century, the modern and contemporary eras through art, literature, technology and philosophy. This includes forms of urban alliteration; the geological imaginary; and temporalities of the sonic and visual fields.

He has worked as a curator of contemporary art in City Gallery, Wellington and Auckland Art Gallery, and written about photography, painting, and installational practices.

Doctoral supervisions

  • Main supervisor: Simon Ingram, Painting as Machine
  • Main supervisor: Paul Cullen, The Chemistry of Familiar Objects
  • Main supervisor: Justina Grober, Delay: Mirror and Fold in the Visual Field
  • Main supervisor: Graham Fletcher, Myth, Magic, Mimicry and the Cross-Cultural Imaginary
  • Main supervisor: Tessa Laird, Rainbows and Kaleidescopes: The Revolution Will be in Colour
  • Main supervisor: Kate Newby, I’m so tired: Art Beyond Exhibitions and Making Objects
  • Main supervisor: Tabatha Forbes, Productive Contemplation: Environmental Perception Through Art, Site and Self

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Jim Speers

Jim Speers is an artist who in recent years has worked in a range of media including sculptural installation, printmaking and digital video.  This has involved production and exhibition in New Zealand and Europe.

Jim's artwork is included in significant New Zealand public collections and has been placed in exhibitions by curators of high standing. He has worked extensively with prestigious galleries and has an established record as an artist undertaking commissions.

He is presently engaged in research that aims to track and account for changes in the concept of the 'ready-made', as it has been explored through sculpture.

As an educator Jim is committed to developing collaborative processes in teaching scenarios that allow students to define their work through dialogue and an exposure to the practice of others.

Doctoral supervisions:Co-supervisor: Aindriu Macfehin, Fidelity to the Artwork as Event

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Dr Ruth Watson

Ruth Watson’s research focuses on the relations of place and representation, especially the image of the world as constructed by cartography.

Current research

  • work in video installation
  • sculpture
  • painting
  • published articles in the history of cartography relating to cordiform maps of the sixteenth century. 


  • The Sydney Biennale
  • Frankfurter Kunstverein and Aktionsforum (Germany)
  • The Asia Society Museum (USA)
  • Gallery of Modern Art, Museum of Sydney and Museum of Contemporary Art, (Australia)
  •  Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Vienna)
  •  Institute for Contemporary Art, Newtown (Sydney)

Doctoral supervisions

  • Main supervisor: Clint Watkins: The Amplified Experience
  • Associate main supervisor: Janine Randerson Meteorology and Time-based Art Practices
  • Co-supervisor: Jae Hoon Lee, Nomad: Exploration of the Growing Body in a Global Relationship
  • Main supervisor: Bridget Sutherland, Far Off Town: Dunedin to Nashville
  • Co-supervisor: Fiona Pardington, Towards a Kaupapa for Kai Tahu Photography
  • Co-supervisor: Dan Arps, Towards a grammar of a gestural interdisciplinary art practice in a post-Fordist context
  • Main supervisor: Irena Keckes Mindful Repetitions: Ecologically Informed Buddhism and Contemporary Printmaking
  • Current doctoral supervisions include:Main supervisor: Sean Kerr, Forming, Norming, Storming and Performing: Improvisation, Group Dynamics and the Interactive Within a Fine Arts Context
  • Main supervisor: Roman Mitch, The Artwork is Always Right: Found Logics, Interface and Agency

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Tara Winters

Tara has a background in graphic design and has worked as a freelance designer for many years in the areas of print and interactive media. M

Main research interests

  • the study of the more fluid and dynamic forms of representation offered by digital technologies
  •  active engagement with art and design pedagogy

Tara's work takes a critical gaze over the various forms of teaching and learning practices occurring in contemporary art and design education.

Recent work includes the development of a structure for facilitating meta-learning in art and design education, and a system for helping international students in the creative arts with orienting to a new academic context.

Doctoral supervisions

  • Co-supervisor: Irena Keckes, Mindful Repetitions: Ecologically Informed Buddhism and Contemporary Printmaking

Contact Tara