This summer, a major new exhibition opens at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū – Spring Time is Heart-break: Contemporary Art in Aotearoa. Taking over the entire ground floor, the exhibition features 24 contemporary artists who tell stories about personal and collective histories, encouraging us to think about the social and cultural concerns of the current moment.
Curator Melanie Oliver says more than 20 projects have been commissioned for Spring Time is Heart-break, and with around 50 works altogether, it will be the Gallery’s biggest display of contemporary art to date. “Working across a diverse range of media – sound, textiles, photography, moving-image, sculpture, painting – the artists reflect on communication and relationships to our environment, and explore distance by examining transitions between places and across time,” she says. “Ilish Thomas’s moving-image work, Indira’s Birthday (ઇન્દિરાનો જન્મદિવસ), captures the tenderness of her mother preparing for a birthday celebration. Heidi Brickell’s spiralling rimurapa sculptures connect with Tangaroa, and Priscilla Rose Howe depicts a messier, queerer future for the world through cavorting pastel scenes.”
Ms Oliver says Spring Time is Heart-break compels the audience to think, and feel. An Ursula Bethell poem lends the exhibition its title, echoing seasonal changes in our lives. “The works in the exhibition show a return to storytelling,” she says. “Contemporary art remains important as a way of imagining what is possible, giving us insight into the issues that are critical now and also those ahead of us.” Outside the Gallery walls, Tāmaki Makaurau-based artist Wendelien Bakker is contributing Catching a grid of rain, a new sculptural installation for the Gallery’s Montreal Street bunker. Constructed from steel guttering, the installation will collect “a grid of rain” and channel it off the roof of the bunker where it usually pools, and down the sides instead, where it can flow into a nearby drain.
“The weather-dependent nature of the work draws our attention to our relationship with weather, particularly the rain, and calls us to think about how we rely on steady rainfall to moderate the climate,” Ms Oliver says.
“If you head up to the balcony of the Gallery on a rainy day, you should be able to see the grid in action.”
Spring Time is Heart-break: Contemporary Art in Aotearoa will run from 25 November 2023 to 28 April 2024 at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, launching with a free opening gig on Friday 24 November from 7pm.