Curator’s Radar: Lisa Reihana

A round up of artists who have recently attracted significant curator attention by way of commissions, acquisitions and inclusion in major public exhibitions.

Words: Daniel Mudie Cunningham

“Everyone’s collaborating – I want to corroborate with everybody instead,” declares Māori artist Lisa Reihana in relation to the creative scope of her new work GROUNDLOOP, commissioned by the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW) for Sydney Modern. Working across multiple media including film, photography and sculpture, Reihana’s extraordinary career over three decades has been a testament to the power of knowledge sharing central to her practice. Her most ambitious work to date, GROUNDLOOP continues Reihana’s ongoing interest in corroborating with multiple creatives, thinkers and cultural leaders to reconsider narratives of colonisation, gender and representation. Among them are Studio Gilay, a First Nations-led digital studio directed by Jake Duczynski.

Displayed in the brightly lit central atrium of the gallery’s new extension, the work is a narrative of trans-Tasman connection set in motion by histories of encounter and exchange. Led by AGNSW curators Lisa Catt and Ruby Arrowsmith-Todd over a two-year period, GROUNDLOOP depicts an intergenerational group journeying from Aotearoa to Australia and landing on the harbour shores at Woolloomooloo near the gallery’s location. This detail was pertinent for the work’s site-specificity and the location of its display.

Reihana explains: “The Art Gallery of NSW was supposed to be facing Woolloomooloo, but at the last minute, they turned the building around to look at the Parliament House.” With GROUNDLOOP, colonial history is literally turned on its head through counter-narratives that, as Reihana explains, “riff on science fiction and a whole lot of popular cultures – all of that stuff for the corroboree!”

Reihana’s last major presentation on Gadigal land in Sydney was in NIRIN, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, curated by Brook Andrew in 2020. Shot in 3D, this immersive film titled Nomads of the Sea is told through a blend of fact and fiction. It is a tale of two female protagonists: Pakeha mutineer Charlotte Badger, who was incarcerated for part of her life in the Parramatta Female Factory in Western Sydney, and Puhi, a woman of Ngā Puhi descent. “Making artworks, they’re like artifacts,” explains Reihana of her revisionist project. “They open up people to having conversations; there are always points that allow you to hear things from a personal perspective and you never know where they might influence something that you make later.”

Nomads of the Sea will be shown at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston in March as part of the festival Ten Days on the Island. Collectors take note that Reihana’s Sydney dealer Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert will exhibit a suite of exquisite  photographic stills from Nomads of the Sea in March 2023.

Featured image: Lisa Reihana. Photo: Jacquie Manning.

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 103, January-March 2023. 


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