Words: Lucy Jackson
“I never imagined that I’d be a curator,” says Wellington-based Moya Lawson. But, learning from curators at City Gallery Wellington and her peers at play_station where she is a facilitator, saw Lawson soon curating considered exhibitions, that don’t shy away from exploring heavy topics.
Lawson admits that curator can be a heavy term with preconceived canons and connotations. “Is that going to make me enemies?”, she asks with good humour, but continues on to say that she believes it’s “similar to being an artist – it’s experimental, mobile, and can be dysfunctional.” Lawson’s priority is to bring care, friendship and rigour into her relationships with artists. In exchange, Lawson gets to experience the many complex, cryptic and piercing ways people look at the world.
“I curate for artists, as much as I curate for a public or a discourse, and I like exhibitions that are led by the art rather than the curator and leave space for ideas rather than heavy concepts,” says Lawson. Pinning simple and light conceptual threads between artists and works allows ideas to be expanded and built on. Lawson finds synergies between unlikely pairings, like in her latest exhibition, At Thresholds at City Gallery Wellington. The exhibition explores the work of 12 artists and asks how art can raise our awareness of our entangled yet untranslatable relationships with other species during a time of ecological crisis.
Lawson doesn’t have a favourite space to curate for: “Institutions are amazing because you can offer artists more and have a team to support you, but artist run initiatives are also fantastic because you’re elbow deep into everything. Both offer gratification.” Before entering the curatorial world, Lawson thought of herself as a “shy, art history kid who hadn’t studied art post 1950.” This introversion and humility have even been explored in her curating, with Shrinking Violet, an exhibition at play_station. With work by Cao Xun, Jess Robins and Motoko Kikkawa, the exhibition investigated photography as an introverted act and medium.
Next on the list is Lawson’s final exhibition at play_station, with a show of muka-rope installations and sonic work by Abigail Aroha Jensen. “In this space I refer to myself as a facilitator. Artists take the lead and I am the helping hand. That’s the approach I take to all my work in art.”
Featured image: Installation view of At Thresholds, City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi, 2022 featuring work by Debra Bustin (left) and Sorawit Songsataya (right). Photo: Cheska Brown. Courtesy: Moya Lawson.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 103, January-March 2023.