Words: Camilla Wagstaff
In early 2019, Auckland gallerist Tim Melville heard a “buzz” about a new artist whose first solo show at East Auckland’s Malcolm Smith Gallery, Bildungsroman, was setting tongues wagging.
The artist was Areez Katki, whose incredibly fine embroidered panels and textiles, beading, painting and weaving works had also started doing the rounds on social media, to much acclaim.
“I drove out to see the show … it seemed ages away but was only half an hour (Aucklanders are lazy) … and I was astounded.
“It was rich and layered, the work was formally ravishing and technically extraordinary, and there were some beautifully written texts to support the artwork. Areez’s exhibition had a clear kaupapa and intention; to explore his own Parsi heritage, as well as to trace the roots of Zoroastrianism itself.”
Melville notes that in the past, embroidery has been a heavily gendered practice, where it’s unusual to see a young male artist choose it as his medium. Embroidery’s patronising craft overtones, according to the gallerist, are another obstacle to its being taken seriously.
“But I think collectors are ready now, finally, to embrace craft as art if it has meaning, intention and a raison d’être … not just making for making’s sake. So here comes Areez – a young man born in India and educated in Auckland – embracing the practice to address the social constructs of spirituality, identity and sexuality while at the same time raising questions about the political nature of craft itself.”
Katki’s first solo exhibition with the gallery was scheduled for April this year but was postponed to later in the year due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Notes & Methods is now slated for July, and will feature a survey of Katki’s embroidered textiles, including a triptych of large tapestries stretched over frames as well as smaller framed and glazed works, with an accompanying text by the artist.
“Areez has a background in Art History so writes like a dream, and he proudly proclaims his role as a craftsperson within the realm of contemporary art,” concludes Melville. “Did I mention that the work looks gorgeous too?”
Image: Areez Katki, Carafe Parade (Detail), 2019. Cotton hand-embroidery over musk khaki handkerchief. Courtesy: Areez Katki. Portrait of the artist by Todd Eyre.