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Arts provide solace and lighten lockdown

Monday 8 June 2020 9:20pm

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2019 Frances Hodgkins Fellow Imogen Taylor with her dog Dusty pre-lockdown. (Photo: Sharron Bennett)

While the Covid-19 lockdown presented many creative challenges for 2019 Frances Hodgkins Arts Fellow Imogen Taylor, the experience underscored how the arts provide solace in times of crisis – both for the artist and the public.

Taylor was only one month into a six-month residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York when the pandemic struck, forcing her to return to New Zealand.

“I had to make the tough decision to return from New York City, and I was lucky enough to self-quarantine at a friend’s crib in Naseby for two weeks – which then turned into several months!”

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Imogen Taylor discusses her work at the Hocken Collections (Photo: Leah Mulgrew).

The experience has led to exploration of new artistic directions, and she hopes the public will have a fresh appreciation of her work – her Sapphic Fragments exhibition at Dunedin’s Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena has been extended until 13 June.

“The arts obviously became extremely important over lockdown as many people took solace in books, film and television, and even made art themselves, when they otherwise might not be able to.

“We all had to slow down, which may mean there’s been a shift in how we perceive our immediate surroundings. I’m hoping this means my paintings can be experienced more viscerally in the gallery, as if walking into some kind of abstracted reality.

“I always hope that my work can provide a bodily experience for the viewer as well as a conceptual one; and hopefully experiencing the work in this bodily way can help alleviate anxieties in the mind."

Imogen is making the most of being back in Te Waipounamu, and is looking further into Regionalist painting histories and their historical cross-overs with queerness.

“The Maniototo is so incredibly beautiful and I’m so grateful to have had that time there. I was interested to learn that Rita Angus painted Naseby when travelling through there in 1953 and had familial connections to the Maniototo region. Her depictions of Central Otago were important to her progression from representation to abstraction, and this is a pictorial space that my work also engages with, whilst maintaining a connection with my current surroundings.”

She has exhibitions planned for later in the year, and is excited about spending the next couple of months in her new Dunedin studio.

“Then who knows, hopefully back to New York!”

"Great news for the public"

Head Curator of Pictorial Collections Robyn Notman says the Hocken Collections was delighted to gain the artist’s permission to extend the show.

“It’s great news for us, and the public, because it’s a visually uplifting exhibition, which at one level will appeal to those wanting a joyful post-lockdown experience. Imogen’s art means the Hocken’s Gallery spaces are wonderfully coloured, and the paintings are uplifting, energised and intelligent.”

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Imogen Taylor, Swollen, 2019, acrylic on hessian, 1200x 1200mm (irregular), purchased from the artist’s fellowship year exhibition, accession V2020.03.1, Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena.

“While her paintings have immediate aesthetic appeal, they are also firmly based on her ideas about identity. The exhibition is a wonderful reminder of how art can affect us and take us out of ourselves and into a new environment, physically and emotionally.”

After Sapphic Fragments concludes the Hocken will start preparations for Colin McCahon: A Constant Flow of Light, which will feature key works by McCahon drawn from the Hocken’s art collection, alongside a small number of strategic loans from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, the Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth and from Auckland-based art collector and philanthopist Dame Jenny Gibbs.

The exhibition will run from late August 2020 until January 2021 with final dates to be confirmed.

The Hocken (including the Hocken Gallery) is open Monday – Saturday 10am-5pm.