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City Gallery Wellington presents ‘A Place Apart’

Christina Pataialii 'Band on the Run' 2019. Courtesy McLeavey Gallery, Wellington.

City Gallery Wellington presents ‘A Place Apart’

Two celebrated artists are exhibiting together for the first time in A Place Apart at City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi.

City Gallery Wellington presents ‘A Place Apart’

When curator Moya Lawson approached Christina Pataialii and Ruth Ige to exhibit alongside one another, the two painters had never met. But Lawson recognised a clear connection between the pair’s work when she conceptualised A Place Apart. “Both of them operate on this fine line between figurative painting and abstract painting,” says Lawson. “They both do it in really different ways, but have a similar relationship to this idea of how that in-between can be used to destabilise the way a viewer engages with the work.”

The artists have taken a room each in the adjacent Deane and Hirschfeld galleries at City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi, allowing them to be together but separate – speaking to the same ideas in divergent ways. “I was thinking about how their work can be brought together in a way that’s not only talking about the formal similarities, but also how they explore the idea of being and living in the world, and counteracting the dominant narratives that come to define them as artists,” explains Lawson.

Ruth Ige ‘Untitled’ 2019. Courtesy the artist.

Pataialii’s work draws from her experience as a half-Samoan, half-Palagi woman growing up in suburban Auckland among migrant communities. Lawson says Pataialii was “making her own language for that experience” using symbols from pop culture and music. Ige also traverses abstraction and figuration but in “a very, very different style” with her portraits of imagined subjects. “She’s not making portraits of real people,” explains Lawson. “But she’s thinking about the black body and how it’s been represented and interpreted, and simply not existed in the history of portraiture.”

Where Pataialii’s work is nostalgic, Ige’s can be seen to be futuristic. As the exhibition’s title suggests, both artists explore notions of place. “Tied to place are conditions of belonging, of embodying, of being within them,” says Lawson. “And place, more and more, in a globalised world, is a really difficult thing to define.”

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