April 12, 2022

Mark Adams, Natalie Robertson, Chris Corson-Scott
Tēnei Ao Tūroa – This Enduring World

Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University of Wellington

Mark Adams, 13.11.2000. Hinemihi. Clandon Park. Surrey, England. C-type prints from 10 x 8 inch C41 negatives, 1320×2130 mm, two parts. Courtesy of the artist and Two Rooms, Auckland.

Natalie Roberston, A Red Tipped Dawn - Pōhautea at Waiapu Ngutu Awa (7th August 2020), 2020. C-type gloss photographic print, 790 × 1000 mm. Courtesy of the artist.

Chris Corson-Scott, A Poet Writing before the Falls and Freezing Work, Mataura, 2016. Archival pigment print, 1400 ×1700mm. Courtesy of the artist and Trish Clark Gallery, Auckland.

Brought together by Christina Barton.

Tēnei Ao Tūroa – This Enduring World brings together three distinct bodies of work by three photographic artists who share certain attributes, despite belonging to three successive generations. Mark Adams (born 1947), Natalie Robertson (born 1962) and Chris Corson-Scott (born 1985) use large-format analogue view cameras to make largescale colour and black and white images that compel by the extraordinary detail their equipment can deliver. All three are deeply interested in sites with loaded histories that speak of human encounter and occupation and their formational and fraught effects. All three recognise the extent to which they are inheritors of visual traditions and modes of representation that date back to the nineteenth century (if not earlier), and each seeks ways to reflect critically on their inheritance, drawing in and calling up other artists who come before them. Taking their role as image makers immensely seriously, they have chosen to work at a scale, with a format and for specific occasions that can be distinguished from the myriad ways we encounter photographic images in daily life.

The title for this grouping was arrived at collectively. After several exchanges among artists and curator, Natalie Robertson drew attention to an old Ngāti Porou apakura (mournful song) from Sir Apirana Ngata’s four-volume collection of traditional Māori songs, Ngā Mōteatea: He Maramara Rere No Nga Waka Maha – The Songs: Scattered Pieces from Many Canoe Areas. This included the line “te ao tu roa”, which was translated by Pei Te Hurinui Jones as “this enduring world.” We have brought this phrase into contemporary usage as “tēnei ao tūroa”, as it so perfectly captures the tenor of our conversation. This revolved around history and its aftermaths; photography and its purposes; and the cultural dynamics that drive these conversations in Aotearoa New Zealand. In the end, those old words provided the right language for the shared sense that these images – so self-consciously produced with near obsolete equipment – showed something “enduring” that we wanted audiences to experience and learn from.

For this presentation, Mark Adams represents Hinemihi: Te Hokinga – The Return, a body of photographs made in 2000 and only presented together for the first time in 2021, of the house carved in the 1870s by Tene Waitere and Wero Tāroi, two master-carvers belonging to the Ngati Tarāwhai iwi (tribe). Constructed for a site in the township of Te Wairoa that was subsequently buried in ash and mud by the volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera in June 1886, their house was subsequently purchased by Lord Onslow, the Governor of New Zealand between 1889 and 1892, and removed to Clandon Park, his estate in Surrey, England (where it remained until very recently). Adams’ photographs are paired with surviving carvings by the two Māori artists and a selection of more than thirty historical photographs that contextualise the house, its original location and the rich legacy of carvings produced by Māori carvers working in the wider Bay of Plenty region.

Natalie Robertson restages Tātara E Maru Ana – The Sacred Rain Cape of Waiapu, a body of photographs she first presented in late 2020, that document significant sites around the Waiapu River, which is the awa (river) of her people, Ngāti Porou. In producing and presenting this work, she has offered her services to provide a visual record that will show people in the future the first steps in a project initiated by her tribe, to embark on a one-hundred-year plan to protect and restore the river and region that has been devastated by deforestation and erosion. She sees this as part of her conscious advancement of Māori counter-narratives to settler colonialism.

Chris Corson-Scott presents a selection of photographs produced between 2013 and 2018, which belong to an ongoing project to document the vestiges of industry that were a feature of the exploitation and transformation of New Zealand’s natural environment in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He is concerned not simply to record these sites, but to offer a vivid commentary that speaks to the necessity of devising new more sustainable relationships with the natural environment.

Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery is the art gallery of Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington located in Wellington, the capital city of Aotearoa New Zealand. It is a forum for critical thinking about art and its histories as well as the professional structure within which the Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection is managed. The gallery’s programmes aim to test and expand art form and disciplinary boundaries and create new opportunities to bring artists together and generate fresh conversations. The gallery is a remarkable architectural statement designed by the late Sir Ian Athfield, one of New Zealand’s foremost architects.

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