I’d been talking to Christina Barton, the director of Adam Art Gallery, since about 2019, to the point where I went to Wellington and did a site visit. We’d been toying with the idea of doing a solo exhibition – there were definitely some moments where it might not have happened because of Covid.
I live in the States and when it happened it was like, are the borders going to shut? Can I even get back to New Zealand? We now know what it means with all the travel restrictions, but when the pandemic first happened I had no idea if and when I’d be able to get back into NZ.
Thankfully the show opened on February 20. I flew out to New Zealand last December, did my quarantine, and got straight to work. The work for the exhibition was mostly made here – I like to work where the show is going to happen rather than shipping in works made elsewhere.
I was really only interested in working with the whole of the Adam Art Gallery. The question was, how do I make the space my own, and how do I make sure the architecture isn’t bossing me around? It’s a very specific building and I wanted to create works that worked in the space but that also felt like they were able to do their own thing in the galleries.
Each work in the exhibition is about filling the plane as much as I could: the concrete [What Kind of Day Has It Been]; the timber platform [How funny you are today, New York] fills up the whole room; and the wire [She’s talking to the wall] stretches the entire length of the gallery. I kept the logic the same: how far can I take this without over-complicating it? I’m all about a blunt gesture.
I loved leaving the first gallery, the Congreve Foyer, empty, and working with the less-known bits like the windows, and the view outside to the loading dock. I followed my curiosity through the galleries and outside into the surrounding spaces.
I love the threshold between the outside and inside [in Always humming], it’s exciting to go to the cusp between two spaces by putting a hole in a window, and having a southerly blast come through.
What Kind of Day Has It Been, the work on the ground floor, is substantial – it fills every corner but leaves everything really empty. The experience of working on it was interesting – it’s not often you work in a space like that, where you look down before you go down.
I’m interested in where and how I produce my work. I don’t have a studio. I like it when I don’t have a safe space – I propel out into the world, communicating with people I don’t know and learning about different processes. I didn’t know how to make these works, so I was asking what’s possible.
With You got to write me a song and I got to be in it, I went to Middle Earth tiles in Matakana the day I got out of quarantine. I learned that tiles are made as bricks, and there are two tiles per brick, so you have to flip them. I had to figure out what was possible with the clay, and that’s when I started laying out 40, 50, 60 tiles and scraping them, rather than working on a smaller scale. I don’t like fussy work.
The hill – all the way up, and all the way down – is such a part of the gallery. I like to connect different spaces, to work across large planes. I liked the idea of looking down on this lush green hill, and keeping the show going with the work Rob Duncan Megan Daniel Margaret Lynn Samuel Deb Nico Marilyn Sarah Henry Mieko Kate Ruth Mike Briana Justine Grace Romesh Josefine Madison Nerissa David Nina Gabrielle Dayle Isabelle Ana Lilith Christian Ruby Sophie Millie Michaela Loretta Laura Christina Alison Olly Miriam Fred Lise Hazel Simon Mia Anita Caroline Anna Prak Nadya Alba Xander Flavia Emma Stef Areez Bella Rachel Kirsty Kate Nicola Emerita Tim Megan Ruby Fina Felixe Ella Eva Ben Julian Bena Huhana Max Lily Tina Rose Bill and Teresa.
A lot of the show was about simple interventions – the scale was quite big, and it was about using space and depth. The work [Rob Duncan...] was inserted into the ground – it’s not yelling its presence, and you can choose to ignore it, sit and spend time with it, and the water runs down it when it rains. The work is formed from clay tiles made on people’s thighs. I’d only anticipated making it two or three metres but after my site visit in December I saw this hill above the Terrace Tunnel and realised it was the perfect site for the work, so ended up making it about 40 metres long. How do you make 230 tiles – how many legs, how many people sitting down for two hours with a clay tile draped over their body? You stumble through it – you need support on a work like this. I found it really meaningful to make – people I don’t know turned up to help. I was really taken aback that people were willing to support this work in so many different ways.
Adam Art Gallery