• Karen Sewell

Sewell’s works explore relationships between form, colour, light, space, aroma, and sound contributing to conversations on connections between abstraction and spiritual experience. The work seeks to evoke the unfathomable mystery and beauty of cosmic phenomena, and act as a potential threshold into the terrain of the numinous*. The exhibition includes the use of spherical and circular forms in painted, sculptural, and photographic works that reflect artist Karen Sewell’s interest in celestial bodies and sacred geometries.

Capturing what Cannot be Captured was inspired by symbolic motifs in prints of 15th century Jesuit artists who depicted circular orbs, natural light-giving bodies, cosmic or celestial to signify the divine. This motif can also be found in a 16th century painting by Johannes Vermeer, who was inspired by these earlier artists.

Sewell’s foregrounding of the everyday materials in the construction of her works, also suggests moments of access between the material and the intangible. Paintings are made from pigments, local Whakatū Nelson soil, thousand-year-old water drawn from a North Island natural spring, and binder medium. Sewell makes the paint herself using natural and synthetic pigments, soil, powdered marble, and binder medium. Sewell’s interest in levitation, a quality suggested by her suspension of forms appearing to hover in space, is influenced by ideas of ascension and transcendence, and conduits between the material and ethereal realms. She aspires to draw viewers’ attention to look and think beyond the material – and into the realm of feeling – to experience the possibilities of wonder.

Karen Sewell is a visual artist who works across media including sculpture, installation, photography, painting, sound and light. She lives and works in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, New Zealand.  Sewell is interested in the intersection of art with spiritual experience, in particular, human experiences of the numinous*.

Sewell graduated with a Master of Fine Arts (with Honours) in 2016 from Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design. She was the recipient of the Premier Award in the Waitakere Trust Art Award in 2011, and has been selected as a finalist in awards including The NZ Portrait Awards in 2012, the Wallace Art Awards in 2013, and the Glaister Ennor Graduate Awards in 2016. Karen is the Artist in Residence at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell, Auckland.

Sewell’s unique offering artistically and professionally is through her creation of innovative artworks (often) in unexpected and alternative exhibition spaces that offer the viewer the potential for an experience of the unseen and unknown. She is pioneering a dialogue between contemporary art, histories of faith and sites of worship, to be re-connected. Photographic artworks have emerged from the immersive space experience. Both the practices of the installation and photographic artworks, work together in combination to achieve the exhibition experience.​

*Numinous speaks to everything within the realm of our experience which cannot be quantified, explained, or contained.  Our intuition, and our feeling-states, our connection to the cosmos, and for some a sense of the divine.

Opening Hours

  • Wednesday to Friday, 11:00am – 5:00pm
  • Saturday, 11:00am – 2:00pm
  • Or viewing by appointment


  • Level 1
  • 284 Trafalgar Street
  • Nelson, 7010