Judy Darragh (b. 1957 Ōtautahi Christchurch, New Zealand) works across sculpture, video, collage, jewellery, and photography. No matter the medium, her practice is characterised by a bold and brilliant use of colour and found materials.
Judy Darragh presents three large scale large photographic works in our window space; an extension of previous exhibitions at Objectspace and Two Rooms, which explored making as a critical and physical process shaping both our minds and bodies. Memory Foam depicts plastic, foam, and synthetic in high-resolution detail. Entitled Chip, Slice, and Stoke, Darragh deftly draws a conceptual line between the physical and abstract; with her cellular images of these utilitarian materials alluding to the latent toxicity of mass-produced everyday objects, questioning our ongoing fixation with plastic despite the impact on our physical health and that of the planet.
Emerging as an artist during the 1980s, Darragh’s witty, subversive approach to making was seen as a critical response to rampant materialism and free-market reforms. Darragh delves into the relationship between ‘high’ and ‘low’, imbuing discarded items with renewed value within the context of her practice. An avid collector, Darragh has a fondness for everyday objects and detritus – bottles, glassware, corks, feathers, beads, paint, flowers, cake tins – and is particularly interested in our contemporary fixation with plastic, a material she increasingly turns to in its recycled form to reflect on environmental issues. Darragh talks of embracing joy and humour in her work as an avenue for those more critical, often provocative discussions, allowing for the work to “sort of unravel in front of you.”
Darragh has been an art teacher for much of her career and a staunch advocate for other artists, instrumental in developing several artist-run spaces, co-founding advocacy group Artsmakers Aotearoa, as well as Equity for Artists, and co-edits Femisphere. In 2022 Darragh received the Order of New Zealand Merit for her services to the arts.
Based in Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau, Darragh exhibits extensively throughout Aotearoa and her work is held in numerous public collections, including Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, and Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui.
Recent exhibitions include Perilous: Unheard Stories from the Collection, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna Waiwhetū; Memory Foam, Two Rooms, Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau; Competitive Plastics, Objectspace, Auckland and The Centre of Contemporary Art Toi Moroki (CoCA), Ōtautahi Christchurch; Tunnel of Love, Masons Lane Wellington; In Kahoots, Two Rooms, Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau; White Rainbow, Ramp Gallery, Kirikiriroa Hamilton; Foil, Montalvo Arts Centre, San Francisco, USA; Girls on Hope, The Physics Room, Ōtautahi Christchurch; and the major sculptural commission, Limbo, North Atrium Sculpture Commission, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. In 2004 the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa mounted the major survey exhibition Judy Darragh: So … you made it? which was accompanied by a major catalogue published by Te Papa Press.