Michael Lett is pleased to present works of significance by Michael Parekōwhai. Cast in monumental bronze, these works operate as object lessons in both stability and the transitory, who is firmly in place and what has the ability to move around. Whereas the artist’s life-size, sculpted figure is a masterful yet playful demonstration of authority and strength; Parekōwhai’s rendered trees and objects point towards a temporary rootlessness together with the apparatus required to enjoy safe passage from one place to another.
Michael Parekowhai (Ngāriki Rotoawe, Ngāti Whakarongo, b. 1968) draws upon an abundant range of both vernacular and collective vocabularies in his work. He re-manufactures these lexicons into complex narrative structures and formal languages, exploring perceptions of space, the ambiguities of identity, the shifting sensitivities of historical memory and the fluid relationship between art and craft. Ideas of camaraderie, tools of teaching and childhood learning, as well as quotes from modern art history and popular culture, also play out in many of Parekōwhai’s stories. While his work is often described as emphasising the extraordinariness of the ordinary, each body of work has layers of potential for meaning and significance—they are open to any depth of interpretation and storytelling.
Parekōwhai was selected to represent New Zealand at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 where he exhibited On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer at the New Zealand pavilion. In 2015 he exhibited The Promised Land, a retrospective survey of his practice at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. In 2018, Te Papa Tongarewa opened its newly expanded contemporary art galleries with Détour, a major solo exhibition from Parekōwhai.
His work has been included in: Te Hau Whakatonu | A Series of Never-Ending Beginnings, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth (2023-2024); Dreamhome: Stories of Art and Shelter, Art Gallery of New South Wales (2022-2023); Toi Tu Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (2020); the 5th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2006); the 5th Gwangju Biennale (2004); the 13th Biennale of Sydney (2002) and Headlands: Thinking Through New Zealand Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (1992).
Parekōwhai graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland in 1990, followed by a Master of Fine Arts in 2000. In 2011 he was awarded the Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate award.
You can also find another of Parekōwhai’s ‘Kapa Haka’ series permanently located at The University of Auckland, behind the Old Barracks Wall and Old Choral Hall on 5 Alfred Street. This public sculpture features on one of the Te Paparahi Toi Māori, Walks in the City found on ArtNow Walks - a series of interactive, self-guided public art walks through the city centre and beyond.