Nelson-based Kim Ireland announced as the recipient of the 2024 Iris Fisher Scholarship.

At a special event at Te Tuhi on Saturday it was announced that Nelson-based Kim Ireland has been awarded the 2024 Iris Fisher Scholarship, a national award of $5,000 to support an outstanding postgraduate student in the final year of a visual arts/fine arts course of study.

In her final year of a Master of Māori Visual Arts at Massey University Te Kunenga Ki Pūrehuroa, Ireland’s practice is driven by the examination of a fragmented past, and the desire to explore the cultural and social mechanisms that form Aotearoa’s history. Through her work, she asks, what are the complexities that every individual faces in a bicultural society? How did our tīpuna survive the dominance of a colonial system? And what is my part to play?

Ireland has said: “Through rangahau and the power of pūrākau these liminal spaces are often unveiled as sites that affect the collective psyche. However, there is also joy as there is a visible resurgence in Te Ao Māori, and what has been repressed has been reclaimed. But not without struggle. Consequently, this constant push has evolved into a multidisciplinary practice that is guided by mātauranga Māori. It is this directive that has my work moving within the realm of image, installation, and object, although always speaking to my initial practice - the drawn line.” Ireland’s most recent toi mahi is expressed through uku, Papatūānuku. Mana Māna is a series of gourd formed sculptures that look to mana wāhine atua hine-ahu-one, hine-ti-tama and hine-nui-te-po, to acknowledge the connection through whakapapa.

Mana stands for strength, authority, and determination, while Māna refers to him/her, he/she. Mana Māna is the action of passing on, to give to, the mana. It could be understood as the thread that binds wāhine across different generations, providing strength and guidance in times of pō. Mana Māna will be shown in a solo exhibition in August at the Ashburton Art Gallery, Ashburton.

Living and working in Nelson, Ireland holds a Bachelor of Arts and Media from NMIT, Te Pūkenga, and is currently completing her Master of Māori Visual Arts at Massey University. Her most recent solo exhibitions include Kei hea a Tiki? (2022) at Refinery ArtSpace, Nelson; 24 (2022) at The Gallery, Nelson; and push/pull (2021) at Ardern, Nelson. Ireland also had work featured in several collective exhibitions over the past years, among which: Triumph of the Heart (2023) at Quiet Dog Gallery, Whakatū; Matatau (2022) at Te Manawa Toi, Palmerston North; and Encounters with Cook (2020) at The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson.

On being awarded the scholarship, Ireland says “I am very grateful to be awarded the Iris Fisher Scholarship, this award will support me in continuing my art practice. I would especially like to acknowledge Kura Te Rawiri and the rest of the kaiako from the Masters of Māori Visual Arts at Toioho ki Āpiti for their tautoko with my toi mahi.”

The Iris Fisher Scholarship is a national award of $5,000 to support an outstanding postgraduate student in the final year of a visual arts/fine arts course of study. Since 2007, Te Tuhi, with the generous support of the Lou and Iris Fisher Charitable Trust, has supported the development of emerging Aotearoa New Zealand artists with this annual award. Past recipients of the Iris Fisher Scholarship include Bena Jackson (who is currently presenting Urban Legend at Te Tuhi, her first solo exhibition at a major public gallery), Susu, Xi Li, Emily Parr, Quishile Charan, Aaron Kong, Christina Pataialii, Kalisolaite ‘Uhila and Erica van Zon.

The scholarship is named after Iris Fisher, who was a founding member of the Pakuranga Arts Society and the driving force behind the creation of the Fisher Gallery, later to become Te Tuhi. Her original bequest has fostered contemporary visual arts practice and art education. It is envisaged that these funds will be put toward fees, materials, travel, or a purpose which will enable the recipient to successfully complete their final year of postgraduate study.

Image: Kim Ireland, Kei hea a Tiki (installation view at Refinery Art Space), 2022. Courtesy of the artist.