Monday, September 30, 2013

Mrs Chrysanthemum patiently waits...
Kim Lowe
By: Kathryn Tsui, Curator

In Mrs Chrysanthemum patiently waits..., artist Kim Lowe employs a diverse range of printmaking techniques to depict the varied extracts of her family's mixed New Zealand Chinese and Pakeha history.

Lowe draws upon the wealth of stories surrounding her ancestral history and the marginalisation of pioneering NZ Chinese migrant families. The prints in the exhibition relate to her paternal grandmother of Chinese origin who was born in Cuba and then brought up in New Zealand. “Even though she had been in New Zealand since she was 6 or 7 she still kept her Cuban passport so was classified as a NZ alien because she refused to denounce her Chineseness”, says the artist. 

Akin to her grandmother the artist resiliently represents her mixed cultural heritage, through her chosen art medium of print. Both printmaking and working on paper connects to European and Chinese art traditions. Even the fundamental act of making prints requires a negative image to create the positive printed image, this relates to the artist’s interest in the Chinese concept of polarity where opposites are necessary to create balance. Also embedded in Lowe’s works are visual symbols and motifs from Chinese and European art history and antiquity.    

Cultural hybridity, elements of Taoist Philosophy and nature are often starting points for the artist. A more recent influence for the Christchurch based artist has been the 2011 earthquake. Making the best out of the aftermath Lowe has incorporated by products from this destructive natural disaster.

Earlier works in this exhibition, 96 Lotus Feet (2007) and Underbellies (2007), were damaged by liquefaction during the quake.  The artist has chosen to retain the liquefaction on these works and new post-quake works adopt the same grey palette. Not only as a response to the quake the grey also symbolises Lowe’s recollection of visiting her ancestral house in China, where everything was caked in a similar coloured dust. 

The overall narrative in Mrs Chrysanthemum patiently waits... is themed around cultural hybridity based on the artist’s ancestral roots. Lowe describes hybridity today as, “being less infused with biological cross breeding and has lost some of its negativity. It has become a term which describes more of an exchange, borrowing, mixing or combining of different cultures.”

Artist biography
Kim Lowe is a Christchurch based artist with an art practice grounded in printmaking and painting that centres around mixed cultural identity. In 2009 Lowe completed a Master of Fine Arts from Ilam School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury. Recent art projects include coordinating the Sendai-Christchurch Art Exchange in response to the 2011 quake and tsunami events in Christchurch and Japan. Lowe recently returned from presenting at IMPACT8 International Printmaking Conference in Scotland.

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