Focus on systems of power

I thought I heard you crying in the forest  (2020), by Ayesha Green (below).PHOTO: COLLECTION OF...
I thought I heard you crying in the forest (2020), by Ayesha Green (below).PHOTO: COLLECTION OF DUNEDIN PUBLIC ART GALLERY
The most recent artwork to enter the collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery is I thought I heard you crying in the forest, by Ayesha Green (Ngati Kahungunu, Kai Tahu), and it is now on display in her exhibition "Wrapped up in Clouds", which runs until November 29.

Ayesha Green. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Ayesha Green. Photo: Gregor Richardson
The works in "Wrapped up in Clouds" explore different ways of recording the landscape, and how these views reflect systems of power and control. Green is interested in ideas of classification and knowledge acquisition, looking at colonial figures such as Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander and their role in the transmission of knowledge.

Green also looks to more recent figures who have sought to record, catalogue and understand the landscape through botany, art and research, including the botanical artist Audrey Eagle and ecologist Geoff Park. Green works with these wider groups of sources — a collection of her own making — creating works that open ways of looking at contemporary Aotearoa, and the histories that have come to shape our view of it.

In I thought I heard you crying in the forest, Green looks to the work of Eagle, and, in particular, Eagle’s 100 Shrubs and Climbers of New Zealand (first published in 1978).

In this painting, Green recreates a set of 100 plants, removing one in order to create a new space between her collection and that of Eagle.

Across the composition, a mixture of common, Latin and te reo names of plants begin to merge and jumble, destabilising any sense of order or authority. Within this intertwining of image, text and time, Green opens a way of talking about moments when languages, world views and ways of understanding information collide — creating a more flexible space in which to contest the authority of the painted image or the written word.

Lucy Hammonds is curator at Dunedin Public Art Gallery.


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