Claudia Jowitt has described her new paintings - for this her second solo exhibition in the gallery - as love letters to the coral reefs of the Pacific and specifically to those of Fiji where she has genealogical connections.
More broadly, these paintings, which have been made in New Zealand and in Savusavu Fiji, may be seen as a deepening of what has become her signature style and an investigation of what it means to make abstract paintings at this point and place in time. This is not 20th century abstraction turning its back on the material world to focus on form, colour, gesture; this is abstraction imbued with rich notions of place, gender and contemporary concerns about global warming - an issue of direct impact across the Pacific.
Each work is embedded with natural elements that the artist has gathered from the water's edge in both countries: sea shells, urchin and crab shells, along with washed up pieces of coral. Alongside those found items from nature, traditional cultural materials such as masi (Fijian white tapa) or vau (Hibiscus fibre) are used and all are broken down and spread throughout the base layers of the paintings.
Pattern also speaks to nature and culture - we see allusions to coral and the repetition of form in indigenous practices of tapa making, weaving, carving and tattoo. Underpinning these formal elements is a quiet exploration of what constitutes 'feminine practice' and ideas of women's work.
Claudia completed a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland in 2015. In 2016, she was the inaugural Tautai Pacific Arts Trust Artist in Residence at the Dunedin School of Art. She has been exhibiting since completing her undergraduate degree at AUT in 2009 and has works in the University of Auckland and Wallace Collections as well as many private collections.
Press release courtesy Bartley + Company Art.