In her signature flattened style, New Zealand Visual artist Ayesha Green's paintings engage with the visual language of nation building and the power embedded in cultural symbols.Read More
Ayesha Green lives and works in Ōtepoti, Dunedin, New Zealand. She is of Ngāi Tahu/Kāi Tahu and Ngāti Kahungunu Māori descent. Green graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Media Arts from Wintec in Hamilton, followed by an MFA from the Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland, in 2013. In 2016, she completed a Graduate Diploma in Arts from the University of Auckland, specialising in Museums and Cultural Heritage.
Ayesha Green is known for her distinctive pictorial aesthetic, producing figurative portraits in flattened blocks of colour. Her practice is primarily occupied with histories of representation, and the role of images and language play in perpetuating systems of power. Borrowing imagery from historical periods as well as from her personal life, Green employs a self-reflexive mimicry that subverts the authority attached to cultural and historical symbols.
Whether drawing on personal or historical references, much of Green's work is concerned with how the colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand—and the broader colonial project—is enacted through practices of language and image-making.
Bouquet for Jameela #1 (2021) depicts a grid of botanical specimens. Instead of being arranged by their Latin names, however, the specimens are organised according to properties such as 'enchantment', 'sweet disposition', and 'intoxication'. By eschewing the traditions of taxonomic classification, Green critiques the power of language as a tool of colonial domination and the subsequent loss of Indigenous languages and histories. Through her works, Green makes space for systems of classification that continue to exist outside of Western frameworks of knowledge.
Green's concern with the power relations embedded in historical practices of representation are also evident in All of my lovers are immigrants (smooth my pillow) (2020). First presented in Wrapped Up in Clouds, her solo exhibition at Dunedin Public Art Gallery, the diptych presents a couple embracing in bed in each frame. Set against a pitch-black background, the beds are covered with an elaborate floral bedcover. While set within the intimate space of a bedroom, the detailed botanical landscape of the bedspreads alludes to wider considerations of land and landscape. Bridging the personal and historical, the painting draws a connection between the body and colonial history.
Green's work is held in several significant national collections, including Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington; Dunedin Public Art Gallery; Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth; and The Fletcher Trust Collection.
Selected solo and group exhibitions include Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art, Auckland Art Gallery (2020); Release the Stars, Tim Melville, Auckland; Strands, The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt (2019); Tuia: Southern Encounters, The Hocken Gallery, Dunedin (2019); and Elizabeth the First, Jhana Millers Gallery, Wellington (2019).
Green's work has also been featured in several art fairs, including the Auckland Art Fair and the Melbourne Art Fair.
In 2019, Ayesha Green was awarded first place at the National Contemporary Art Awards for her painting Nana's Birthday (A Big Breath) (2019). She was a recipient of the Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi's Springboard Award in the following year.
Ayesha Green's Instagram can be found here.
Alena Kavka | Ocula | 2021