In viscous layers of oil on canvas engraved with weblike etchings, New Zealand painter Séraphine Pick explores memory, human psychology, and the history of painting with lyrical figurative imagery.Read More
Séraphine Pick was born in Kawakawa, New Zealand. Studying painting at the University of Canterbury's Ilam School of Fine Arts, she graduated with a BFA in 1987. In 1991, this was followed by a teaching diploma from the Christchurch College of Education.
Pick's early work is associated with the 'Pencilcase Painters', a group of Ilam graduates that includes Shane Cotton, Tony de Latour, Peter Robinson, Bill Hammond, and Saskia Leek. Each worked in an expressive yet whimsical style akin to doodling. They took inspiration from pop culture, graffiti, post-modernism, and the punk aesthetic sensibility emerging among American artists at the time.
Shifting away from the group to develop her own style in the 1990s, Séraphine Pick was aided by two awards. In 1994, she received the Olivia Spencer Bower Foundation Art Award, and in 1995 was awarded the Rita Angus Cottage Residency in Wellington. Both afforded her the freedom to focus solely on her painting.
Drawing first upon Medieval Gothic art for source imagery, Pick later turned to popular magazines, and then fragments from childhood memories growing up in Kawakawa. By 1994, Pick had developed her signature 'dreamscapes', surreal paintings in which symbolic items from Pick's memory—beds, dresses, colanders, suitcases, and other domestic items—drift effortlessly across a richly textured surface. Through these floating domestic objects, these dark scenes highlight how memory injects significance into everyday objects.
Travels to Europe in the mid-90s transformed Pick's practice as she came into contact with the continent's rich art history. Pick began painting more sensual forms in greens, blues, warm pinks, and browns, which she applied thickly to the canvas to create almost sculptural images and figures. Over time, the painting surface flattened, with the figurative elements pushing up against the picture plane.
Over the years, Pick's art has continued to evolve, as dark tableaus in oil have given way to more complex works. The artist once stated in an interview, 'I keep changing. I don't sit still for long.' Yet while bright colours, sinuous lines, and a free pointillist style have worked its way in, elements of tonal and psychological darkness remain. This is exemplified in Sea of Love (2009), with its complex themes of human relationships played out in a dark blue-toned void.
Since 2013, Séraphine Pick has been mining the internet for inspiration in her exploration of a universal human experience. Thematic Google image searches launch the artist into visual explorations of popular culture, group dynamics, collective consciousness, and ideas of belonging.
Pick's 'drunk paintings', seen in her 2013 solo show Wankered Again at Michael Lett, Auckland reference the darker aspects of an expansive online archive of drunk teens' antics. Her 'White Noise' (2015) series was spawned from a Google search for crowds that led to images of hippie music festivals from the 1960s and 1970s.
Séraphine Pick's paintings can be found in such public collections as Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki; Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Séraphine Pick's solo exhibitions include God Helmet, Michael Lett, Auckland (2018); Super Natural, Station, Melbourne (2017); White Noise, The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand (2015); Looking like someone else, Pataka Musuem, Porirua, New Zealand (2014); Tell Me More, Christchurch Art Gallery (2009); Scratching Skin, Christchurch Art Gallery (1998); Unveiled, City Gallery, Wellington (1995).
Séraphine Pick's group exhibitions include Grotesquerie, Station, Melbourne (2019); Her Painted Words, Katherine Mansfield House, Wellington (2012); Tall Tales and History Lessons, Dunedin Public Art Gallery (2007); Old Worlds/New Worlds: Contemporary Art from Aotearoa, New Zealand, Maui Arts and Cultural Centre, Hawaii (2000); Drift North, Christchurch Art Gallery (1996).
Séraphine Pick's Instagram can be found here.
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