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b. 1964, New Zealand

Séraphine Pick Biography

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.

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Early Life and Work

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.

New Directions

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.

Painting in the Internet Age

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.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021

Séraphine Pick Featured Artworks

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Still Life (coiled vase) by Séraphine Pick contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Séraphine PickStill Life (coiled vase), 2021Oil on linen
45.5 x 35.5 cm
Michael Lett Contact Gallery
New Behaviours IV by Séraphine Pick contemporary artwork painting
Séraphine PickNew Behaviours IV, 2019Oil on canvas
46 x 35 cm
Michael Lett Contact Gallery
Wall of Self by Séraphine Pick contemporary artwork painting
Séraphine PickWall of Self, 2018Oil on canvas
130 x 105 cm
Michael Lett Contact Gallery
Untitled (Green Haze) by Séraphine Pick contemporary artwork painting
Séraphine PickUntitled (Green Haze), 2018Watercolour on paper
26 x 18 cm
Michael Lett Contact Gallery
Black Hush by Séraphine Pick contemporary artwork painting
Séraphine PickBlack Hush, 2016Oil on canvas
35 x 25 cm
Hamish McKay Enquire
Untitled (Black Hush) by Séraphine Pick contemporary artwork painting
Séraphine PickUntitled (Black Hush), 2016Oil on canvas
45 x 35 cm
Hamish McKay Enquire
Untitled (Black Hush) by Séraphine Pick contemporary artwork painting
Séraphine PickUntitled (Black Hush), 2016Oil on canvas
40 x 35.5 cm
Hamish McKay Enquire
Untitled (Black Hush) by Séraphine Pick contemporary artwork painting
Séraphine PickUntitled (Black Hush), 2016Oil on canvas
40.5 x 51 cm
Hamish McKay Enquire

Séraphine Pick Recent Exhibitions

View All (9)

Séraphine Pick Represented By

Hamish McKay contemporary art gallery in Wellington, New Zealand Hamish McKay Wellington
Michael Lett contemporary art gallery in Auckland, New Zealand Michael Lett Auckland

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