Te Puna o Waiwhetu Christchurch Art Gallery
14 April 2016 – ongoing
Inside this elevator you’ll find a work by artist Reuben Paterson. He’s covered the walls and ceiling in a dense, velvety black cloth, sprinkled with glitter: the effect is like travelling through a dark sky powdered with stars.
‘I’ve become well versed in looking up for explanation,’ said Paterson in 2003. He was speaking about the ceiling of Rangiohia, his ancestral wharenui (meeting house) at Matata in the Bay of Plenty, and its representation of whakapapa, or genealogy. But he might also have been referring to the night sky, which early Māori – and other sailors and travellers – used as an aid to navigation. Looking up at the sky tells you where you are on earth; reading the stars and knowing the history of your family are different, but related, means of working out where you stand, where you come from and where you are going next.
In Māori cosmology, the separation of the sky and earth brings forth Te Ao Mārama, the world of light, and signals the coming of knowledge. Paterson has used glitter to represent Māori concepts in his work since leaving art school in 1997. (Early in his career, his mentor Darcy Nicholas said: ‘Don’t think of it as glitter. Think of it as reflected light.’) While Paterson’s works – paintings, sculptures, video, installation – dance with a thousand points of sparkling light, the black background of The Endalso provides a deep space for contemplation and connection.
The conception of Paterson’s project acknowledges the Māori name of the Gallery building, Te Puna o Waiwhetu, or ‘waters in which stars are reflected’.