CHRIS HEAPHY: The Ambassadors

5 Nov 2014 – 29 Nov 2014

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Bartley Company is pleased to present Chris Heaphy's first exhibition in the gallery. 

As ambassadors represent and signs and symbols signify, so these paintings carry their history with them - Heaphy's own and painting's larger history. The figures and graphic elements, crossing the picture plane in a resolute march to some unseen destination, are drawn from and reference both Heaphy's earlier work and that other artists - from the colonial Charles Heaphy portraits of the Maori chief Te Rauparaha, to the horses of the 18th century English artist George Stubbs, and the colour balls of American conceptual artist John Baldessari, known for his appropriation of found imagery.

The exhibition title also references the 16th century Hans Holbein painting of the same name. For centuries, critics and scholars puzzled over the meaning of the various items in this painting, particularly the distorted skull prominently positioned in the lower foreground. Heaphy repeats the anamorphic distortion in some of his elements, seemingly to emphasise that meaning depends on perspective and is not fixed. Here too his pictographic elements are intermingled, stacked and superimposed on one another to create new relationships and suggest new readings that take us beyond the overt postcolonial themes. Heaphy's Mickey Mouse figure, happily joining the march in one painting, signals lightness and humour amidst the weight of history.

Chris Heaphy, who is of Ngai Tahu and European descent, has been painting and exhibiting nationally and internationally for over 20 years. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Canterbury and a Masters from RMIT in Melbourne. His work at present is prominently displayed on hoardings in the Square in Christchurch. His Planted Whare breaks the solid form of protective barrier to provide clear a view of the destroyed cathedral.



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