Mind on the past: Kiwi artist Sriwhana Spong

by Anthony Byrt / 25 January, 2017
Sriwhana Spong - Artist
When Sriwhana Spong was shortlisted for the 2012 Walters Prize, no one in the art world was particularly taken aback.

For several years, she had been making some of the country’s best video art: lush, elegant films, which often drew on her dual New Zealand and Balinese heritage, as well as her training as a ballet dancer.

Things were going well. But then she disappeared.

“I felt like I needed a different conversation,” she says over Skype from London.

“I felt like my work wasn’t growing. There was a multitude of reasons for that. But I was a bit stuck, I think; I needed some input to energise the next 10 years.”

That input came from a master’s degree at one of Europe’s most prestigious art schools, Rotterdam’s Piet Zwart Institute: a more research-based, process-oriented programme than Frankfurt’s Staedelschule, where contemporaries Simon Denny and Luke Willis Thompson have studied. New Zealanders Ruth Buchanan, Marnie Slater and Liz Allan are also graduates of the Rotterdam school. “There’s a trail of New Zealand women,” Spong says, laughing. “All the boys go to the Staedelschule, and the women are smarter and go to the Piet Zwart.”

While she was there, Spong developed a strong interest in female mysticism, going right back to the medieval era, and its parallels with contemporary feminism. She sees these mystical texts as hugely radical for the way they focus on women’s bodily and sensual experiences. Returning to her hometown of Auckland over summer, Spong is presenting two new projects that do the same.

For Headland Sculpture on the Gulf on Waiheke, she’s rebuilding a chair from Federico Fellini’s film 8½, where for an hour each day a performer will sit, “like a recurring dream or memory”, and eat plums, spitting out the stones.

The ritual ties to Spong’s childhood recollections of her grandfather’s Waiheke orchard. “The trees gave so many plums,” she remembers, then laughs. “There was one day when a friend and I ate so many, we ended up puking. I couldn’t eat plums for years after that.”

Sriwhana Spong: having-seen-snake,
Michael Lett Gallery, January 25-February 25. Michaellett.com
Headland Sculpture On The Gulf, Waiheke Island, January 27-February 19
sculptureonthegulf.co.nz

This article was first published in the January- February 2017 issue of Metro. Follow Metro on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and sign up to the weekly e-mail

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Density done well: Q&A with economist Shamubeel Eaqub
Is menstrual suppression the solution to period pain?
69711 2017-03-28 00:00:00Z Health

Is menstrual suppression the solution to period pa…

by Ruth Nichol

As a feminist, Tara Forde has always tried to be “period positive” – to celebrate menstruation as normal, natural and healthy, but after years of pain

Read more
Film review: Loving
Crossword 1020 answers and explanations
Importing a workforce - 10 years of seasonal workers
69870 2017-03-27 12:54:43Z Economy

Importing a workforce - 10 years of seasonal worke…

by Philippa Tolley

As demand increases for migrant employees in New Zealand so do fears about how the overseas workers are being treated.

Read more
The problem of how to replace school deciles
69865 2017-03-27 12:46:47Z Education

The problem of how to replace school deciles

by John Gerritsen

The school decile is not yet dead, but researchers are already thinking about how they will replace it with a new way of comparing schools and student

Read more
A winning design: Concept for future Ponsonby Park chosen
The new age of fire: Why infernos like Port Hills could become more common
69813 2017-03-27 00:00:00Z Social issues

The new age of fire: Why infernos like Port Hills …

by Rebecca Macfie

Infernos like the "unstoppable" Port Hills fires could happen more frequently in New Zealand as climate change worsens.

Read more