1,000 incense sticks and 1,000 chimes: new art at Te Papa

Dane Mitchell, Iris, Iris, Iris (detail), 2017. Installation view of MAM Project 024: Dane Mitchell, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist

Recently-acquired works by New Zealand artists Dane Mitchell and Kate Newby will be shown side-by-side in Toi Art at Te Papa.

Opening 9 December, the neighbouring installations each include a multitude of individual items: 1,000 iris-scented incense sticks line the gallery in Mitchell’s Iris, Iris, Iris, and almost 1,000 wind chimes are suspended in Newby’s SHE’S TALKING TO THE WALL.

Head of Art Charlotte Davy says, “We’re thrilled to bring major works by these visual artists into Toi Art and Te Papa’s contemporary art collection. These works delight the senses – sight, sound and smell.”

Iris, Iris, Iris is Dane Mitchell’s multi-part installation that uses the many meanings of the word ‘iris’ to explore the interconnected senses of smell and sight. First shown at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo in 2017, and then at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in 2018, the project was co-commissioned by the Mori Art Museum and Auckland Art Gallery. Mitchell was New Zealand’s artist for the 2019 Venice Biennale.

Iris is simultaneously the name of a flower, the coloured part of the eye, the adjustable aperture of a camera and Greek mythology’s rainbow goddess. The installation combines the invisible materials of incense and perfume with items related to the act of seeing. It includes a live perfume extraction process — called Headspace Technology — that collects aroma molecules emanating from an iris flower, an Olympus camera lens and a Japanese paper umbrella the colour of the artist’s own iris.

Mitchell is excited to bring the work to Te Papa, where visitors can see – and smell – the work in the large gallery space of Toi Art.

“I’m using iris as a means to poetically think about the connections between seeing and smelling, and our interdependent sensory experiences of the world,” he says.

“I think it’s interesting to consider the eye and the nose as ways that the world enters our bodies and the way that we enter, and perceive the world — in a way, these are thresholds between us and the world around us.”

Dr Nina Tonga, Curator Contemporary Art, believes Iris, Iris, Iris is a significant addition to Te Papa’s contemporary art collection.

“Dane has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally, and the acquisition of this artwork strengthens our representation of his practice,” she says. “It also reflects our commitment to building a collection that reflects the global context of New Zealand art.”

Installation view of Kate Newby, SHE’S TALKING TO THE WALL, 2012-2021 in Kate Newby: YES TOMORROW at Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery, 2021. Photo by Ted Whittaker and courtesy of Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery

SHE’S TALKING TO THE WALL is Kate Newby’s sculptural installation composed of hundreds of suspended wind chimes created over a ten-year period (2012 to 2021), first shown at Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi in 2021.

The chimes, handmade by the artist in glass and clay, hang from seven wires stretching across nearly 15 metres. Together, they form a record of Newby’s chime-making practice over the last decade and create a map of the many places she has lived and worked during that time – locations across the USA, Europe, and Aotearoa.

Newby describes her practice as a ‘collaboration with situation’ and each of the chimes carries some memory of the place it was made. Newby throws clay at sidewalks and off buildings, so that it picks up pieces of dirt, stones and sand. Imprints from her fingers and other surfaces create unexpected textures, while broken ends recalls the chimes’ time hanging outside in the wind.

“I’m drawn to working with materials like porcelain and glass that go through quite a radical, huge transformation through heat and time and process,” she says. “Giving myself over to the firing process and that transformation takes the work away from me.”

Newby has exhibited extensively in Aotearoa and internationally. She was the 2012 recipient of New Zealand’s most prestigious contemporary art award, the Walters Prize, and a recent recipient of a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant in the USA.

Assistant Curator Art Hanahiva Rose is thrilled to welcome Newby’s work to the national collection.

SHE’S TALKING TO THE WALL is the first work of Newby’s to enter Te Papa’s art collection,” she says. “In its ambitious reach, it captures the thoughtful, collaborative, and experiential nature of Newby’s practice.

“Sitting in the heart of Te Papa’s Toi Art gallery, SHE’S TALKING TO THE WALL encourages close attention – asking us to consider the different characteristics, uses, and meanings of locations and materials.”

Newby, who lives in Texas, is pleased the work has found a home at Te Papa.

“I really want people to experience a work that was made in different locations over the course of a decade,” she says. “Coming back to Aotearoa to make some of the last pieces was really important because I was around my family and where I grew up. I had to come home to make these pieces.”


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Heather Byrne, Senior Communications Advisor
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Image captions:

  • Dane Mitchell, Iris, Iris, Iris, 2017. Installation view. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2018. Photo courtesy of the artist

  • Dane Mitchell, Iris, Iris, Iris, 2017. Installation view: MAM Project 024: Dane Mitchell, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist

  • Installation view of Kate Newby’s SHE’S TALKING TO THE WALL, 2012-2021 in Kate Newby, YES TOMORROW at Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery, 2021. Photo by Ted Whittaker and courtesy of Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery

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