Trish Clark Gallery is delighted to present the first solo exhibition by UK-based artist Christine Webster in Aotearoa New Zealand since 2014’s Therapies at Gus Fisher Gallery. Divinations is a significant new body of work comprising 14 photographic works and 4 videos, arising from Webster’s collaboration with New Zealand cultural treasure Douglas Wright before his death in 2018, that holds in tension the body’s earthly flesh (as well as its desires) with lofty themes of religious ecstasy, transcendence, and death alongside quotidian details of daily life. Accompanying Divinations is Skeleton (1997/2015), an earlier collaboration between Webster and Wright, which sits in poignant relationship with these recent works.
Christine Webster made her mark as one of the first of a new generation of artists who confronted the reigning regionalism of New Zealand art in the 1980s, actively engaging in the international arena. Her work was touted with the ground-breaking solo exhibition Neue Mythen at Museum Ludwig, Cologne, in 1989, and in 1997 her defining series Black Carnival was shown in New Zealand; Rencontres de la Photo in France; Fotofeis, Scotland; Queensland Art Gallery; and MACBA in Barcelona, the same year her photographs appeared alongside work by Andres Serrano and Christian Boltanski. Webster’s demonstrable prescience is notable in Black Carnival and other series dealing openly with notions of gender, sexuality, and identity that have risen to the fore of mainstream discourse only in the past decade, speaking to what is now culturally understood as an expansive and highly nuanced spectrum of personal identification.
Webster continues to make works that are studied considerations of behaviours and impulses that sit at the periphery of acceptability, as well as the disciplinary structures that suppress – or indeed produce – them. In the past, Webster has often used her own body in addition to models, engaging multiple modes of representation to examine themes of identity, desire and meaning as they relate to broader currents of power. Her works occupy the murky space in between the known and the transgressive, and are often uncompromising in their confrontation of social mores: role play, religious iconography, and consistent reference to mortality muddle together in a practice invested in shedding light on the otherwise hidden underbelly of societal strictures, resulting in highly charged, psychosexual images that draw deeply from the wells of the subconscious.
Webster was awarded the prestigious Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 1991, and after time spent lecturing and exhibiting in New Zealand, completed her MFA at the University of Glasgow in 2004. Living permanently in the UK since 1997, Webster’s work has been exhibited widely in New Zealand and internationally. Her work is held in the collections of Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France; LA County Museum, USA; The International Museum of Photography, Rochester, New York; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; MCA, Sydney, Australia; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia; and all major public collections in New Zealand.