Chris Heaphy (Ngāi Tahu) articulates signifiers of identity in an alternative narrative framework. He emphasises the contingent and unfixed nature of identity - open for interpretation and reiteration by the viewer.
“I found myself increasingly drawn to the other stories in our history that weren’t told in museums… The collision of cultures and how one culture can interpret the same thing entirely differently from another, and how symbols are borrowed and reinterpreted.”1
The recurring symbols and signs in his paintings are drawn from multiple sources including traditional Māori artworks, everyday objects, and pop art. Anamorphic distortions preclude the automatic recognition of symbols and manipulate the experience of viewing. When engaging with Heaphy’s works, viewers are forced to physically readjust their perspective to access a hidden transcript.
Heaphy was born in Palmerston North in 1965. After graduating from the University of Canterbury’s Ilam School of Fine Arts in 1991, he was the recipient of the Olivia Spencer-Bower Art Award in 1995 and gained a master’s degree in painting from RMIT in Melbourne in 1998. He has been awarded several high-profile fellowships and residencies, including a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, and the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Residency in Champagne in 2001.
Heaphy has exhibited widely throughout Australasia and Europe, and was represented in the 2007 Frieze Art Fair in London by the Marianne Boesky Gallery of New York. His work is held in major public and private collections, including the Auckland Art Gallery and the National Library Art Gallery in Wellington.
1. Virginia Were, “Exploring a New Constellation,” Art News, Spring 2008, p. 75.