The Gothic of Aotearoa New Zealand does not feature ruined castles where ghostly spectres roam the corridors, nor vampiric noblemen who prey upon hapless maidens by moonlight. It is not the Gothic of the American South, set in a pestilent, suffocating Eden and peopled by the ghosts of slavery and brutality. In New Zealand we find the Gothic in landscapes suffused with dark and perilous beauty; we meet individuals whose suburban masks threaten to slip and reveal a haunted interior; we see how uneasy histories tear through the fabric of the present and fracture our fragile social boundaries. Our Gothic tradition hints at inner demons and buried anxieties that are sensed obliquely rather than seen in plain sight. (1)
The role of the Gothic is multiple: it can be used to scrutinise dominant socio-political narratives and it requires the viewer to look at how the past formed - and continues to inhabit - the present. For some, the Gothic is the evocation of a psychological atmosphere, an experience of the Romantic sublime where beauty and terror are two sides of the same coin. Others see Gothic elements as a way of expressing the ongoing tension involved in establishing a cultural identity in an environment that remains resolutely Other.
Southern Gothic considers how each selected artist uses subtle markers to express the unspoken atmosphere of the uncanny. The Gothic potential of portraiture and landscape painting, photography and sculpture can be glimpsed in the ways they disrupt our familiar, expected responses to each genre with tones of foreboding, unease, mythic import. (2)