Press Release

James Tylor

Aotearoa My Hawaiki

James Tylor

James Tylor’s Aboriginal, European and Māori heritage is a focus of his artwork. He draws on his own roots to examine the complexities of colonial pasts, cultural identity and connection to place. The photographic medium and method he chooses is pointed and integral to the reading of his works. For instance, he is well known for using early photographic techniques, such as the daguerreotype, to reclaim processes used to document Indigenous Australian and Māori culture in the 19th century. He also manipulates contemporary photographs by hand-colouring, cutting or ripping them, alluding to the erasure and loss of Indigenous cultures.

This is the case with Aotearoa, my Hawaiki, a meditation on belonging. Hawaiki means ancestral homeland, a place of spiritual connection. For New Zealand (Aotearoa) Māori people, the physical place of Hawaiki isThe Cook Islands (Avaiki Nui). Growing up in Australia, however, Tylor felt this connection to his Māori heritage through an image of Aotearoa, “land of the long white cloud”. In contrast to Australia’s flat land and clear blue skies, Aotearoa was symbolized by mountaintops touching the clouds - a Hawaiki formed in his heart and mind rather than from a direct experience of the land.

Evoking this connection, Aotearoa, my Hawaiki, is a series of black and white images of New Zealand’s South Island. With each print, Tylor has ripped the lower part away, leaving frayed edges beneath mountains that touch the sky. Through this gesture, black voids comprise the artworks as much as the remaining imagery, marking the physical absence of landscape in his spiritual Hawaiki.

There is a lyrical sense of loss that pervades this series, a sense of longing. By elevating the significance of absence, the works ask us to consider what is not represented or seen. In so doing, they reflect Tylor’s deep connection to place despite the profound yet often-invisible impact of colonization and migration.

James Tylor is a finalist in the 2016 Fleurieu Art Prize (forthcoming) with works from Aotearoa, my Hawaiki. He has been exhibiting work extensively since 2009. His recent exhibitions include The Alchemists: Rediscovering Photography in the Ageof the Jpeg, Australian Centre for Photography (2015), The Skin Of Our Time, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia (2015), Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Visual Arts Festival, Art Gallery of South Australia (2015) and Concrete, Istanbul Biannual, Turkey (2015). In 2013, Tyler was the recipient of the Macquarie Group Emerging Artist Prize. He has also been a Finalist in the Victorian Indigenous Art Awards (2014), the 31st Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Art Award (2014), Bay of Fires Art Prize (2014), National Work on Paper Prize, Mornington Peninsular Regional Gallery (2014) and the Cliftons Art Prize (2013). Tylor’s work is in numerous collections including the Art Gallery of Western Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Macquarie Group, Sydney, Monash University Museum of Art, Kluge Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum, USA, and the Australian Embassy, Washington DC, along with many private collections.

Art Monthly