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He Whare Ātaahua: Jade Townsend

Jade Townsend Sisters at Takapuna Beach 2023 Acrylic on linen Image courtesy of Season and photographed by Samuel Hartnett 2 web

Jade Townsend, Sisters at Takapuna Beach, 2023, Acrylic on linen.
Image courtesy of Season and photographed by Samuel Hartnett.

9 December 2023  - 14 April 2024

He Whare Ātaahua is an installation by Jade Townsend which combines different traditions of painting, adornment, and decoration. Works on linen are hung among large shells painted directly onto the gallery walls, spiralling up to the ceiling, in conversation with the architecture. Townsend has strung her shell paintings around the hexagonal gallery like a huge bracelet, representing facets of her own whakapapa and connections to Heretaunga.

The exhibition title, meaning “a beautiful house”, speaks to Townsend’s interest in layering cultural ideas of aesthetic beauty and finding meaning within our environment. It also acknowledges two important references for her body of work. The first is the ceiling panels of the wharekai (dining hall) at Te Aute College in Ōtane, Central Hawke's Bay, painted by John Hovell and his students. The second is an 1882 Lecture by Oscar Wilde called “The House Beautiful”, emphasising the importance of one’s immediate surroundings in a fulfilling life.

Hovell’s wharekai is described as a journey through the ecological landscapes of the old time, with each kōwhaiwhai panel representing a connected ecosystem of the sea and coastal environment. Townsend’s wall paintings acknowledge Hovell’s decorative style and imagery yet are equally influenced by the work of her father, who was once as a sign-writer in Hastings. Her installation looks to different ways of documenting whakapapa through paint, in enduring and ephemeral interventions within the built environment.   

Jade Townsend (Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Ātihaunui-a-Pāpārangi, Pākehā, British), lives and works in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Her work often draws from the different parts of her own heritage, in conversation with contemporary Māori painting and aesthetics. Born and raised in Whanganui, she moved to Liverpool as a teenager, where she became interested in accents, dialects, regional slang, folktales, and pūrākau. Townsend returned to Aotearoa in her mid-twenties, after studying at the Manchester School of Art and continues to exhibit nationally and internationally.

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