Important Australian + International Fine Art
26 August 2009

Shane Cotton

born 1964, New Zealand

synthetic polymer paint on canvas

180.0 x 160.0 cm

signed, dated and inscribed lower right: OUTLOOK (PURPLE). S COTTON. 2007
signed and dated verso: Shane Cotton / 2007
inscribed verso: OUTLOOK (PURPLE)

$55,000 - 75,000
Sold for $60,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 10 - 26 August 2009, Melbourne

Sherman Galleries, Sydney (stamped verso)
Private collection, Sydney


Shane Cotton, Red Shift, Sherman Galleries, Sydney, 28 June – 14 July 2007

Catalogue text

'Cotton builds bridges to parallel worlds - he conjures, montage and fragments, images and forms in order to create visions that are pervaded with lamentation and melancholy... on the one hand, the palpable sense of lament could be for a time of narrative certainty. At another level, the melancholy could refer to the struggle involved in maintaining belief systems in a world that is increasingly galvanised by either rampant secularism or fervent fundamentalism.'1

Shane Cotton is one of the leading contemporary Maori New Zealander artists of the moment. His work evocatively includes both Maori iconography and culture, exploring his dual Maori and European cultural heritage. Described as a 'history painter', Cotton projects his identity into synthesis with a world view through paint. Cotton's paintings explore questions of colonialism, cultural identity, Maori spirituality and death and were originally based in 19th century Maori figurative traditions.

Throughout his career his practice has constantly shifted, 'as the 90s progressed, and Cotton's knowledge of Maori language deepened, images connected with his ancestral homelands and beyond began to enter his paintings, along with references to Op and Pop art, and a palette extending to black, white, red and later green... These were followed, in the new millenium, by brightly coloured targets, preserved heads (moko mokai), birds, fluorescent twigs and wands and imagined representations of significant stone monuments, cliffs and canyons.'2

Most recently, Cotton is interested in exploring the effects of spatial relationships. Blues have started to dominate his palette and greys have become darker and more ominous. His latest works are driven by the idea of change and transformation and have become more complex and ambiguous in their historical and societal analysis.

In Outlook (Purple), first exhibited as part of the 2007 exhibition 'Red Shift' at Sherman Galleries, Sydney, a central disembodied stone relic stares sightlessly back at the viewer. It is a solemn face that conjures memory and signifies death. The black abyss beyond the immediate foreground is limitless and illusionistic. The apocalyptic sentiment suggests an aftermath or a potential beginning.

All perspective comes under question in this work as Cotton exploits the distance that representation establishes between objects, people and place. There is a surging glow from beneath the black clouds like that of a fluoro or LED light. Are they clouds, or are we looking up to the surface from underwater? The inclusion of an array of strategically placed birds suggest that the viewer is looking to the heavens. These birds are like multicoloured cut-outs, exotic and otherworldly. They appear to be circling and soaring on an invisible mobile, their fetters unseen.

This painting suggests a giving way to sensation. There is an element of motion and immersion that draws the viewer into a chasm of the unknown. Outlook (Purple) is an uncluttered, raw and compelling work that leaves space for contemplation, but also uncertainty, not limited to the artist's point of view.

'I am left looking, suspended between darkness and light, life and death, stillness and flight.'3

1. Victoria Lynn, 'Sheer Presence', 2007, exhibition catalogue for Red Shift, Sherman Galleries, Sydney
2. Laura Murray, 'Identity and Transformation', Art World, Issue 4, August/September 2008, p. 126
3. Christina Barton, 'Return of the Dead, An anatomy of the image is only ever a science of spectres', 2007, referenced from Hamish McKay Gallery website: http://www.hamishmckaygallery.com