Susan Te Kahurangi King
Jun 01 — Jul 01
Susan Te Kahurangi King
Curated by Chris Byrne
Marlborough Contemporary is pleased to announce an exhibition of works on paper by the self-taught, New Zealand artist Susan Te Kahurangi King. For her first European solo exhibition, 32 drawings from throughout the artist's career are on view, providing a comprehensive overview of the singular and surreal landscapes and characters she conceives.
Included in the exhibition are several of King’s early drawings, which share stylistic qualities with other children’s efforts, but display an exceptional precocity. King renders endless permutations of summoned players such as: Disney characters, Blinky Winky Doll, Fantaman, Bugs Bunny, Noddy, and Queen Elizabeth II. There are also characters referred to as “Green Things,” her siblings’ name for a particular cereal box toy, which she renders in multiple perspectives.
Sometime between the ages of four and eight years, King gradually stopped speaking--not suddenly or abruptly, but over a period when she would still occasionally hum or sing while she drew. In the early 90s, she ceased drawing for more than 15 years. Prompted by renewed interest in her work, King resumed drawing in 2008, picking up where she left off.
King’s isolation from verbal and written communication allows her to methodically create an entire analogous world through her work. By spending time with her drawings and their chronology, it’s possible to discover how seemingly non-objective, concentric shapes have evolved from the truncated vestiges of appropriated cartoon characters. One can also discern visual lists or indexes of certain objects, which are reconfigured and distorted beyond recognition in subsequent pictures. Each viewing becomes a revelation, opening up different vistas with their own vocabularies and internal logic.
King was born in 1951 in Te Aroha, New Zealand, as one of twelve siblings. Her father, who taught the Maori language, gave her middle name “Te Kahurangi” which translates to “the treasured one.”
From an early age, members of the artist’s family, her maternal grandmother in particular, dedicated themselves to caring for King and preserving both her work and the anecdotes and artifacts that will become essential for future scholarship. She continues to draw almost every day.
Since 2012, King’s drawings have been shown widely, including at the Outsider Art Fair in New York and Paris, Andrew Edlin Gallery in New York, and the Robert Heald Gallery in Wellington, New Zealand. "The Drawings of Susan Te Kahurangi King" was published by the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami in conjunction with the artist’s first one-person museum exhibition. This past year, the American Folk Art Museum established the Susan Te Kahurangi King Fellowship.
On Saturday 3 June, between 3-6 pm, the gallery will host ‘Drawing with Susan’, an interactive group drawing session with the artist to celebrate the opening of King’s exhibition. This event was recently enacted on the occasion of her exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami. King and the gallery will invite local London-based artists and members of the public to participate in a silent drawing group in the gallery.