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. This, her first solo gallery exhibition in Europe, brings into focus 32 drawings from throughout the artists’ career, offering an overview of the outstanding surreal and psychedelic landscapes and characters conceived by the artist.
King was born in 1951 in Te Aroha, New Zealand and was raised with eleven siblings on the North Island. Her father, who taught the Maori language gave her middle name “Te Kahurangi” which translated means “the treasured one”.
Included in this exhibition are several of King’s early drawings which share stylistic qualities with other children’s efforts, but display an exceptional precocity. The artist renders endless permutations from summoned players such as Blinky Doll, “Fantaman”, Bugs Bunny, Disney characters, Noddy and Queen Elizabeth II. Also seen in the works are characters referred to as “Green Things”, her siblings’ name for a particular cereal toy, which she reiterates from 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 very early 90s, she ceased drawing for a period of more than 15 years, until 2008 when prompted by the renewed interest in her work she resumed, picking up where she left off.
From at an early age, members of the artist’s family, in particular, her maternal grandmother, have dedicated themselves to caring for Susan and preserving not only her work but also the anecdotes and artifacts which will become so important for future scholarship. She continues to draw almost every day. She also enjoys regular trips, outings and social interactions.
King’s isolation from verbal and written communication has allowed 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 catalogs/indexes of certain objects which get reconfigured and distorted beyond recognition in subsequent pictures. Each viewing becomes a revelation, opening up different vistas with their own vocabularies and internal logic.
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 artists 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.