For two decades Shane Cotton (ONZM, Ngapuhi) has been one of New Zealand's most acclaimed painters. His works of the 1990s played a pivotal part in that decade's debates about place, belonging and bicultural identity. In the mid 2000s, however, Cotton headed in a spectacular and unexpected new direction: skywards. Employing a sombre new palette of blue and black, he painted the first in what would become a major series of skyscapes--vast, nocturnal spaces where birds speed and plummet. The Hanging Sky brings together highlights from this period with four distinctive new responses. New York essayist Eliot Weinberger offers a poetic meditation on what he calls 'the ghosts of birds' in Cotton's paintings. Christchurch Art Gallery senior curator Justin Paton plots his own encounters with Cotton across six years in which the artist was constantly 'finding space'. Melbourne-based curator Geraldine Kirrihi Barlow confronts the haunting role of Toi moko--tattooed Maori heads--in the paintings and in her own past. And Institute of Modern Art Director Robert Leonard argues the case for Cotton as a cultural surrealist exploring 'the treachery of images'.
This beautifully presented, grandly scaled book on one of New Zealand's best-known artists features accessible, readable texts by internationally acclaimed writers. This book is an essential purchase for audiences with an interest in New Zealand art. The book will be a must for appreciators of beautiful books, as well as readers who have followed the authors and wish to read more of their writing.
Justin Paton is senior curator at Christchurch Art Gallery. A widely published art critic and author of books on artists including Julia Morison, Jude Rae and Ricky Swallow, he is best known for his acclaimed book How to Look at a Painting (2005). In 2012 Paton was Katherine Mansfield Fellow in Menton, France. He is lead curator of Christchurch Art Gallery's much heralded Outer Spaces programme and curator of Bill Culbert: Front Door Out Back, New Zealand's presentation at the 55th Venice Biennale. Eliot Weinberger is an internationally acclaimed writer, essayist, critic and translator living in New York City. Robert Leonard is Director of the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. Geraldine Kirrihi Barlow, of Irish, Maori (Ngapuhi) and English descent, is senior curator at Monash University Museum of Art in Melbourne.