Shane Cotton: The Hanging Sky - the book and the exhibition — 02.07.13

Christchurch Art Gallery’s ambitious publishing programme continues with a major new book on Shane Cotton, one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed painters.

Shane Cotton: The Hanging Sky is a grandly scaled book presenting Cotton's complex and provocative skyscapes - vast nocturnal spaces where birds speed and plummet - as well as a spectacular new body of work.

Senior curator and lead author Justin Paton, who was the driving force behind the project, is excited the book is now available to the public.

"This is a very special book, not just in terms of its scale and production values, but because it brings together highlights from the past half-decade of Cotton's practice alongside a body of new work - including a vast new mural-scale painting, a spectacular suite of ‘target' prints, and a line-up of painted baseball bats that suggest both trophies and weapons."

As well as more than 70 large-scale reproductions of artworks by Cotton, the book contains four distinctive new responses to the works.  New York essayist Eliot Weinberger offers a poetic meditation on what he calls ‘the ghosts of birds' in Cotton's paintings. 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 Māori heads-in the paintings and in her own past. Lastly, Robert Leonard, Director of the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, argues the case for Cotton as a cultural surrealist exploring ‘the treachery of images'.

Cotton has been one of the country's most acclaimed painters for two decades.  His works of the 1990s played a pivotal part in that decade's debates about place, belonging and bicultural identity.  However, in the mid 2000s, he headed ‘skyward' and painted the first in what would become a major series of skyscapes.

Designed by award-winning artist and designer Aaron Beehre, this much anticipated and beautifully executed book features 72 large colour plates, a foil-stamped cloth cover and blue pages edges.

The book has been produced in conjunction with The Hanging Sky exhibition, which was curated by Paton and opened at City Gallery Wellington in June 2013.  The exhibition has also toured in Australia where it showed in the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane and at the Campbelltown Arts Centre in Sydney.

Shane Cotton: The Hanging Sky ($120 / 192 pages / hardback / foil-stamped cloth cover / blue page edges / 72 full colour plates) is available from the Gallery's shop at 40 Lichfield Street.  It is also available from bookstores around the country. 

The Hanging Sky exhibition is organised by Christchurch Art Gallery in association with the Institute of Modern Art and curated by the Gallery's Senior Curator Justin Paton. The exhibition has recently toured in Australia, where it was shown at the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane and the Campbelltown Arts Centre in Sydney.

15 June to 6 October 2013 at City Gallery Wellington