Laurence Aberhart is a committed visual artist of the highest order. He educates our emotions, showing us who we are and how we might see; how we see ourselves as citizens of New Zealand and beyond. Photography is central to the construction of our reality, and our ‘marks' on Aotearoa are questioned; what sort of country do we live in. What sort of place is it and how does it look? And what are the things that we could easily leave behind as we move into the future?

Photography and the post-European settlement history of New Zealand are linked. Aberhart is aware of the power of the medium: "there are some fantastic images that if New Zealanders as a whole saw, I know they'd take them into their hearts and their psyche and I know they would make us grow as a people and a country..." As Robert Frost said of poetry  "It is a way of remembering that which it would impoverish us to forget."  Aberhart works in a mode reflective of his photographic predecessors. "...what I've tried to do is take the sensibility and sensitivity and the aesthetic, that overall self-awareness of all that early photography, and try and do the same in New Zealand but incorporate some aspects of contemporary art practice into it."

Time is an essential ingredient. Aberhart is a photographer who is interested in the 'magic' or transcendent possibilities of photography and the affect this can have on our imaginations and aspirations. Geraldine Barlow writes "[he] chooses a process of stillness, an extended measure of moments over which light acts upon a prepared surface,...There is a special sense of light in Aberhart's work, never entirely of the now." Further, Peter Fay writes "Not so much a light that reveals, but a light that makes truths knowable".

The artist has said "If you do it well...the place goes from the specific to the universal". In that vein his work is internationally exhibited, and his photographs are in the collections in all major New Zealand galleries and in a good number of international institutions including three Australian State galleries, Museum of Art, Macau, Readers Digest Collection and Hallmark Card Collection, USA, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Text by Paul McNamara

Laurence was the recipient of an Arts Foundation Laureate Award in 2013.


Christchurch Art Gallery Bulletin B.159: My Favourite David Kilgour
Catalogue essay Black Box, by Justin Paton, from McNamara Gallery, 2002 exhibition: "The Interior"