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Roberta portrait

Roberta Thornley’s Biography

Last Updated:
20/05/2019, 10:48 am
Marti Friedlander Photographic Award 2017
"... the place to begin with Roberta Thornley's work is in the 'everyday' world […] They are discrete images about the simplest and yet most evocative of ideas. Contained within each work is a sense of the efflorescence of life and the wet, dark, decaying extreme that is part of its cycle of disintegration and renewal. Her work has an underlying element of unease, as if each image marks a crucial connection between beauty, desire, and the 'bible-black' of melancholy.” Dr Kriselle Baker, Art New Zealand (Winter 2010).

Roberta Thornley was born in Auckland in 1985. She graduated from Auckland University’s Elam School of Fine Arts in 2007. In 2011 she was the inaugural recipient of the Auckland Festival of Photography Annual Commission and in 2014 she was awarded a residency at Tylee Cottage with the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui.

Roberta’s most recent body of work, ‘A Serious Girl’ (2017), was a narrative created around a teenage Whanganui gymnast, Millie, who was recovering from injury at her family’s seaside home in Castlecliff. The work was created for exhibition at The Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui.

Sarjeant Gallery curator, Greg Donson, comments: “Since including Roberta’s 2010 portrait of her mother Crying My Mother’s Tears (Meme) in a group exhibition entitled Everyday Irregular, I’ve been astonished at her ability to engage with her subjects and photograph them at a point when their - and subsequently our - emotional barometers venture into that elusive terrain of what it means to be human. Roberta is a photographer who hasn’t just grown into capturing essence, it feels like she had it from the moment she chose the camera as her medium.”

Roberta has exhibited in Australia and throughout New Zealand. Her work is held in collections including Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu, The Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. and The Wallace Arts Trust. She lives and works in Whanganui and is represented by Tim Melville. www.timmelville.com

Roberta Thornley was awarded The Marti Friedlander Photographic Award in 2017 by the Arts Foundation. Roberta is the first recipient to receive the award since Marti passed away in November 2016.