History, politics and art are the subject of Shane Cotton’s work; finding his place within the matrix of New Zealand’s bicultural identity its genesis.
Shane Cotton was born in 1964 in Upper Hutt, his Maori heritage is located in New Zealand’s Northland. Shane has a Fine Arts Degree from the University of Canterbury and a Diploma in Teaching from the Christchurch College of Education and was a lecturer at Massey University in the Maori Visual Arts Programme until 2005.
Landscape references in Cotton’s early paintings recall the symmetry of Maori carving and the work of Colin McCahon. Simple images, sepia-coloured and scaled metaphorically, derive from nineteenth-century Maori Folk Art, which Cotton perceives as signifiers of Maori culture cleverly veiled within a Christian context. Op and Pop appropriations, Maori Biblical text and, after 2000, brightly coloured targets, preserved heads (moko mokai), birds, fluoro wands and majestic cliffs infused with human presence appear in his work. More recently, Cotton is interested in exploring the effects of spatial relationships in picturing change.
A major survey of Cotton’s work was exhibited at City Gallery Wellington and Auckland Art Gallery in 2003. Prestigious international exhibitions followed at the Asia Society Museum, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (both 2004) and, as New Zealand’s representative at the Prague Biennial (2005). His work was included in the 3rd Auckland Biennial at Auckland Art Gallery (2007).
Cotton’s many awards include the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship (1998); the Seppelt Contemporary Art Award (1998); and the Te Waka Toi Award for New Work (1998, 1999). His work is represented in major collections, notably Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand; Auckland Art Gallery; the Chartwell Collection; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane.
Shane received a Laureate Award from the Arts Foundation in 2008. On receiving this award, Shane said: "as a painter you are often isolated in your practice. I am not always mindful of the audience when making work. It is only during the exhibition that you are able to gauge feedback (good and bad), but by then you are already involved in ‘new' work; this becomes your priority. Receiving a Laureate gives you confidence in what you have contributed to this point. Beyond this, it allows the journey to continue."
Shane received an ONZM (Officer of the said Order), for services to the Visual arts, in the 2012 Queen's Birthday Honours.