A decade culminating in a respective exhibition held at City Gallery Wellington and Auckland Art Gallery marks a period of significant importance in Shane Cotton’s career. The works chosen as part of Gow Langsford Gallery’s 1993 – 2003: A Decade in the Making include pivotal early works alongside major works from the early 2000s.
Cotton’s work evocatively includes both Maori iconography and culture, as well as European symbols and items. His paintings explore themes of Christianity, colonialism, cultural identity, Maori spirituality, and life and death.
By the early 1990s’ Cotton’s work had taken on a representational style, influenced by Maori folk art and figurative traditions, as well as referencing the landscapes of Colin McCahon. Displaying a distinctive sepia colour palette both Potted History and Mountain are compositionally and stylistically linked to this period in Cotton’s career.
Later works, first The Pot Calling the Kettle Black then Aria and The Carrier are examples of Cotton’s work becoming both literally and metaphorically darker. These later works feature moko mokai (decorated human heads) and native birds such as tui and target icons, conveying a more dominant message toward colonialism than the softer works of 1993.
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.
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.