On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, a sculptural installation by Michael Parekowhai, is being exhibited at the 54th Venice Biennale in the Palazzo Loredan dell’Ambasciatore on the Grand Canal.

The work includes one intricately-carved red Steinway concert grand piano and two concert grands fabricated in bronze supporting two cast bronze bulls. On one piano a full-size bull rests on the closed lid with its massive body suggesting the folding forms of landscape. On the other piano the bull is standing firm offering an eye-to-eye challenge for anyone prepared to take a seat at the keyboard. The installation will also feature a figure from the Kapa Haka series (Officer Taumaha) and two small bronze olive tree saplings (Constitution Hill).

The titles of the works that make up the installation are: He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: story of a New Zealand river (the carved piano), A Peak in Darien (the resting bull and piano), and Chapman’s Homer (the standing bull and piano). He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu Story of a New Zealand River will be played throughout the exhibition with a programme of special performances planned. If the sculptures are a source of visual surprise for visitors, it is the music that will greet them when they arrive.

Michael Parekowhai sums up: “While the objects in On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer are important, the real meaning of the work will come through the music. Just as my work Ten Guitars was not about the instruments themselves but about the way they brought people together, performance is central to understanding On first looking into Chapman’s Homer because music fills a space like no object can.”

The overall title for the project is based on the poem ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’ by the nineteenth-century English Romantic poet John Keats. In this Keats describes a Spanish adventurer climbing to the top of a hill in what is now Panama and looking out over the Pacific to survey its potential riches for the first time.

Michael Parekowhai is one of New Zealand’s most important contemporary artists. In addition to an extensive exhibition history, his work is held in significant public and private collections in New Zealand and Australia, as well as in several permanent collections across the Asia-Pacific region and in Europe.  His work has been included in many important exhibitions, including the Asia-Pacific Triennial, Queensland (2006-2007), the Gwangju Biennale (2004), the Biennale of Sydney (2002), Headlands, MCA, Sydney (1992); and in art fairs such as Art Basel (2006, 2007) and LISTE (2007).  A major volume cataloguing Michael’s practice was published by Michael Lett, Auckland in 2007 and the artist’s work has been covered by numerous significant international art periodicals.

Michael’s narratives are often complex as he draws on an abundant range of both vernacular and collective vocabularies which he manufactures into the narrative structures and formal languages of his work. Although key themes of his practice may be described as deliberate takes on the notions of introduced species and culture, the potentially overt political dimensions are downplayed.

Photos by Cosmin Năsui & official website


Modernism.ro vă prezintă, în premieră, un serial dedicat expozițiilor pavilioanelor naționale și evenimentelor paralele și dar și a celor colaterale ale Bienalei de Artă de la Veneția, unul dintre cele mai importante evenimente europene de artă contemporană.

Mulțumim Institutului Român de Cultură şi Cercetare Umanistică de la Veneția și ICR București pentru suportul și sprijinul acordat la realizarea acestui serial.