Michael Shepherd: Reinventing History Painting
23 February - 9 June 2019
Michael Shepherd is one of our country’s most distinguished contemporary artists. Born in Hamilton in 1950, Shepherd spent in his early years in Ngaaruaawahia. This Waikato upbringing has played a key role in Shepherd’s artistic career. Youthful proximity to the sites of pivotal events in New Zealand’s nineteenth century history fuelled in Shepherd a decades-long fascination with exploring the complexities of the colonial era and its legacies. Since the 1980s, Shepherd has been producing intricate, painterly works, often in series, that engage with history and memory, mining connections between past and present, usually on his Waikato home-turf.
Despite his many achievements and the increasingly topical nature of Shepherd’s subject matter as national campaigns to improve understanding of New Zealand’s Land Wars gain momentum, no museum or gallery has held a major retrospective of his career. Waikato Museum is honoured to be hosting such an exhibition. Curated by Emeritus Professor Elizabeth Rankin, Department of Art History, University of Auckland, Michael Shepherd: Reinventing History Painting brings together for the first time a comprehensive selection of Shepherd’s ‘historical’ paintings from public and private collections, as well as early drawings, family photographs and mementos that shed light on his life and work. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue featuring an extended critical and biographical essay by Rankin and rich commissioned photographs of Shepherd’s work.
Elizabeth Rankin first curated exhibitions in South Africa, where she was Professor of the History of Art at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Her many publications focused on the work of sculptors, printmakers and painters who engaged with the political realities of South Africa – its history, politics and its people. Appointed Professor of Art History at the University of Auckland in 1998, she soon came to appreciate and write about the work of New Zealand artists who examine aspects of this country’s history, such as Barry Cleavin, John Edgar, Rodney Fumpston, Robyn Hughes, Marian Maguire, and Fiona and Neil Pardington, as well as Michael Shepherd.
Image: Excavating the Historical. Landscape with Historical Figure, 1992, Michael Shepherd, private collection