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‘Wildly inventive’ works to blend science and art at Waikato Museum

7 February 2023

Hamilton will host the largest ever presentation of Elizabeth Thomson’s artworks as an expanded version of the touring exhibition Cellular Memory opens on Friday 10 February 2023 at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato.

For more than three decades, Wellington-based sculptor and installation artist Elizabeth Thomson’s art has engaged with science, nature, imagination and, increasingly, what it means to live in Aotearoa New Zealand in the 21st century.

“This beautiful exhibition has been travelling the country for the past five years to much acclaim, and we are honoured to present the final iteration here at Waikato Museum,” said Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts, Waikato Museum.

Tailored for display in Waikato Museum’s largest gallery, Elizabeth Thomson: Cellular Memory attests to a career-long commitment to grappling with both natural history and the human condition, fuelled by poetic imagination as well as research, field work, and long hours in the studio. Amongst the highlights is a suite of dramatic new 'exo-planet' works, each measuring two metres in diameter.

“These planet-like works are a wildly inventive and breath-taking exploration of life and the life-force. They witness a contemporary artist testing her limits—conceptually and in terms of her materials—and moving into uncharted, hitherto unimaginable territories,” said the exhibition’s curator, Gregory O’Brien.

“Throughout her career, Elizabeth Thomson has been drawn to areas of scientific knowledge such as botany, micro-biology, oceanography and mathematics. With images and concepts from those fields as her starting point, Thomson’s works take flight. They impart a sense of mystery, beauty and the sheer exhilaration of being alive in a universe which is itself living, sentient and ever-responsive.”

Born in Auckland in 1955, Elizabeth Thomson is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s leading artists. Since graduating with an MFA from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 1988, she has exhibited widely throughout New Zealand and abroad. Thomson’s installations, sculptures and prints are included in major public collections throughout New Zealand.

Elizabeth Thomson: Cellular Memory is on display from 10 February to 2 July 2023 and entry is free. For upcoming events and koorero toi (gallery talks), please visit


Please note:

For te reo Maaori, Waikato Museum uses double vowels (uu) in place of vowels with a macron (ū) to represent a long vowel sound. This spelling approach is the preference of tangata whenua in Hamilton Kirikiriroa and Waikato iwi for te reo Maaori words. Artists’ titles are shown in their original form.