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Elizabeth Thomson: Cellular Memory

10 February - 2 July 2023

Open daily 10am to 5pm

Free entry

“We are each made up of one hundred million million cells, none of which have any idea who we are.” - Marcus Chown

For over 30 years, Wellington-based sculptor/installation artist 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 their 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.

The works in ‘Cellular Memory’ attest to a career-long commitment to grappling with both natural history and the human condition, fuelled by poetic imagination as well as by much research, field-work and long hours in the studio.

In tandem with the much-celebrated touring exhibition ‘Cellular Memory’, Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato is presenting ‘Lateral Theories’, a remarkable and dramatic new suite of works by Elizabeth Thomson.

Just as the works in ‘Cellular Memory’ range widely through the cupboards and corridors of natural history and the outer reaches of nature itself, Thomson’s ‘exo-planets’—which measure up to two metres in diameter—are a wildly inventive, wide-ranging and breath-taking exploration of life and the life-force.

In these works, many of which have never been exhibited publicly before, we encounter a world which can be enchanting, inspiring and dazzling—yet which is also full of risk and portent. In ‘Lateral Theories’, we witness a contemporary artist testing her own limits—conceptually and in terms of her materials—and moving into uncharted, hitherto unimaginable territories.

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. Her installations, sculptures and prints are included in major public collections throughout New Zealand.

Exhibition curated by Gregory O'Brien
With the support of Creative New Zealand



An Audience with Elizabeth Thomson and Gregory O’Brien

  • 6pm Thursday 22 June 2023
  • $15, or free for Friends of the Museum

Don’t miss sculptor and installation artist Elizabeth Thomson in conversation with ‘Cellular Memory’ exhibition curator Gregory O’Brien, set within the largest ever presentation of her captivating artworks.

Find out more.


Image: The Fugitive, after Max Ernst, 2019, Elizabeth Thomson.