Exhibition connects with what isn’t there
hovering object

Ben Cauchi - Hovering Object - 2005

margaret mahy

Marti Friedlander - Margaret Mahy - 2008

Exhibition connects with what isn’t there

One of Christchurch Art Gallery’s best-loved paintings, Petrus van der Velden’s 1872 work Burial in the Winter on the Island of Marken, also known as The Dutch Funeral, features alongside works by Aotearoa artists Rita Angus, Ralph Hotere, Colin McCahon, Séraphine Pick, Shane Cotton and Bill Hammond in the gallery’s new exhibition, Absence.

Running till Sunday 20 August, Absence brings together works from artists using diverse mediums and from different eras. All connect with the exhibition’s central theme – that sometimes the most compelling thing is what isn’t there. From the mournful, the mischievous, the monumental and the hardly-there-at-all, Absence invites viewers to fill in the gaps.

“Artists have always been fascinated by the power of people and things not shown,” says Lead Curator Felicity Milburn.

“In art, absence creates mystery, tension and anticipation – it can imply loss, transformation, exclusion, isolation and much more. It’s the unspoken subject in some of the Gallery’s most interesting works, and we’ve brought many of them together.

“Absence features some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most respected artists but it isn’t the type of exhibition you need to bring a lot of expertise with you to enjoy. It’s full to the brim with stories and is a great way to experience many different styles and types of art-making.

“There’s a rich mix of sculptures, paintings and works on paper and it’s a chance for visitors to see some treasures from our collection, including The Physician, painted in 1653 by Gerrit Dou, a leading figure in the Golden Age of Dutch painting.”

Works also include:

  • Saying goodbye to Florence, a sombre and personal suite of 12 prints by Robin White that marked the death of her mother.
  • A lithograph depicting death as a cloaked figure that was completed in Berlin in 1934 by Käthe Kollwitz, one of the foremost artists of social protest in the 20th century.
  • Katharina Jaeger’s 2008 sculpture Pracht, assembled from discarded furniture parts found in an Ōtautahi Christchurch junk shop.
  • A photograph by Tim Veling documenting part of Ōtautahi’s former residential red zone, where the vestiges of domestic gardens recall the lives of those who were forced to leave.
  • A stained glass window recovered from the Barbadoes Street Cemetery Chapel, depicting Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James at the empty tomb of Christ.
  • An unexpected portrait of the celebrated writer Margaret Mahy taken by Marti Friedlander in 2008.


Petrus van der Velden - Burial in the Winter on the Island of Marken [also known as The Dutch Funeral] - 1872. Oil on canvas. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, gift of Henry Charles Drury van Asch, 1932

Ben Cauchi - Hovering Object - 2005. Ambrotype. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, purchased 2005

Marti Friedlander - Margaret Mahy - 2008. Gelatin silver print toned with gold. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, purchased with the generous assistance of the artist and FHE Galleries, 2016


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