Now the deputy head of the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland, Carole Shepheard has been at the forefront of contemporary art practice in New Zealand as a teacher, writer and maker for over fifteen years. In Detail surveys her work over the past twenty years, showing some major changes over time.
Beginning with puppets produced at art school in the late 1960s as part of her Honours year in Stage and Costume Design, through the miniaturist realist style of her early collages from the early seventies.
The major series of the 1960s are represented by the Identity Fragments series, as are two works from the highly controversial Images of Men series. Also included are a complete set of ten of the beautiful and resonant etchings for the Body Covers series.
Symbolism associated with the body has dominated her work in the 1960s and this exhibition includes the art assemblage Essence and Shadow using the huge goddess figure of the Nike of Samothrace, Enraptured Love and Abjection/Absolution. Included is a tufted wool carpet from Dilana Rugs designed last year and a belt, crown, badge and necklace from the Body Trophies series of 1996-67. Bringing the exhibition of Shepheard’s work right up to date is an installation developed for the Fisher Gallery, Stories for Curious Minds.
Carole Shepheard’s art production is remarkable both for its range, and its multiple levels of meaning. Characteristically, symbolism is interwoven with an exploration of the sensuous potential of materials.
‘Surface quality has always been important to the way I work. I particularly enjoy the nature of materials, their in-built, sometimes unalterable qualities. In this way, the materials have a say in how they behave, how they are used and what effects can be achieved.’ - Carole Shepheard
From printmaking to sculpture, there is in Shepheard’s work expressions of feminist and cultural concerns. Her work is studied as a core part of the Bursary curriculum by 2,500 art history students nationally each year, and she is also the ‘model’ artist used by many students in preparing their practical portfolios. As a lecturer at Elam for almost ten year, she has been an important mentor to a generation of art students.