From November 1994, Shona Rapira Davies is exhibiting The Cicada Tree, a significant installation built specifically for the Fisher Gallery.
Rapira Davies has recently achieved a high media profile for her work in Te Aro Park, Wellington and subsequent documentary Cat among the Pigeons. The Fisher Gallery, in conjunction with the QEII Arts Council of NZ has commissioned an ambitious work to follow from the Wellington project.
Shona Rapira Davies has stated that “The Cicada Tree continues work initiated during my period as Frances Hodgkins Fellow in Dunedin. The Cicada Tree involves a large-scale manuka and muka, woven spiral from the centre of the gallery. This will be ascended/descended by a series of semi-transparent or translucent, moulded flax paper figures.”
It is a sizeable, dramatic artwork that developed out of drawings on this subject. The Cicada Tree fills the main gallery with this muka flax conceptual tree. Rapira Davies’ work demonstrates her passion to re-weave the fabric of Māori Society. She is a contemporary artist who re-invigorates the relationship between art and society.
It has been said that “Upon returning to practice art full-time, Rapira Davies began experimenting with a wider range of materials and equipment. She produced large paintings exploring Māori relations with the land because a particular concern to her has always been the loss of identity by many Māori. She has also used her work to voice her protest at the injustice she has seen and experienced. Rapira Davies’ move to sculptural forms saw the creation of larger and more challenging works. Her ambitious series of figures Nga Morehu (The Survivors) was worked on from 1982 and was finally shown in 1988 at the exhibition Whakamamae. These life-sized female ceramic figures confronted violence against women.”
Shona Rapira Davies: The Cicada Tree will provide an opportunity to see a significant and innovative work, commissioned by the Arts Council of New Zealand to develop new work that would not otherwise be produced.
Shona Rapira Davies is one of New Zealand’s most highly recognised and respected contemporary artists. She has attained a substantial standing for her work and her involvement with and contribution to all aspects of the arts community. She has worked as a full-time artist since graduating with a Diploma of Fine Arts at Otago Polytechnic in 1983. She has recently completed a major public commission in Te Aro Park, Wellington and is included in the internationally toured exhibitions Headlands and Te Waka Toi.
→ Shona Rapira Davies: The Cicada Tree – interview with the artist and Irihapeti Ramsden
→ TJ McNamara, From Earth to Heaven – The New Zealand Herald, 17 November 1994