Sunday, June 04, 2006

Simon Kaan

23-Aug-04 Artists take up first Creative New Zealand residencies in AsiaNew Zealand artists Kelly Thompson and Simon Kaan will take up residencies in New Delhi and Beijing in what are the first artist residencies in Asia to be offered by Creative New Zealand, in partnership with the Asia 2000 Foundation of New Zealand.

And Simon Kaan, a Dunedin visual artist, will spend three months from October 2004 as artist-in-residence at the Red Gate Gallery in Beijing. Creative New Zealand will cover accommodation costs and provide $10,000 stipends while the artists are in residence. The Asia 2000 Foundation of New Zealand will meet the costs of the return airfares

Last year, Simon Kaan travelled to China where he made contact with artists and art communities, including those at the Red Gate Gallery.“I was the first of my family to return to China since my grandfather left more than one hundred years ago,” he says. “My Chinese, Mäori and Pakeha heritage is an integral part of my life. Because my work deals primarily with my culture and environment, my new work will inevitably reflect the impact of my time in Beijing.“I’m sure the residency will provide me with an array of experiences that will feed into an interesting new body of work.”

Simon Kaan: exploring his Chinese heritage When Simon Kaan travelled through China last year, he was the first member of his family to visit their country of origin since his grandfather arrived in New Zealand more than one hundred years ago.Yet his Chinese heritage, along with his Kai Tahu/Scottish whakapapa from his mother, has been evident in his work for several years – in both his innovative printmaking and, more recently, his larger paintings such as the eight-panel Ka Waka Tipuraka. This work was included in last year’s exhibition Te Puäwai o Ngäi Tahu at the new Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu.“There’s a certain aesthetic in my work that is Chinese and it’s something I’ve grown up with,” Kaan says. “It’s innate, it just comes out. I haven’t really gone out and studied Chinese work much.”That’s about to change when Kaan returns to China in early October, this time as the recipient of the three-month artist residency at the Red Gate Gallery in Beijing. “I think the residency will be a big turning point for me,” Kaan says. “It’s very timely; something that I need in my life. I’m keen to experiment with new materials. I want to get into some lithography, some ink and brush work, and investigate traditional Chinese materials. I’m really interested in seeing how Chinese artists work with silk.” As well as spending time based at the Red Gate Gallery, which specialises in contemporary Chinese art, a visit to trace his roots and track down distant relatives in the Guangdong (or Canton) region is high on his agenda.He’s also looking forward to being away from his normal working environment to focus on new ideas and directions. “These three months are going to give me time just to step back from it all.“I’ve already started on a different strand of work that I haven’t showed publicly yet. When I first painted, I painted for two years without showing any of that work. Instead, I showed my prints through that time. It’s good to have various strands going on because they work off each other.”Simon Kaan, 33, graduated from the School of Art at Otago Polytechnic in 1993 with a Diploma of Fine Arts (Honours) in printmaking. In 1994, he received a Diploma in Teaching from Christchurch College of Education and went on to teach art at secondary schools in Havelock North, New Plymouth and Dunedin. In 2000, he was the first Ngai Tahu artist-in-residence at School of Art at Otago Polytechnic and now practises full-time as an artist.

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