I studied at the Ilam School of Fine Arts, Canterbury University, New Zealand (NZ). The Design Department at Ilam is one of six, the others being Film, Painting, Sculpture, Photography, and Printmaking. Due to this context, the approach to graphic design at Ilam was more fine art focused than many of the more industry-focused degrees in NZ. As a result, I became really interested in research-based, self-initiated, critical graphic design projects. I entered the industry in late 2008, during the Global Financial Crisis, and after a failed stint at an agency that ended up making much of its staff redundant, I freelanced (mainly working with cultural clients) before going back to Ilam to do my MFA. Ultimately, I’ve always been interested in design education, and research, so I saw an MFA as a way to develop my research-based practice, and hopefully get a job as an educator.
After completing my MFA in 2013, I got a lecturing position at the Otago Polytechnic School of Design in Dunedin, NZ. Alongside the teaching involved, this position also allows me time to pursue my research-based practice; producing publications and making exhibitions, as well as keeping up a small selection of client based projects. So my days are always different; a mixture of teaching or developing courses, client meetings, research and exhibition making.
In the first year of my undergrad, a very intimidating painting lecturer told us to never leave the studio. An exaggeration, sure, but the spirit of the advice is good. Sometimes the day feels lost at lunchtime, but I often find if you stick with it, breakthroughs come after 4 pm.
Present Tense: Wāhine Toi Aotearoa (in collaboration with also awesome Katie Kerr is a very necessary contribution to the industry in NZ. Ella Sutherland is a friend and collaborator who is working across design and contemporary art in
NZ, Australia and further afield. In Dunedin, Erin Broughtonhas done some really interesting publication projects and cultural works, and is part of a collective operating the artist-run gallery Laurel Projects.
spaces. My research-based projects use the tools and methodologies of design to investigate issues of identity, understanding of place, and the political implications of both. My project The Ground Swallows You (2016 - 2017) began with the observation of a cargo ship arriving into Otago Harbour, NZ, carrying phosphate rock, which I traced to mine in the occupied territory of Western Sahara. As part of my research for this project, I travelled to the Saharawi Refugee Camps in Algeria, where I presented work, interviewed activists and experienced life in the Camps.
More recently, my project The Freedom of the Migrant(2018 - present) addresses the impact and legacy of dominant political narratives constructed around terrorism and the refugee crisis and examines how these narratives influence our collective perceptions of border control, freedom of movement, and national identity.
Currently, I’m a participant in the Studio Program residency at Cripta747 a contemporary art organisation based in Turin, Italy, for June and July 2019. While here, I’m working on developing new research projects. One direction I’m looking into involves the now defunct Nebiolo Type Foundry. I’m working with local designers and archivists to make a publication and some new sculptural works that examine the legacy and life of the typefaces created by the foundry throughout the early and mid-20th Century. Later this year, I have a solo exhibition at MAL in Seville, Spain, which will explore the antipodal relationship between Spain and New Zealand.