Kushana Bush (b. 1983) inhabits a singular position within contemporary New Zealand art. Reaching across history, culture and society, her meticulously detailed compositions, multi-ethnic characters and open-ended narratives combine to create a unique visual language. It is an approach that has attracted significant attention for this Dunedin-based artist, drawing audiences into the complex choreography of her world.
The Burning Hours focuses on works made between 2014-2016, showing audiences what happens when Bush pushes her compositional limits and uses the entire surface of the paper. This recent body of work is rich with detail – each surface, of gouache and gold, is filled with references to illuminated manuscripts, Persian miniatures, European art history and modern life. These disparate sources bind Bush's works to both the past and the present; the historical and the contemporary. Human interactions, humour, ambiguity, dramatic tension and intimate scale are her tools to draw viewers into a private conversation and, in some cases, a spiritual space.
With her source material extending from thirteenth-century manuscripts to twentieth-century painters (including Stanley Spencer), Bush is interested how religious themes blend with secular narratives, often manifesting in ritualistic violence. This interest is permeated by Bush's enquiry into grand narrative constructions, resulting in a series of works that examines what spirituality, ritual and community might mean in a contemporary world.
Bush will discuss her work in an opening-day talk with exhibition curator, Lauren Gutsell on Saturday 25 November at 3pm, followed by an opening celebration from 4pm.
Image: Us Lucky Observers 2016 (detail). Collection of Dunedin Public Art Gallery
25 November 2017 – 18 February 2018
Opening Saturday 25 November, 4pm
The Burning Hours:
Photos: Sam Hartnett