Shane Cotton
'Three-quarter view' 2005
Purchased 2005
© Shane Cotton, represented by Sherman Galleries, Sydney

Widely exhibited in New Zealand and Australia, artist Shane Cotton combines imagery from Maori and Pakeha (non-indigenous New Zealander) sources to create hybrid, poetic paintings that investigate the shared experience of the country's two cultures.

Three-quarter view is dominated by the moko (facial tattoo) of the nineteenth-century British flax trader Barnet Burns. The striking physical transformation of the Englishman resulted from his extraordinary decision to live among the Maori from the 1830s. Cotton used a nineteenth-century etching of Burns as his source, yet his painting process has transformed the original image. Removing all signs of Burns' Englishness, Cotton has reproduced only his moko in two-tones of blue. Hovering around the disembodied face are targets, sparrows and a goldfinch. The avian motif has particular importance in Maori cosmology and the goldfinch symbolises the passion of Christ in western religious art. The combination alludes to the complex relationship between Christianity, colonialism and contemporary culture. Cotton's art questions the notion of cultural identity, looking instead to the space between Maori and Pakeha perspectives.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

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Australian Art

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The National Gallery of Australia's collection of Australian art reflects its unique national responsibility to present the story of visual art in Australia.

The collection includes works of consistently high quality and outstanding aesthetic merit…


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The National Gallery of Australia's collection of Australian art reflects its unique national responsibility to present the story of visual art in Australia.

The collection includes works of consistently high quality and outstanding aesthetic merit -- works by artists from all Australian states and territories and by Australian artists working overseas, as well as works by artists living for a time in Australia. The wide-ranging collection of the work of Indigenous artists from all regions and urban areas of Australia is covered under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

The Gallery's permanent displays of Australian art are presented in an integrated and broadly chronological arrangement of works from the earliest colonial period to the present day: paintings and sculptures, works on paper, photographs and other photomedia, decorative arts and design. Because of New Zealand's geographical and historical proximity to Australia, works by New Zealand artists are collected selectively and often displayed alongside Australian works.

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