Vivian Lynn talks about her work Guarden gates, 1982

Senior artist Vivian Lynn has for over sixty years been making critical and enquiring work. The recent selective survey I, HERE, NOW Vivian Lynn at the Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi, Victoria University of Wellington (25 October 2008-15 March 2009) curated by Christina Barton, offered a rich selection of over seventy works dating from 1950-2008.

A book, of the same title, has just been published and makes fascinating reading, with essays by Christina Barton and Anna Smith, and short texts on specific works by Ian Wedde, Brian Easton, Pamela Gerrish Nunn, Priscilla Pitts, Charlotte Huddleston, Anne Kirker, Sarah Treadwell and Guyon Neutze.

Guarden gates, a significant work from 1982, is part of Te Papa’s collection. It comprises seven wall mounted sculptural forms made from cyclone gates, human hair and ribbon, and was a key focal point of the Te Papa exhibition We are unsuitable for framing, curated by Charlotte Huddleston which overlapped with the Adam Art Gallery exhibition (28 December 2008-26 July 2009).

Guarden gates, 1982, Vivian Lynn (1931– ), New Zealand. Purchased 1993 with Elise Mourant Collection funds. Te Papa.

Guarden gates, 1982, Vivian Lynn (1931– ), New Zealand. Purchased 1993 with Elise Mourant Collection funds. Te Papa.

Each of the seven structures has its own title: Matrix; Daughter of the father; Sacrifice; Processual ground; Differentiation; Rebirth and Eyes of life, eyes of death. The combination of materials is evocative and visceral, and the formal arrangement of the suite of works heightens their arresting qualities.

As Christina Barton comments in her introductory essay ‘Entwined with hair and other substances, Guarden gates demonstrates Lynn’s treatment of materials as generators of meaning. Together and singly the seven gates establish a complex interplay of opposites (organic and manufactured, structural and ornamental, inside and outside) that engage and contest the politics associated with her chosen materials’ cultural coding and which set out a poetic narrative referencing Jungian concepts of the unconscious. Though not an illustration (Lynn only encountered the story after the work was completed), the installation can be read through the 5000-year-old legend of Inanna, a Sumerian fertility deity representing eros, who sets out on a journey to meet her sister Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld, and has to pass through seven gates, giving up her different powers at each to surrender herself to death, who is later rescued in a symbolic gesture that affirms the cycle of life.’[1]

During the exhibition at Te Papa Vivian Lynn spoke about Guarden gates, how the work evolved and the range of social, political and mythological associations it draws upon. You can see this footage here:

Heather Galbraith
Senior Curator Art


[1] Barton, Christina, I, HERE, NOW Vivian Lynn – an introduction, I, HERE, NOW Vivian Lynn, Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, p.16-17.

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