Lisa Reihana

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Lisa Reihana

Lisa Reihana CNZM (cropped).jpg
Reihana in 2022
Lisa Marie Reihana

1964 (age 5758)
Auckland, New Zealand

Lisa Marie Reihana CNZM (born 1964) is a New Zealand artist. [1] Her video work, In Pursuit of Venus [Infected] (2015), which examines early encounters between Polynesians and European explorers, was featured at the 2017 Venice Biennale.


Early life

Reihana grew up in Blockhouse Bay, Auckland. She is of Māori (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Tūteauru) descent. [1]


Reihana began attending Elam School of Fine Arts at Auckland University in 1983, graduating in 1987 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. [2] She graduated with a masters in design from Unitec Institute of Technology Department of Design and Contemporary Arts in 2014. [3] [4]


In 1991, Reihana was included in Pleasures and Dangers: Artists of the '90s, a publication and documentary of the same name produced by the Moet & Chandon New Zealand Art Foundation showcasing "the work of eight exciting younger artists, most just now making their mark nationally and overseas". [5]

In 2006, Reihana was one of fifteen New Zealand artists, most of Māori and Pacific Island descent, who were invited to take part in the Pasifika Styles exhibition by making site-specific works throughout the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge that responded to objects in the museum's collection. [6] :438 For her work He Tautoko (2006) Reihana responded to the museum's Oceania collection, making an iwi connection by selecting a Ngāpuhi tekoteko (carved gable figure) to work with.

Using footage of collection items filmed on an earlier visit to the museum, Reihana made a video of "multi-layered images and animated tukutuku patterns" that she played on a screen mounted behind the teketeko. [7] :51 Next to the cabinet holding the tekoteko three handsets made audio recordings available for visitors to listen to: the tracks included a recording of songs sung by the Manukau Institute of Technology's Māori choir, the sound of carver Lyonel Grant chiselling a pattern similar to that found on the tekoteko, and recordings of voices reading information about the tekoteko's provenance. [7] :51 A pair of 1960s headphones were positioned on the tekoteko's head. Underneath the cabinet holding the tekoteko Reihana placed another work, fluffy fings, as a playful counterpoint, a collection of "furry and feathery horn works with titles such as thingymybobs and plush tusks." [7] :53 Reihana wrote of this display "The colourful nature of this work appeals to adults and children alike. So that parents could spend more time with he tautoko, fluffy fings was placed at a child's eye level." [7] :53

Nga Kaikanikani o te Rangi - The Sky Dancers - Waitangi Park by Lisa Reihana, Aotearoa New Zealand Festival 2022 Nga Kaikanikani o te Rangi 01.jpg
Ngā Kaikanikani ō te Rangi - The Sky Dancers - Waitangi Park by Lisa Reihana, Aotearoa New Zealand Festival 2022

Art historian Peter Brunt observes of Reihana's work in Pasifika Styles:

Reihana's work exemplifies two preoccupations of contemporary Pacific art. One is the desire to re-examine colonial history, to excavate, remember and re-present countless micro-histories and counter-memories in formally experimental ways. The second is the desire to draw inspiration from the 'life-worlds' of cultural communities in the present. [6] :438

In 2008 Reihana completed a major commission for the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Installed along Te Ara a Hine (one of the two entrances to the marae in the museum) the work, Mai i te aroha, ko te aroha ('From love, comes love'), was made up of seven components, including video, digital photography and textile design. [8] In the same year Reihana was one of three New Zealand artists selected for the Liverpool Biennale. [8]

In 2014 Reihana received an Arts Laureate Award from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand. [3] In March 2016 Reihana was named as a nominee in the biennial Walters Prize for her work in Pursuit of Venus [infected]. [9]

Lisa Reihana was the 2022 Artist in Focus at the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts where she curated a programme of work. [10]

In Pursuit of Venus [infected]

Reihana's major multi-channel video work In Pursuit of Venus [Infected] (2015) went on display at the Auckland Art Gallery in May 2015. [11] Six years in the making, the work is based on a large 19th-century scenic wallpaper, Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique, created by French firm Joseph Dufour et Cie which depicts a romanticised view of the landscapes and people of the Pacific. [11] Using the landscape forms of the wallpaper as a backdrop, Reihana added live action scenes recorded in front of green screens, showing interactions between Europeans and Polynesians. [12] Reihana worked with theatre director Rachel House, actors and students from the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts to create this 32-minute film installation. [13] Reihana's script re-examines the first encounters between Polynesians and Europeans with scenes that depict the intricacies of cultural identity and colonisation. [11] Instead of Dufour's romanticised depictions of Europeans interacting with native people, Reihana shows the realities of these interactions, including scenes of violence and exchanges of goods for sexual favours.

In a review of the work, John Hurell writes:

In this eagerly anticipated, but not hyped up, narrative packed panorama by Lisa Reihana (it is as good as the advance publicity claimed), its loop of thirty-two minutes duration holds its audience enthralled, being the very best kind of spectacle. Not only is this seamlessly blended array of five video projections sensual - with its sweeping landscape, figure groupings, body movement, leafy textures and dramatic music - but it is thoroughly researched, being packed with much detailed historical information. [14]

An earlier version of the work, Pursuit of Venus, was a finalist in the Singapore Art Museum's Signature Art Prize in 2014. [15]

The exhibition was the most-visited solo exhibition by a New Zealand artist at the Auckland Art Gallery since 1997, with 49,000 visitors. [16]

A version of the work was shown at the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts in Guam in 2016, [17] and the National Gallery of Victoria from June to September 2016. [18] In 2022 In Pursuit of Venus [infected] was part of the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts from Friday 15 October  –  Sunday 31 July at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. [10]

Venice Biennale 2017

Reihana represented New Zealand at the 2017 Venice Biennale, where she showed an updated version of In Pursuit of Venus [Infected] and a new suite of photographic works. [19]


Banner for In Pursuit of Venus [infected] in Burnie, Tasmania in March 2019 In Pursuit of Venus, Burnie 20190310-004.jpg
Banner for In Pursuit of Venus [infected] in Burnie, Tasmania in March 2019


Reihana's work is represented in the collections of Auckland Art Gallery, [22] the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa [23] and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. [24]

Public artworks

Created to celebrate the life of Ellen Melville, the large bronze sculpture Justice adorns the wall of the Ellen Melville Centre in central Auckland. The work depicts the scales of justice but tipped in favour of women. [25]

Honours and awards

In 2015 Reihana was recognised with the Te Tohu Toi Kē award from Creative New Zealand for "making a positive difference to ngā toi Māori". [17]

In the 2018 New Year Honours, Reihana was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to art. [26] She was promoted to Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to the arts, in the 2022 Queen's Birthday and Platinum Jubilee Honours. [27]

Further reading

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  1. 1 2 Reihana, Lisa; White, Anna-Marie. Lisa Reihana: "Ngā Hau e Whā" (2012 ed.). Auckland: Papakura Art Gallery: Auckland Council: Arts and Culture South.
  2. Reihana, Lisa (2009). Digital Marae/Lisa Reihana. New Plymouth: Govett Brewster Art Gallery.
  3. 1 2 "Lisa Reihana". The Arts Foundation. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  4. Reihana, Lisa (2012), Re-staging Les Sauvages de la mer Pacifique : theoretical and practical issues, Research Bank, hdl:10652/2544, Wikidata   Q111966086
  5. Clark, Trish; Curnow, Wystan (1991). Pleasures and dangers: Artists of the '90s. Auckland: Moet & Chandon New Zealand Art Foundation and Longman Paul. ISBN   058285976X.
  6. 1 2 Brunt, Peter; Nicholas, Thomas (2013). Art in Oceania : a new history. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN   978-0500239018.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Raymond, Rosanna; Salmond, Amiria (2008). Pasifika Styles. Cambridge and Dunedin: University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; Otago University Press. ISBN   978-0947595159.
  8. 1 2 "Mai i te aroha, ko te aroha". Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  9. "Four artists announced for the Walters Prize 2016". Auckland Art Gallery. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  10. 1 2 "Lisa Reihana: in Pursuit of Venus [infected]". Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  11. 1 2 3 "Lisa Reihana: in Pursuit of Venus [infected]". Auckland Art Gallery. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  12. Gifford, Adam (2 May 2015). "Lisa Reihana: Close encounters of the Pacific kind". NZ Herald. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  13. Gifford, Adam (2 May 2015). "Lisa Reihana: Close encounters of the Pacific kind". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  14. Hurrell, John. "Reihana's Infected Pursuit of Venus". EyeContact. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  15. "2014 Signature Art Prize". Art Asia Pacific. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  16. Ikram, Ali (6 September 2015). "Art matters: Venus dazzles but light needs to shine on Secret Power". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  17. 1 2 "Honouring contributions to Māori arts with 2015 Te Waka Toi Awards". Creative New Zealand. 28 November 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  18. "Lisa Reihana: In pursuit of Venus". NGV Australia. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  19. "2017 Venice Biennale: New Zealand's artist and curator announced". Creative New Zealand. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  20. "The Conqueror's Eye: Lisa Reihana's In Pursuit of Venus — Kumu Art Museum". Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  21. "Digital Marae". Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Archived from the original on 18 June 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2015.
  22. "Lisa Reihana". Auckland Art Gallery. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  23. "Search results". Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
  24. "Recent Acquisitions". Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  25. "Justice". Auckland Public Art. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  26. "New Year honours list 2018". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 30 December 2017. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  27. "The Queen's Birthday and Platinum Jubilee Honours List 2022". The New Zealand Herald . 6 June 2022. Retrieved 6 June 2022.

Watch In Pursuit of Venus [infected] on Reihana's website here.