Raewyn Atkinson’s I Too Am in Paradise II is a moving image work that records the organic process of a living sculpture as it grows and decays.
This is the second iteration of I Too Am in Paradise, first installed in the open air courtyard of The Dowse Arts Museum over the summer of 2016-17. The title is a translation of the renowned seventeen century Nicolas Poussin painting, Et in Arcadia Ego. The installation consisted of a series of unfired clay urns, each bearing this phrase and containing a young kōwhai ngutukākā (kākābeak) plant which at the end of the exhibition, were gifted to members of the community who wanted to participate in its recovery. For I Too Am in Paradise II, Atkinson installed a new grid like series of urns in her garden in Wellington and recorded them over a 10 month period. The urns were placed on cast bases made of red clay sourced from the property and in turn sat on on a bed of crushed greywacke collected from the same area.
This time the urns were planted with ngutukākā mā (white kākābeak), taonga entrusted to the project by East Coast iwi, Ngāi Kohatu (Ngāti Hinehika), who are kaitiaki for this particular species that had long been considered extinct. This plant species was last seen growing on cliffs inland of Wairoa in the 1950s and has been successfully brought back from the brink of extinction through the combined efforts of Ngai Kohatu and the Crown Research Institute, Scion. At Te Reinga Marae these kākābeak are known as Ngutukōrako, named after their ancestress, Hinekōrako. The English translation of kōrako is albino.
The stop motion documentation captures the forces of seasonal change. While the ngutukākā mā grows and builds strength over time; the clay urns decay, changing shape and material structure, slowly returning to the earth.
Kōwhai ngutukākā plants are found only in New Zealand and are threatened with extinction in the wild. When filming has finished the ngutukākā mā will be gifted on to Waikereru Ecosanctuary set up for ecological restoration by Prof Dame Anne Salmond and her husband on the Tai Rāwhiti/East Coast of New Zealand.
Raewyn Atkinson was born in Napier, New Zealand. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Victoria University and an involvement with clay that spans over 30 years during which time she has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally. Atkinson was the recipient of the Portage Ceramic Award in both 2003 and 2015. In 2015 she was awarded the Juror's Prize at the Gyeonggi International Ceramics Biennale in South Korea.
A three-month Japanese residency in 1998 combined with two visits to Antarctica, first in 2000 on an Antarctica Art Fellowship and another journey in 2003, sparked an interest in working with translucent porcelain. These visits have resulted in several major exhibitions, Terra Nova, (Dowse Art Museum, Wellington 2002, Te Manawa 2003) and Designs on Antarctica, Wellington City Gallery 2005, Objectspace, Auckland 2006. Work by Atkinson is held in a number of national and public collections including Te Papa Tongarewa and international collections that include LACMA, USA and the Museum of Contemporary Ceramic Art, Shigaraki, Japan.