Artist Mary-Louise Browne’s work for Objectspace’s outdoor plinth explores the possibilities and problems of language in the public domain. Browne’s practice examines the complexity of art objects, their materiality and scale alongside socio-cultural histories.  Exploring the ways in which objects can both transform and be transformed by the spaces in which they are placed and their relationship to the viewer.

‘Seeing is Believing’ is presented backwards but its ghost is reflected reading forward on the shiny surface of the concrete pad. Toying with reality and artifice this text work creates the illusion that the depicted object exists in both two and three dimensions -  a playful slippage in which the current experience creates a space for interpretations to be either confounded or realised.

Neon is particularly effective in this instance, it conflates the materiality of phosphorus tubing with the connotations of the words depicted and reflexively incorporates the viewer into the work who is so visually attuned that they can read this work in both directions without being aware of its mechanisms.


Mary-Louise Browne graduated from the University of Auckland with a Master of Fine Arts, First Class Honours in 1982 and has worked at the forefront of text based conceptual practice since then. Her work broadly investigates the nature of art itself and the role of the viewer in its interpretation, examining art historical and socio-political questions with gentle irony.

Browne uses text in lieu of imagery. It is a refusal of the prevalence of images and their authority over imagination today, which the printed word had yesterday and the spoken word before that. She explores the metaphoric, material and visual qualities of language. She re-presents found text, instructions, truisms, maxims, and lyrics and refrains from songs and screenplays – giving them new readings and contexts, demonstrating how apparently simple words can proliferate and have multiple layers of connotation, often using double entendre to make evident the clash of media and meaning.

Browne has been invited to contribute to significant curated exhibitions in public art galleries and museums throughout New Zealand and overseas. She has developed several public art commissions such as Byword, a series of granite seats on Lorne St, and Font, a pool at St Patrick’s Square, in Auckland’s CBD, Body to Soul, a monumental staircase in Wellington’s Botanical Gardens and a basalt path engraved with text in Wellington Civic Square. Her first major public artwork in neon, Don’t Let it Get You is installed at the National Library Wellington.

Mary-Louise Browne, Seeing is Believing, 2019. Image: Samuel Hartnett.