Artist's Quest for Love on Courtenay Place

20 August 2014

Prominent multimedia artist and writer Sarah Jane Parton’s latest art work, It’s love, isn’t it? explores the quest for love on Courtenay Place.

Sarah Jane Parton works on It's love, isn't it?

Sarah Jane Parton works on It's love, isn't it?

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What better place to stage this exhibition than in the Courtenay Place Park Light boxes.

A series of works that combine images and text, Sarah’s work takes its name from the title of a book of love poems by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and Meg Campbell.

“Reading Alistair and Meg’s poems, and feminist writer Bell Hooks, got me thinking about class disparity and how we see love, and how we might see the quest for love on Courtenay Place differently.”

The visual references for the exhibition came from posters made in the 1980s and 90s, the journey between the moments when her birth parents met in the Courtenay Place McDonald’s when they were 16; and when Sarah started to think about love as sex.

“Is it any different if you hook up on Courtenay Place, in an art gallery or through Tinder? In the end, everyone’s looking for love.”

In 2012 Sarah completed her Masters in Creative Writing at Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters and decided It’s love, isn’t it? was the perfect excuse to reconnect with her classmates and writers that she knew and admired. In the end she worked with 15 writers, photographer Matt Grace and graphic designer Alice Clifford.

Jodie Dalgleish, Council Arts Advisor says, “Sarah Jane Parton’s collaborative Love Poem project is a wonderful example of how artists of many kinds can together respond to the rich site of the Courtenay Place Park Light boxes. It highlights the possibilities for smart and multifaceted exhibitions in the future.”

Sarah’s design brief to her photographer and designer was that nothing could be too clichéd or over the top. Courtenay Place has been framed in a smorgasbord of cultures, each bar or club themed, tokenistic, a space that’s been designated.

Together they have created a love story inspired by the possibilities of the inner-city location of the light boxes, and have drawn on the associations of Courtenay Place as a site of potential meetings and the fruitless pursuit of love.

The writers are all at different stages of their careers and each bring a unique voice to the work. They include Pip Adam, Sam Byres, Kerry Donovan-Brown, Megan Doyle Corcoran, Kate Duignan, Samuel Flynn Scott, Gregory Kan, Sugar Magnolia Wilson, Maria McMillan, Kirsten McDougall, Jo Randerson, Duncan Sarkies, Adam Stewart, Faith Wilson and Lydia Wisheart.

Sarah says that all the writers were able to respond to and work with each other’s writing. “Even though each piece may seem small, consisting of a single word in one case, each writer worked hard, each portion carefully thought out, with hidden meanings and multiple layers.”

She will appear in the exhibition herself, acting out some of the scenes, playing all the characters. As a performance artist Sarah has always appeared in her own work because it means she’s her own agent.

Sarah has practised art since she graduated with honours in a Design and Fine Arts degree at Massey University in 2003. Since then she has achieved prominence with six solo exhibitions, featured in a number of group shows and public screenings both nationally and internationally, including Guidance at The Physics Room in Christchurch and The Way at City Gallery in Wellington.

 It’s love, isn’t it? by Sarah Jane Parton and curated by Jessica Scott is exhibiting in the Courtenay Place Park Light boxes from 29 August–30 November.