Papa by Renee Cosgrave is collection of works that explore the interconnectedness of whakapapa (genealogy), Whenua (land), Te Reo Māori (language), and raranga (weaving). She invites viewers to contemplate their relationship with these fundamental concepts through painting and weaving. Each piece is a reflection of the artist’s new connection to her Māori heritage and her ongoing exploration of what it means to be part of a larger cultural identity.
Renee Cosgrave’s work is primarily concerned with abstract painting – exploring colour, gesture, repetition and alongside her identity. Her large scale paintings in ‘Papa’ are vibrant and expressive, painting with rich and varied hues that reference the colours of the land and water, each colour being dedicated to a particular site or ancestor. The creation of these paintings follows a straight forward approach, typically developed in a left-to-right sequence resembling the action of reading and weaving. They incorporate comparable components and rely on a set of principles that depend on the crucial interplay between line and colour to achieve a balance between structure and unrestrained expression. Her use of formal design elements, such as grids and vertical lines, is both striking and intense, as if the conventions of abstract art offer a space for perpetual exploration, recognising the ongoing significance of abstraction in modern artistic practices.
Cosgrave explores both landscape and portraiture through abstraction. Several of her paintings in the exhibition mirror each other, using similar techniques and structural elements to depict different subjects. Rawhiti-Rangataua and Bissett when exhibited together, symbolise either side of Cosgrave’s heritage. Rawhiti-Rangataua is a painting dedicated to her kuia. The colours refer to colours in their marae, lands, waters, manu and plants of Aotearoa. Bissett is dedicated to her Pākehā grandfather. The palette references colours in Scottish tartan. These two works speak of Renee’s whakapapa and are dedicated to her late father.
The little painting Toi Rārangi II, when translated means ‘line art’ in Te Reo Māori. The subject of this particular work is whenu (weaving strips). Painting from left-to-right, Renee applies the method used for rāranga (weaving) until her surface is full. She emphasises the order and structure found in rāranga, a theme that is revisited and reimagined throughout her process and practice.
Help me Ancestors (Tauhara Maunga) and Yeddonba balai and Yackandandah reflect each other too, using contrasting hues with similar shapes and brushstrokes, she represents landscapes of Aotearoa and Australia, an ode to Renee’s two homes. Help me Ancestors (Tauhara Maunga) alludes to colours on Tauhara maunga on Ngāti Tūwharetoa whenua, whilst Yeddonba balai and Yackandandah depicts the wairua of the Jiatmathang Country in Victoria, Australia. When visiting the Jiatmathang Country she described feelings of homesickness and was comforted by the softness of pinks, purples, silvers and aqua greens of the bushlands.
Renee Cosgrave is a Naarm (Melbourne) based artist from Aotearoa of Irish, Scottish and Māori descent of the Ngāti Tūwharetoa iwi. Her practice investigates abstract painting, repetition, colour, place, culture and wairua. Renee was the recipient of the 2019 MECCA M-Power National Gallery of Victoria Arts Mentoring Grant.