I am Pākehā. I am the descendant of early European settlers in New Zealand.
My ancestors rest in the land six generations deep. They share that land with the Tangata Whenua, the people who founded Aotearoa almost a thousand years ago. I was born of this land. And my art reflects my pride. I am Pākehā. I pretend to be nothing else.
Gareth Barlow as born and grew up in the Hutt Valley of Wellington, New Zealand
Expressed through a deep reverence for the tangata whenua of Aotearoa, Barlow works primarily with a blend of acrylics and charcoals to evoke an ephemeral and transcended quality to the structure of his large-scale portraits and symbolic compositions featuring native New Zealand flora and fauna, as well as symbology from his New Zealand and Celtic roots.
Of his practice, Barlow comments, “I sometimes feel that on anyone’s art journey, if you don’t have more questions than answers, you’re not on the right path.” This statement rings true to anyone engaging in subject matter that is considered living taonga; Barlow interrogates this intersectionality and determines that he happily exits somewhere in the in-between, traversing the relational space between Pākehā and Māori worlds.
Also an established carver, Barlow’s work has been displayed at various museums throughout New Zealand including Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Museum To tatou Tamaki Makaurau, and Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa. Today his carvings are predominantly commissioned privately as family taonga, traditional treasures representing past ancestors designed to be passed down from generation to generation.
Having spent his childhood and most of his adult life in Hutt Valley, Wellington; the artist currently resides across the Tasman, however his contemporary art practice never strays too far from his homeland of Aotearoa New Zealand. Barlow’s career to date has garnered impressive accolades, including becoming a finalist in the revered Wallace Art Awards in 2020. In 2018 he was named runner-up for the People’s Choice award at the Adam Portraiture Awards, and went on to place 3rd in the category in 2020. Barlow then gained a merit award as well as winning the People’s Choice award at the 2021 Parkin Drawing Prize for The Resurrection of Kahungunu, as well as a finalist in 2022. His work appears in collections in New Zealand, Australia, and further afield in Asia, Europe and North America. Bio by Parnell Gallery, Auckland.
Te Arawa people of Rotorua have a proverb, ‘In this land, past, present and future move as one’. These words have held a powerful influence on Barlow's work, and along his journey into Māori art, he soon better understood the energy and power that lies within these words.
Looking upon the land as a living entity, Barlow embraced the spiritual aspect of Māori art that is the foundation of the integrity deeply entrenched in this wonderful culture. With six generations of his own ancestors now buried in the land of Aotearoa, He recognised the spiritual connection he has to Tangata Whenua, the original people of New Zealand, through the land. This realisation lies at the core of Barlow's painting practice.
Whakairo, the ancient practice of Māori carving, brings together small elements to tell a story that often represents Gods or past ancestors. As these elements are repeated and layered over the substrate, it brings movement and animation to the carving, essentially creating life. Barlow's veil of dots have been designed to do the same thing. As an overall pattern they represent the topography of New Zealand. From winding rivers to rolling hills and mountain tops. Each dot reflecting an element from the natural landscape. The veil can also be seen as energy - permeating and influencing our existence as we walk upon the earth that contains the spirits of all those that have walked before us.
Barlow lays this veil over his paintings in an attempt to bring an aesthetic motion that animates, engages and energises the subject, incorporating certain elements so that they are working together and compliment each other. This collaborates our intrinsic connection to the land and reinforces the spiritual essence that sees it as an eternal life source, and connects not only every person, but every thing.
Shows & Awards
2022 - FINALIST: Parkin Drawing Prize - NZ.
2022 - FINALIST: National Contemporary Art Award - NZ.
2022 - FINALIST: Adam Portraiture Prize - NZ.
2021 - FINALIST: Parkin Drawing Prize (Winner People's Choice & Highly Commended) - NZ.
2020 - FINALIST: The Wallace Art Awards - NZ.
2020 - FINALIST: Adam Portraiture Prize (3rd Place People's Choice)- NZ.
2018 - FINALIST: Adam Portraiture Prize (Runner Up People's Choice) - NZ.
2016 - FINALIST: Calleen National Art Prize - Aus.
2023 - SONGS FROM MEMORY: ArtBay Gallery, Queenstown, NZ.
2022 - SOMEWHERE IN-BETWEEN: Boyd-Dunlop Gallery, Napier, NZ.
2019 - RESIDENCY: ArtBay Gallery, Queenstown, NZ.
2016 - DEEPER EARTH: Toi o Tahuna, Queenstown, NZ.
2015 - FROM THE LAND: Kura Gallery, Wellington, NZ.
2022 - PERSPECTIVE: Exhibitions Gallery of Fine Art, Wellington, NZ.
2018 - THE BIG SHOW: ArtBay Gallery, Queenstown, NZ.
2016 - SUMMER SHOW: Toi o Tahuna, Queenstown, NZ.
2015 - AIR NZ AMERICA: Anya Vitali, New York, USA.
2015 - SYDNEY CONTEMPORARY: Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia.
2010 - AOTEAROA: fhe Gallery, Auckland, NZ.
2010 - HEI: Iwi Art, Wellington, NZ.