Heather Straka

ABOUT HEATHER STRAKA

‘Prior to painting portraits,.. artist Heather Straka created ‘personalities’ out of the most unlikely of inanimate objects. For her 2000 exhibition ‘Public and Private’ she investigated issues of sexuality and gender with a series of extremely realistically painted porcelain urinals, individualised with cracks, crazes and stains. She provided conveniences for all occasions and inclinations, with invented manufacturers’ names and buylines ranging from ‘Virtuous China’ and ‘Martyr Ware’ to ‘Queen – Closet Combination’ and ‘Reverence – Canonized China’.

Straka completed a BFA in sculpture at the Elam School of Fine Arts in 1994, followed by an MFA at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts in 2000. The attention to detail that would later characterise her paintings was already apparent, in the pristine surfaces and seamless welded joints of her sculpture, while such titles as ‘The Immaculate Incisions’ and ‘Exquisite Act’ were further hints of things to come. Her move to painting came in the late 1990s when she was working in France as an assistant to artist Julia Morison. Finding it difficult to obtain sculptural materials, Straka turned to pigment and canvas, while another important factor was her visit to a major Rene Magritte retrospective in Brussels.

Straka began exhibiting paintings in 1998, and produced her first real portrait six years later. The Expatriate was based on a well-known image by Sydney Parkinson, whose tattooed Maori was given additional ear ornamentation in the form of an ‘exported’ label. Then followed a series of portraits based on images of Maori by Gottfried Lindauer, now made both saintly and satanic, as well as irreverently rich in religious references. If the nineteenth-century originals were now subject to claims of ownership by descendants of the subjects, Straka’s entitlement to remodel them was her own childhood connection, the Bohemian ancestry she shared with Lindauer. Having ventured onto this potential minefield she then moved to multiculturalism, painting portraits of young women whose morphed Asian and Polynesian features reflected her view of the changing face of Auckland.’

Extracted from:
Wolfe, Richard. New Zealand Portraits. Viking: North Shore. 2008.

In 2000, Heather Straka completed a Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury after graduating in 1994 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland. Between 1997 and 1999, Heather worked as an assistant to the New Zealand artist, Julia Morison.

EDUCATION

2000
Master of Fine Arts, School of Fine Art, University of Canterbury,
Christchurch

1994
Bachelor of Fine Arts, Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, Auckland

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2017
The Strangers’ Room, Trish Clark Gallery, Auckland

2016
The HONEYTRAP returns, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington
X Marks the Spot, Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown

2015
Sombodies Eyes, Trish Clark Gallery, Auckland
The HONEYTRAP, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch

2013
Blood Lust, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
Playdate, Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown
Auckland Art Fair, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington

2012
Playdate, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington
The Noble Savage, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch

2011
The Asian, Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Auckland, and Rotorua Museum, Rotorua

2010
Do Not Resuscitate, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
The Attendants & Do Not Resuscitate, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington
The Asian, Tauranga Art Gallery, Tauranga

2009
Do Not Resuscitate, Blue Oyster Gallery, Dunedin
Lost in Translation, Khunstler Haus, Solothurn, Switzerland
The Sleeping Room, Hocken Gallery, Dunedin

2008
Donor, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
(Life) Still, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland

2007
The Banquet, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland

2006
Selling Happyness, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch

2005
Paradise Lost, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
Paradise Revisited, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland

2004
First Impressions, Milford Gallery, Dunedin

2003
Joker, Janne Land Gallery, Wellington
The Game, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland
Untitled exhibition, Gallery Via, Prague

2002
Roxburgh Classics, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch

2001
No Subject Specified, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland
Wallflower, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
Manufacturing Roxburgh, Janne Land Gallery, Wellington
Not Seen to be Staring, Madame & the Bastard (pseudonym), Janne Land Gallery, Wellington

2000
Public & Private, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
Imported Whiteware, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland

1999
Stain, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland
Not Seen to be Staring, Madame & the Bastard (pseudonym), Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch

1998
Courtesy of Docteur L Guyot, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland

1996
Room 101, Teststrip Gallery, Auckland

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2014
Group Exhibition, Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown

2013
Group Show, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington

2011
Small Things, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch

2010
Forever After: Conversations with the Past, Hocken Gallery, Hocken Collections, Dunedin

2009
Beloved: Works from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin
Landscapes, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington

2008
Wallace Art Awards, touring exhibition Auckland and Wellington

2007
Paheka Now, The Suter Gallery, Nelson

2006
Group exhibition, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland
Group exhibition, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Auckland

2004
Landscapes, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland

2002
ROSL Touring Scholars exhibition, London and Edinburgh

2001
Recent Acquisitions, Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch

2000
Group exhibition, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland
Recent Acquisitions, University of Canterbury, Christchurch
Group exhibition, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
Group exhibition, Janne Land Gallery, Wellington

1999
Visa Gold Art Award, touring exhibition Auckland and Wellington
Group exhibition, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland

1997
Laying it on Thick, Artspace, Auckland

1995
150 Ways of Loving, Artspace, Auckland

1993
Adgenda, Artspace, Auckland

AWARDS & RESIDENCIES

2009
Artist’s Residency, Altes Spital Solothurn, Switzerland

2008
Frances Hodgkins Fellow, University of Otago, Dunedin

2002
Pierce Lowe Award for excellence in painting, Royal Overseas League, London
Creative New Zealand Project grant

2001
Travel scholarship for a Commonwealth artist to represent New Zealand, Royal Overseas League, London
Ethel Susan Jones Fine Art Travelling Scholarship, School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury
Artist in Residence, Rangi Ruru Girls High, Christchurch

2000
Visiting artist, Nelson Polytechnic
Ethel Rose Overton Scholarship, University of Canterbury