Something in the water

Updated: Mar 7, 2019

For the first time ever, an art exhibition has been shortlisted for the River Story award at the annual Cawthron Foundation River Awards.


The Water Project exhibition installation view with Elizabeth Thomson and Phil Dadson, 2018. Image courtesy of the Ashburton Art Gallery and artists

The Water Project, which aroused strong local feelings, showed at the Ashburton Art Gallery earlier this year. It was art which explored the ‘complexities of water’ in Canterbury and generated ‘passionate visitors who find the discussion around water a difficult one to take part in,’ said exhibition curator Shirin Khosraviani.


For the project, thirteen artists spent a week in the central South Island region engaging with locals, iwi and conservationists. They then created new works to challenge, inspire and bring a new voice to New Zealand’s water issues. The exhibition, which ran for several months in the gallery and was covered in ArtZone#74, engages with water in the 21st century, as both a bringer of life and ancestral voice, but also as a contested commodity.


The ‘little gallery’ was tackling a big issue head on. And people took notice. The Water Project is one of only eight finalists for the award. ‘I naturally got the special bikkies out for afternoon tea when we heard the news!’ said Khosraviani.


‘It’s encouraging to see the arts reach beyond its immediate audience and be recognised and valued in other arenas,’ said the delighted curator. ‘How wonderful too, that for an award that recognises the work done to improve river quality, an exhibition of art was shortlisted! This is further evidence (if anyone needs more) of the crucial role artists play in changing hearts and minds and of connecting with communities.'


The winning River Story will be announced on 13 November.


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