20/20: words of wisdom

Wayne Youle

15 December 2019 - 29 March 2020

Twenty years ago Wayne Youle participated in his first art exhibition at a newly opened Pātaka Art Gallery and Museum here in Porirua. In the years since, he has established a reputation as one of our country’s leading contemporary artists. 

The artworks in 20/20: words of wisdom reflect on important life lessons that Wayne Youle has learnt over these past two decades. In the exhibition you will see a number of early works where Youle has not held back in deconstructing and interrogating his own bicultural heritage as an artist of Māori and Pākehā ancestry. Many of these early artworks draw inspiration from a range of contemporary art and pop culture references from Youle’s childhood, such as Gordon Walters’ famous koru paintings, or the shower-curtain Halloween costume from the cult classic movie Karate Kid (1984). These seemingly disparate influences speak to the cultural politics and personal identity of Wayne Youle as a child of the 1970s and 80s.

Other pieces in the exhibition reflect on works made since the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, noting a shift in focus away from Youle’s own personal identity politics towards an engagement with family and the communities that surround them. Insights gleaned from his children, parents and mentors begin to appear in the titles of these recent works, marked also by a noticeable progression towards more complex and labour-intensive art practices.

Throughout the exhibition Wayne Youle has placed short written statements about certain artworks which speak to some of the key lessons that he has explored in his art over the past twenty years. These are intimate tales, words of wisdom passed down to the artist from his elders, and from him on to his children. Other works provide a hint as to their significance through the title and imagery, but you the viewer are left to deduce the meaning through your knowledge and life experiences. 

Artist biography

Wayne Youle (Ngāti Whakaeke, Ngapuhi, Pākehā) was born in Porirua in 1974. Attending Mana College, he was an avid athlete playing rugby for the Norths Football Club and competing nationally and internationally with the Titahi Bay Surf Lifesaving Club. Graduating from Wellington Polytechnic School of Design with a Bachelor of Design in Typography in 1999, he participated in his first art exhibition here at Pātaka and held his first solo exhibition at City Gallery Wellington in the same year. In 2001 he was included in the landmark Māori digital art survey exhibition Techno Maori: Maori Art in the Digital Age that was shown simultaneously across Pātaka and City Gallery Wellington. Other notable shows from this period include Telecom Prospect 2004: New Art New Zealand at City Gallery Wellington, and Young Maori Contemporary Artists at the Sarjeant Gallery in Whanganui in 2004 and 2005. In 2009 Pātaka presented Youle’s ten year survey exhibition 10 Down.

Recent solo exhibitions include AJAR at COCA Toi Moroki in Christchurch (2018), Strangely Familiar: Portraits by Wayne Youle at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery in Wellington (2018) and Look Mum no Hands at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu (2017). Major artist residencies include the Colin McCahon House Residency (2019), the Friends of Pātaka Residency (2014), the SCAPE / Artspace Residency in Sydney (2012), the Rita Angus Residency and the Wellesley College Residency (2011). His work are included in major private and public collections such as the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the Chartwell Collection at Auckland Art Gallery, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, the James Wallace Arts Trust, Pātaka Art + Museum and the Wellington City Council.

In 2003 Youle moved to the North Canterbury town of Amberley with his partner Kelly McKay. They have three children named Kupa (11), Arai (9) and Tohu (4). His parents still live in Porirua, and family continues to be a major influence on his art.

Wayne Youle is represented by {Suite} Art Gallery in Wellington and Michael Reid Gallery in Sydney and Berlin.

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20/20: words of wisdom catalogue book & Exhibition texts