You got to write a song and I got to be in it.

Kate NEWBY (b.1979)
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terracotta tiles
5.45 x 4.4m
Ngā Puhipuhi o Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection, purchased 2021
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'You got to write a song and I got to be in it.' 2021, is a sculptural work by NZ-born, US-based artist Kate Newby. It was made for her exhibition YES TOMORROW, at Adam Art Gallery (20 February – 30 May 2021). This is a floor piece, taking the form of a grid of terracotta tiles laid in a rectangle and installed on the loading dock outside the rear entry to the gallery. The tiles were made by Middle Earth Tiles, the only company in New Zealand to be making tiles from local clay. Newby identified the company because she wanted to work with a local product, and spent time in the factory ‘adjusting’ the un-fired tiles after they had come off the extruding machine. Laying the ‘raw’ tiles on the ground, she ‘drew’ into their surfaces, making abstract marks of various kinds: from pointillist dots to sweeping arcs that left a ‘burr’ of clay, and adding sand and broken glass that melted into the surface during the firing process.

This work is a unique development of the artist’s practice in that it is made with materials and manufacturers local to New Zealand. However, it is also typical of her recent work in that it is an ambitious sculpture designed to hug the ground rather than stand vertically or be separated from the earth on a pedestal. In this regard it follows major works she has made at Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna and on Cockatoo Island for the Biennale of Sydney in 2018.

The sculpture has been conceived to be looked down upon, from various vantage points, but it can also be walked on and studied closely, where the visitor can enjoy the various marks and strokes very much as one might an abstract painting. In her choice of everyday materials and her decision to work horizontally, creating forms that are closely aligned to ordinary features of the built environment, Newby displays her allegiance to a mode of ‘anti-monumental’ sculptural practice that is a conscious rebuttal of traditional sculpture and its ambitions, at the same time creating new connections with her surroundings in a manner that blurs the boundaries between interior and exterior, architecture and art, and drawing attention to collaborative modes of making that challenge the idea of the singular artist-genius.

You can visit this work in the Hunter Courtyard on the Kelburn Campus.

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