Richard Lewer: Collective Memory


exhibition Details

Richard Lewer’s art frequently explores how specific locations become repositories or emotional signposts of shared events. In his New Zealand Disasters sequence of paintings, Lewer re-works the panoramic format of landscape paintings to envisage unforgettable traces left within New Zealand’s landscape and traumatic events in its history.  In doing so, Lewer explores how our relationships and responses to specific places become shaped by the ‘imaginative geographies’ formed by life-changing and unexpected occurrences.

Read from left to right the seven panels chronologically chart a series of New Zealand disasters: the Napier earthquake (1931); the Tangiwai train derailing (1953); the sinking of the Wahine (1968); the Air New Zealand Flight 901 crash at Mt Erebus (1979), the Christchurch earthquake; and the Whakaari/White Island volcanic eruption (2019).

Painted as a series of fragments, the sequence relies upon, and is activated by, the subjective and personal responses which local audiences bring to the artwork’s revisioning and remembering of place and event.

The suburban love story of Herbert Erickson, a Perth-based pensioner, who survived a suicide pact with his wife only to die soon after by drowning himself, prompted Richard Lewer to draw, colour and narrate this animation which addresses a real-life tragedy. Tender and troubling, the video raises issues about love and euthanasia. The title quotes Erikson, who told reporters outside court: ‘I want to be with my partner really, but I’m still here, worst luck.’

Using an overhead projector to create the visuals, Lewer narrates the senior citizen’s tragic story which gives the video animation a tender and personal reality. Reflecting on the work, he commented: ‘Tragic everyday storytelling is something that I have always gravitated towards.’


About Richard Lewer

Richard Lewer is a New Zealand-born artist who has been based in Melbourne, Australia, for many years. He initially trained in painting at the University of Auckland Elam School of Fine Arts from 1989 to 1992, and then was awarded a Master of Visual Arts at the University of Melbourne Victorian College of the Arts in 2000.

Lewer has presented solo exhibitions in New Zealand and Australia and his artwork is represented in many public and private collections. He utilises video and animation, painting and drawing, as well as audio and performance in the creation of his works, which explore issues of everyday life, personal relationships and significant public and private events.


Artwork credits:


Richard Lewer (born1970), New Zealand
New Zealand Disasters 2020
oil and epoxy coated steel, copper, and brass
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2020.


Richard Lewer (born 1970), New Zealand
Worse Luck I Am Still Here 2013
HD blue ray animation, 4.50 min
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
gift of the artist and {Suite} Gallery, 2020.

Curated by
Ron Brownson
Mace D Gallery, Ground Level.

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