29 Jan 2024
Visual artist Ella Sutherland is looking forward to showing her work to an Aotearoa audience having recently completed the Creative New Zealand Berlin Visual Arts Residency.
Initially chosen for the opportunity in 2019, she finally arrived in Berlin in 2022 following years of COVID-related delays.
Sutherland returned home to Sydney in late 2023 and New Zealand audiences will have the opportunity to see the work completed in Berlin in Auckland at Sumer Gallery next month.
Reflecting on her time in Germany, Sutherland says one of the things that makes it such a great opportunity is having a full year to dig deeper into the work.
“Time is a very important part of it and that really makes possible a lot of things which usually, in day-to-day life when you're also juggling other commitments, are just way too hard,” she told Creative New Zealand from Sydney.
“Your capacity to arrive and get to know a place and start working and get a feeling of it takes a moment.”
Sutherland’s time in Berlin focused on researching queer archives and exploring the role of historic censorship, culminating in an exhibition at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Argot. (Argot is the slang or dialect of a particular group of people, connected by interest or geography.)
“Germany is so interesting because you have this very, very rich history of producing printed matter, and then you also have very particular histories where that's become very constrained and the kind of ways that that's been worked around,” she says.
“I have worked with some queer archives of printed matter, both in New Zealand and in Australia, and a lot of these histories are starting late 1970s, early 80s. And in Berlin, in particular, this similar kind of material is [from the] 1920s. It was so, so bold and confident and totally radical.”
She says she’s excited to see the reactions her Berlin work gets from a different audience when it’s presented in Tāmaki Makaurau.
“It's nice to be able to have a moment of going back to the work, there'll be some things that I'll change a little bit or add to. I haven't had this experience of re-presenting a show in quite a similar form from somewhere else.
“This context is very familiar in Berlin, it'll be interesting to see what happens when the work is shown in Auckland, thinking about how it's read, what shifts and changes.”
In addition to the Auckland show, Sutherland will be producing a publication extending on the themes of Argot, with plans to return to Berlin to launch it later this year.
The Berlin residency offers a place within the Künstlerhaus Bethanien studio programme and support for an exhibition. It also includes the use of an apartment in the heart of Berlin and the stipend of $40,000 to be used for the artist’s travel, living, and material costs.
Sutherland recommends the experience highly and advises prospective applicants to ensure their proposals are realistic when putting together an application.
“With these kinds of processes often you're directed to, or your intuition is, to suggest everything [in an application].” she says.
“But I think the more realistic, researched and specifically located the better. Because the other thing about Berlin is there are so many artists and so many creative practitioners.”
“So there is the possibility that you arrive and it's quite hard to find the networks you're interested in when you're in the sea of other people who are doing a similar thing.”
The Creative New Zealand Berlin Visual Arts Residency is offered every second year. Multi-disciplinary artist Areez Katki will take up residence at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien later this year.