ASIA: Art Stories in Aotearoa | Episode 1: Fine Arts

From ASIA: Art Stories in Aotearoa, 6:00 am on 26 April 2022

As New Zealand's cultural landscape expands, artists of Asian heritage are sparking more inclusive conversations through their creative work.

In this short documentary series, 18 Asian-NZ artists from a range of disciplines reflect on how life in Aotearoa informs their work and sense of identity.

In Episode 1, we meet three fine artists whose work transcends gallery walls – sculptor Yona Lee, interdisciplinary artist Yuki Kihara and painter Simon Kaan.

Yona Lee: Strength & Flow

Yona Lee

Yona Lee Photo: Sam Hartnett

Korean-NZ artist Yona Lee creates large-scale metal sculptural installations that are attracting global attention and her reputation is on the rise.

Her work has featured in thematic exhibitions including the 2020 Busan Biennale, Busan, South Korea (2020); 15th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art, Lyon, France (2019); and Changwon Sculpture Biennale, Seoul, South Korea (2016).

She has also exhibited extensively as a solo artist in leading New Zealand art galleries.

Yona developed her highly-regarded In Transit series during her first return visit to Seoul, South Korea to undertake residencies in 2016. Seoul is widely regarded as having the world's most extensive subway system and Lee used that as inspiration to develop a strong sculptural language for her artistic practice and voice.

Yona has built upon and adapted this work for Auckland Art Gallery's upcoming showcase Yona Lee: An Arrangement for 5 Rooms - the artist's most ambitious solo exhibition to date.

Yuki Kihara: Identity and Colonialism

Yuki Kihara

Yuki Kihara Photo: Evotia Tamua

Yuki Kihara is an artist whose interdisciplinary approach seeks to challenge dominant and singular historical narratives through visual arts, dance and curatorial practice, engaging with postcolonial history in the Moana Pacific and representation as they intersect with identity politics, social engagement and climate change.

In 2008, her work was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York - the first time a New Zealander had been the subject of a one-person show at the institution.

Yuki's solo exhibition Paradise Camp (curated by Natalie King) is presented at the NZ Pavilion as part of the 2022 Venice Biennale. She lives and works in Samoa.

Simon Kaan: Placement of Practice

Simon Kaan

Simon Kaan Photo: Justin Spiers

Dunedin-based artist Simon Kaan is a fifth-generation New Zealander of Chinese, Māori (Ngāi Tahu) and Pākeha ancestry.

A renowned painter and printmaker, he has exhibited widely in New Zealand in both public and dealer galleries.

Very influenced by the Otago landscape, Simon is now exploring large-scale outdoor design and helping reflect a greater cultural diversity and revival in Dunedin's urban environment.

In 2020, he designed and created the artwork for the facade of Hotel Ebb, working with leading architects and designers.

In 2004, Simon undertook the Red Gate Gallery Residency in Beijing with the support of Creative New Zealand and through this connected deeply with his Chinese heritage.

Simon's mixed ancestry informs his work. Land, sea and sky images dominate his art pieces, and the waka is a regular motif in his work.

Although distinctly Māori, it also is symbolic of migratory travels and celestial offerings. Simon is represented by Sanderson Gallery.


Kadambari Raghukumar

Kadambari Raghukumar Photo: Supplied

Presenter: Kadambari Raghukumar

Kadambari Raghukumar is an experienced presenter and TV director who was raised by oceanographer parents in Goa on the southwest coast of India and has been living in New Zealand since 2006. During her 14-year media career, she has been a reporter/director for the TVNZ series Asia Downunder and the TV3 series Neighbourhood. Kadambari currently presents Voices - RNZ's weekly series about people from all around the world who now live in Aotearoa New Zealand.



Arani Cuthbert

Arani Cuthbert Photo: Diva Productions

​Producer: Arani Cuthbert

Arani Cuthbert is an award-winning independent producer and the founder of Diva Productions. She is the long-term manager of New Zealand entertainers The Topp Twins. Arani produced TVNZ's top-rating series Topp Country - a three-time winner at the 2018 TV Awards and the hit documentary The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls which won Best Feature at the 2019 Qantas NZ Film and TV Awards. Arani is currently developing a comedy feature film.

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