gorgeousness at Fresh!

16 04 2011

Indigenous Australian photographer Gary Lee’s first international solo exhibition is one of four exciting solo exhibitions taking place within the 2011 South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit. gorgeousness marks Fresh Gallery Otara’s 5th Anniversary, an event at the core of the Summit. We caught up with Gary to find out more about his work, inspiration and plans…


Can you tell us about your exhibition ‘gorgeousness’?

This exhibition is a bit of a ‘snapshot’ (excuse the pun) of my photographic portraits from the past decade. The title came about after I heard a friend use the word in casual conversation, I’d never really heard the word before and it kind of just struck me as a good way to describe my photographs which are mainly concerned with ideas of male beauty in often overlooked places. The idea of ‘gorgeousness’ conveys something that is much more than ‘beautiful’, it’s almost a bit over-the-top but very accessible at the same time, like the way we might fawn over a particularly cute baby or someone with a beaming, totally un-self-conscious smile. I am interested in ‘beauty’ as a concept because it’s so relative and there’s also a sense to me that it can’t be faked, just as my photographs aren’t manipulated in any way. The idea of ‘gorgeousness’ also relates to the sense of colour in these photographs. I’ve always photographed in colour partly because my practice began in India where daily life is such a feast of colour and I could never understand why you’d want to deny this richness by photographing in black-and-white even though there is a bit of a bias, as though black-and-white photos are somehow more artistic. My preference for colour has also been a desire to celebrate the colour of skin, and to highlight differences in skin tone. But in finalising the selection of portraits for this show I was mindful of the overall aesthetic of the image – the colour, the setting/composition, as well as the ‘subject’/the individual – to tease out the ‘gorgeousness’ premise.

Have you exhibited in New Zealand before?

I’ve never exhibited in New Zealand; in fact this will be my very first overseas solo exhibition.  After 20 years of practice, I’m really looking forward to showing my work here and as part of the 2011 South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit too. This exhibition then is something that will be very special to me. The idea for the exhibition came about when Ema Tavola and I met in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, in August 2010.  She had liked my work a lot and I liked her and she asked me could I ever have an exhibition in Auckland?  I was very flattered and I said without hesitation that I’d love to. That’s simply how ‘gorgeousness’ was born.

What’s your attraction to exhibiting at Fresh Gallery Otara in South Auckland?

I like Fresh Gallery Otara because it’s a truly community gallery, not an elitist one at all, and it’s giving me the chance to share my portraiture with everyone. I like that very much as it reflects what I do in my photographs of everyday males.

What inspires you as an artist?

As an artist I am constantly inspired by the beauty of ordinary males of all ages. I look around me at boys or men and I see an indefinable quality in some that makes me reach for my camera. I can’t wait to photograph boys and men in New Zealand 🙂

What else do you want to see and do in Auckland in May?

I would like to soak up as much of the wonderful cultural atmosphere of everything that will be happening during the Summit, get to know Auckland and meet as many local people as I can. I’m also a fairly easy going person and I’m always looking for a chance to take a portrait wherever I go – so I’ll be on the lookout.  I’m so looking forward to coming there in May.

Vinaka vakalevu Gary!

Gary Lee’s solo exhibition gorgeousness runs from 13 May – 25 June at Fresh Gallery Otara, Otara Town Centre, South Auckland.

Join Gary for his exhibition floor talk from 12-2pm on Saturday 14 May – all welcome!

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