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Shane Cotton

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Shane Cotton (Ngati Rangi, Ngati Hine, Te Uri Taniwha) was born in Upper Hutt in 1964. The intersection of his own Maori and Pakeha heritage is a recurring theme in his work. His paintings blend imagery and iconography from traditional and contemporary sources to reflect on contemporary experience.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Canterbury in 1988, gaining a Diploma in Teaching from Christchurch College of Education in 1991. He was a lecturer at Te Putahi-a-Toi, Maori Visual Arts, Massey University between 1993 and 2005.

Cotton's early paintings were abstract, but in the early 1990s he shifted to a representational style, influenced by the Maori figurative traditions. Often addressing issues around land ownership and preservation of Maori culture, Cotton started combining images from pop culture, art history and traditional stories in his works. These works were characterised by their earthy tones and limited colour palette.

In the early 2000s, he started producing works which were literally and metaphorically darker, evocatively using borrowed imagery from the West, Maori text, images of native New Zealand birds, target icons and moko mokai (decorated human heads).

A major survey of Cotton’s work was exhibited at City Gallery Wellington and Auckland Art Gallery in 2003, accompanied by an extensive catalogue. In 2008 he was named a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate. In 2005 he was New Zealand’s representative at the Prague Biennial, in 2007 his work was included in the 3rd Auckland Biennial at Auckland Art Gallery, and in 2010 he was included in the 17th Biennale of Sydney.

He lives and works in Palmerston North.

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