The Shaman (Red)

Gavin Hipkins (New Zealander, b.1968), Artist 2006 © All rights reserved See full details

Object Detail

Hipkins has produced three of these works – The Shaman (Blue) 2006 in Te Papa’s collection, and this work and The Shaman (Yellow) 2006 were printed in 2017 for inclusion in Gavin Hipkins: The Domain, on show at The Dowse 25 November 2017 -2 April 2018.
The work was included in the exhibition by the curator (Courtney Johnston) as a contrast to Hipkin’s “massed” works, such as the early Falls, The Colony and The Field, all shown in the same gallery as The Shaman (Red) and The Shaman (Yellow). As works made in 2006 but realised for the exhibition in 2017, they were also included to contrast with Hipkins’ most recent works, the Block Paintings, which have a similar approach to cropping and extreme magnification.
Wall label from exhibition:
The inclusion of the Shaman works in The Domain represents another strand of Hipkins’ practice: lush, large-scale depictions of seemingly unremarkable everyday objects.
Hipkins’ interest in photographing small store-bought objects was piqued when he began collecting trinkets—usually cheap, round and tactile— to incorporate into his Fall works. Where in the Falls such items are often chopped or smeared over a number of frames, in these portrait-like works they are isolated, even idolised, by his careful treatment.
The aesthetic of these images capitalises on the inherent seductiveness of photography, and its ability to feed our desire. Hipkins has an appreciation for the late American photographer Irving Penn’s photos for cosmetics brand Clinique, and in the Shaman works we see the hypergroomed aesthetic of high-end editorial photography.
Curator Athol McCredie has drawn a connection between the Shaman works and the theory that photography has the power to find a subject’s ‘true essence’. In the words of 20th century American photographer Edward Weston, the photographer aspired to capture “the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh”. However, the way Hipkins manipulates scale and removes context from these images does not suggest a drive for the quintessential image; instead, once more he seems to be testing photography’s capacity for creating ambiguity.
The Shaman (Red)
Production date
unique C-type print
Credit line
Collection of The Dowse Art Museum, purchased 2017
Accession number