skip to main content

2018 Grace Butler Memorial Foundation Award Recipient

Zina Swanson is the inaugural recipient of the Grace Butler Memorial Foundation Award at Ara.

The Grace Butler Memorial Foundation received 42 submissions for the Award and in selecting Zina Swanson the judges also acknowledged and commended the submission received from conceptual artist and contemporary weaver Annie MacKenzie.

The judges were; lecturer in Art History and Theory at the University of Canterbury, Barbara Garrie, artist Jacquelyn Greenbank, and curator at the Christchurch Art Gallery, Peter Vangioni. In selecting Zina Swanson as the recipient the panel commented:

“Amongst a number of very high calibre applications, Zina’s work stood out for her thoughtful engagement with environmental issues and her questioning and cross-examination of our relationship to the natural world. These are important concerns which Zina addresses through sculptural objects, installations and paintings that are often intimate in tone and carry a compelling sense of immediacy. Her works frequently draw on the materials and methodologies of scientific (particularly botanical) enquiry, combining these with her own idiosyncratic reflections on the histories or experiences of place. The experimental attitude of Zina’s practice echoes that of Grace Butler whose own dedication to a developing New Zealand modernism marked her out as a brave and progressive artist. We believe Zina’s work sets a high benchmark for the future of the award."

Zina Swanson graduated from the University of Canterbury's School of Fine Arts in 2004. In 2013 she was the Frances Hodgkins Fellow and in 2014 undertook a month -long residency in New York facilitated by Apexart, Tribecca.   Her work is held in the collections of the Christchurch Art Gallery, University of Canterbury and the Hocken Collection.

She says that the idea for the work she will develop during her residency at Ara came from a large installation she made in 2014 called Dracaena Screen. This installation focused around a screen/curtain made from 11,000 hand-rolled terra-cotta beads.  “Dracaena Screen was the major piece in the exhibition No need for water which marked the end of the completion of the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship.”

“Making Dracaena Screen was my first experience using terra-cotta and the opportunity to push this material further with the support of the Grace Butler Memorial Award is a hugely exciting prospect.”

During the period of her residency Swanson will complete a new series of watercolours and a significant new sculpture in terra cotta bricks of a sofa with a geranium whose roots form the shape of a container in which the plant supports itself.

The Grace Butler Memorial Foundation says that it is “honoured and excited to be supporting the work of contemporary Canterbury artists and for the legacy of Grace Butler to contribute to advancing the visual arts in New Zealand for generations to come.” 

Below a selection of Zina's work.

Click on the image to see a larger view and scroll through.


Zina Swanson, Sons, 2019, rose plants, paper, sculpey 530 x 500 x 120mm

Courtesy the artist and Jonathan Smart Gallery. Photography by Vicki Piper.

From the exhibition, For Vivian, Jonathan Smart Gallery 27th May - 22 June 2019

Zina Swanson, Oak for Vivian, 2019, terracotta, watercolour, metal, glass 1800 x 460 x 380mm , installation image

Image courtesy of the artist and the Jonathan Smart Gallery.  Photograph: Vicki Piper

+ Text Size -