Matthew Couper:

Appropriation is a key aspect of our collection and also in our artistic working habits. In art, appropriation is taking bits of present culture and parts of existing art and creating a new artwork out of them. When the old and new are joined successfully, the work takes on a new angle or meaning from the original source. Appropriation is common practice in contemporary art and is often ironic or pointed, providing a new take on existing ideas.

Peter Peryer’s Doodlebug photograph and my V1 photograph and model all reference the German flying bomb from World War II. I visited the Auckland Museum while I was paying off Peter’s photograph and saw the actual Doodlebug that he had photographed. Although Peter’s photograph focuses on the detail of the propulsion system and the swastika, I instantly recognised it as the object in the photograph. After seeing the Doodlebug in its entirety, I decided to make a cardboard-model version and create my own photograph of my model.

Jo’s two photographs use appropriation, but instead of appropriating from a different source, she has used her own imagery. The photograph of Ruby as Little Red Riding Hood appears as a photograph in a book viewed by Jo’s mother. These two works were in an exhibition called Getting Personal at Photospace Gallery, where I first met Jo.

Historical paintings and sculptures are appropriated in the works by Sandra Schmidt, Brian Campbell and Helm Ruifrok. Helm’s copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin and Saint Anne is one of my personal favourites in our collection. I’ve seen the Da Vinci original in the Louvre, and Helm’s version is more mystifying – an ethereal gaze on the faces replaces the focus on the Christ-child in the original. Sandra’s all-over, obsessive ballpoint pen drawing slowly divulges its composition the longer you look at it. John Constable’s well-known Hay Wain painting is transformed into repetitive shards of thousands of blue lines. Brian’s work is a quirky take on a Hellenistic marble sculpture of a hermaphrodite fending off a satyr.

Both Tao Wells’ and Gina Ropiha’s artworks appropriate from older sources but are closer to home. A cutting statement on the vagaries of colonisation, Gina’s work refers to the watercolour by Tupaia, a passenger and artist on Cook’s voyage to the Pacific. Tupaia’s drawing depicts Joseph Banks bartering with a cloaked Maori. Tao’s drawing is a gestural, almost snapshot representation of Colin McCahon’s ubiquitous Necessary Protection series. The fact that it is a five-second dash of line from memory comments on how artists such as McCahon have authored symbols that are instantly recognisable. The labels by each of the works show the sources the artists have appropriated.