Still Life with Argot
Auckland, 2024

Still Life with Argot
, 2024, Installation view: Sumer

Extract from exhibition press release:

It is easy to be in the presence of Sutherland’s work, with their bold, simple, and rhythmic forms, and vibrant yet harmonious palette. However, such simplicity belies the challenge in making sense of them; in attempting to decode and correlate the labyrinthine threads of reference that the artist weaves within her works. 

A Letter, a litter II, 2023, letterpress on handmade paper, spring steel tape measures, 80 x 97 x 12.5 cm

If one looks to the origin of the word argot, they will see its basis in the French, as “the jargon of Paris rogues and thieves (for purposes of disguise and concealment)” [1]. And that the artist chose to use an image of dominos [2] to advertise her show in Berlin is something of a ludic tell. These are meant as games, or puzzles.

Still Life with Back Issues II–VI, 2023, Acrylic on canvas, aluminium frame, pigment print, lacquered wood plinth, 82 x 67 cm painting; 25 x 140 x 120 cm overall

Recent bodies of work feature far ranging subjects, including modern politics, economics, meteorology, print technology, among many others. And such references, as wide as they might be, are always situated in relation to a set of key subjects, nay luminaries, which inform or reflect her own identity as a queer woman [3].

Devil's Printer, 2023, letterpress on paper 42 x 29.7 cm

Still Life with Back Issues I, 2023, Acrylic on canvas, aluminium frame, pigment print, lacquered wood plinth, 82 x 67 cm painting; 25 x 140 x 120 cm overall

In her ostensibly abstract works, Sutherland uses borrowed text and images. Obfuscated, they serve principally as compositional devices for the artist, yet a spectral presence remains. Playfully, they interrogate the presentation and dissemination of information; and pull apart the formal, material, and technological conditions of language. Or the artist herself would have it, they “consider the possibilities and the vulnerabilities of communication” [4].

[1] ‘Argot’, Online Etymology Dictionary, (accessed 26/01/2024)
[2] An image, I have been told, which was lifted from the cover of a children’s book which the artist found on a Berlin Street.
[3] Signifcantly, key works within this exhibition draw heavily from Die Freundin. Produced in Berlin between 1924 and 1933, this publication is widely considered the first lesbian magazine. (It was discontinued shortly after the National Socialists came to power in January, 1933.) Copies of the periodical are held in the collection of Schwules Museum, Berlin. Schwules Museum is a museum and research centre with collections focusing on LGBTQ+ history and culture.
[4] Quoted from the artist’s written notes.

Studio Still Life I, 2023, Acrylic on linen, 100 x 90 cm; Studio Still Life II, 2023, Acrylic on linen, 100 x 90 cm

Studio Still Life III, 2023, Acrylic on linen, 100 x 90 cm

Light Camp Furniture

Ella Sutherland, with daniel ward
24 pages, 29.7 x 21 cm
2024, Ed. of 150
ISBN 978-0-6480427-2-3


All Photos: Sumer

Künstlerhaus Bethanien
Berlin, 2023

Argot, 2023, Installation view: Künstlerhaus Bethanien

The following text is from a letter by daniel ward, commissioned by Contemporary Hum on the occasion of Argot opening at Künstlerhaus Bethanien.

Read Dear Ella by daniel ward

entering the archive and approaching its materials, i noticed the similarity to entering your own exhibition. in both rooms, at first, i was overwhelmed by all of the objects in their neat, grand order. i tend to behave within these semi-formal settings (libraries, galleries, museums) with a particular self-consciousness. perhaps there’s something to say about their mannered seduction, also. each time i pulled out a book, as each time i arrived to a new work within the gallery, i found myself careful and attentive; receptive but cautious and polite, as if to adopt the personality of the bookshelves or walls themselves. however, once given the distance and time required to land in either space, there was, of course, a wonderful opportunity for confidence and inquiry.

Still Life with Back Issues, 2023, acrylic on canvas, pigment print on plinth; 4 parts, 82 x 67 cm (painting, framed); 110 x 95 cm (print)

what i noticed first, ascending the stairs to your exhibition in the upper-floor gallery, were the four poster-sized canvases resting face-up atop the short, heavy plinths. the sculptural characteristics of the paintings were heightened immediately as i arrived first to their edges. the placement of the canvases mirrored the tossed movement of the painted orange and white A4 sheets littered across them. i found the hard-edge painting style surprisingly evocative, the colours booming and clerical. as we circled the paintings i noticed the blurring of black-and-white-scanned bodies printed on the upward-facing surfaces of the plinths, their simple forms almost completely covered by the bright stationery canvases. questions about what was hidden underneath soon arose, followed by questions about why these forms were hidden. were they even figures at all? later—seeing the full images revealed both during your de-install and across the covers of the archived periodicals from which they came—this decision to obscure our view as an audience becomes more potent. as we discussed, what we see are remnants of the magazine Die Freundin (The Girlfriend), one of the many publications housed at the Schwules Museum archive.

Still Life with Back Issues, 2023, acrylic on canvas, pigment print on plinth; 4 parts, 82 x 67 cm (painting, framed); 110 x 95 cm (print)

A letter, a litter, 2023, letterpress on paper, plastic coated steel; 2 parts, 67 x 43 cm (print); approx. 130 x 150 cm (overall)

as the title suggests—A letter, a litter (2023)—you deliver us a spirited hint towards language’s potential. the scattered shape of the poem offers room for inquiry or perhaps even reverie between or within the words themselves. in these structures there is a jagged exploration of rhythm, as different fonts and sizes direct the melody of the verse sporadically. thematically, although it oscillates between a lounging, speculative narrator and snippets of found text and annotation, it holds a curious disposition throughout.
the letterpress embarks on a longer journey than, say, the laser printer may. to select each letter as its own object of astonishment. in the poem the letter “e” appears ninety-six times, with “g” more reserved at twenty-two. “j”, “x” and “z” are the only letters to appear just once, but ensure that each letter of the alphabet is represented at least somewhere across the paper. i’m sure you knew this; how could one not try each of the twenty-six tiny ideas. these solitary wands of meaning we cast into an oceanic form. again, the pace inherent in both the methodology and the technology has informed the pace of the work itself. the letterpress allows for seamless reproduction and, here in Germany, became the first way of doing so. however, the inefficiency of this device is where its poetry is housed.

A letter, a litter, 2023,(detail), letterpress on paper, plastic coated steel; 2 parts, 67 x 43 cm (print); approx. 130 x 150 cm (overall)

you wield contrast similarly in your decision to hang the print Furniture Arrangement (2023) on the adjacent wall. here we see no letters at all, but rather marks made from the metal furniture blocks used to position the letters on the press. the tool itself is seen here writing its own memoir. the hurried curves of the paper squeezed between strips of thin white framing, chasing itself up the wall. when i came close to the paper i noticed miniature hidden scrawlings on the prints made from dust and scratches caught mummified by pressure and ink atop the blocks, call them hieroglyphs of disruption.

Furniture Arrangement, 2023, (detail), letterpress on paper, spring steel tape measure; 8 parts, 50 x 70 cm (print); approx. 300 x 80 cm (overall)

among these marks i see the letter “z”, a triangle, a diagram of acuteness, something nearly infinity and many short sharp arrows. these simple metal structures some 600 years ago became the very objects that would replace a whole industry of scribes—their nuance and craft rendered inefficient by a stampede of reproducible symbols and ideas. soon enough our role as publishers would be deemed necessary in order to perform the strange role of administrative grim reaper, guiding the lived history of ideas into the resting place of the page.

Death at the Printers, 2023,biro on paper, hyperinflation issue stamps; 3 parts, 50 x 40 cm framed each

Death at the Printers (2023) depicts snippets of reproduced drawings from the French publication Danse Macabre (1499); the first known illustration of a printing press. the full image depicts a figure of death collecting the souls of a printer and a bookseller, both of which you have reproduced within frames floating over the burgundy ground of the work. you contrast these biro drawings with neatly displayed hyperinflation-issue stamps from Germany from the early 1920s. here we can see original printed values of 200 Deutsche Marks covered by stamps reading 200,000 or those once costing 5,000 newly valued at two million marks. the presentation of these simple documents so peacefully illustrates the tenacious momentum of human society. the exhibition suspends itself within the pervasive tension of ideas and technology.

Two views of Fanfare at Work, 2023, acrylic on canvas; 2 parts, 120 x 100 cm each

the exactness of your paintings is both alluring and commanding, dominating the whole right-hand flank of the room. in Two Views of Fanfare at Work, detached aeroplane propellers float between cartoon construction diagonals. perfect circles tease the angles of edible triangles. the paintings really are closer to signwriting than most contemporary painting i have engaged with. hence, their seduction is unavoidable. i can only assume that the erotic character of design that Dodge speaks of is paramount to its success. would you agree? advertising wants to be sexy and here a painting that wants to be an advertisement is no exception.

Argot, 2023, Installation view: Künstlerhaus Bethanien

there is a pervasive sense of duty that seems inseparable from your work, having consulted archives consistently across your writing and art practice. certainly this intuitive response to research has a long history within queer art, largely shaped by the continual suppression, loss and destruction of both queer material and people alike. there is both a caution and generosity that governs your engagement with historical material, whether it’s printing technology or periodicals from the Schwules Museum archive. however, what seems to carry as a central understanding of your work is that these materials are as much the literal history itself as they are symbols for deeper and more complex histories. suggestions of sorts. certainly, there is a lived history that will always go undocumented.

Photos: David Brandt and Ella Sutherland

Speaker of the House
Melbourne, 2022

Speaker of the House, 2022, Installation view: FUTURES

Humours of an Election, 2022 acrylic on linen, 76 x 66 x 2 cm

Extract from exhibition press release:

For Speaker of the House, Sutherland considers politics in an abstract manner, focussing on the systems by which decisions are recorded, collated and archived. Through this process, two characters emerge: the speaker and the voter. The design of paper ballots and parliamentary architecture is used by the artist as compositional devices which is interrupted with 'bad' data, shapes, numbers and forms; elements that relate to the more volatile participants active within this system.

Saturday, 2022, acrylic on linen, 106.6 x 96.5 x 2 cm

House Party I-III, 2022 acrylic on linen, 76 x 66 x 2 cm (each)

Sutherland’s work speaks to artistic traditions such as post-painterly abstraction, yet the works also contain the clear and unmistakable use of type as compositional scaffolding. Her use of typography flits between the literal means of communication, characters in themselves, andabstract ideas. This use of language and graphic form creates an immediacy of viewing – a direct route to the retina – which is then complicated by layering as a compositional constraint. This process is reflective of graphic design and typography while also referencing a screen culture where information is structured through graphical formats in a never-ending flow.

Questions on Notice, 2022; Secret Ballot, 2022; Spoilt (Donkey), 2022:  all acrylic on linen, 76 x 66 x 2 cm

The House Divided, 2022 acrylic on linen, 106.6 x 96.5 x 2 cm

All Photos: FUTURES

Review by Cameron Hurst for MeMO Review

At Once Bridge and Chasm
Tauranga, 2022

At Once Bridge and Chasm, 2022, Installation view: Sumer

Extract from exhibition press release:

Sutherland views this body of work as a series of vignettes, relating to modern ideas of communication. Behind Sutherland’s work sits a deep appreciation of social histories, of writing, and of books in themselves. In her work she melds and reimages a variety of recorded histories (both visual and textual), which reflect and illuminate her lived experience: as an artist, as a queer woman, and more universally, as a person living in a time dominated by forms of digital communication. The objects and texts that she references are multifarious; they reach back through time, connecting the archaic and modern with the present.

Strata, 2022, acrylic on linen, 91.4 x 76.2 cm

There is a deliberate queering in Sutherland’s work. Objects are suggestive, veiled, folded, partial in view. She often speaks of the expression of “turning away”, and “refusal”.* A negation of normativity, at least in terms of what is deemed convention or tradition; the presupposed ‘rules’. (Though admitted, such ‘rules’ have always been a somewhat suspect notion when applied to the avant-garde.) In previous works, as here, Sutherland choses to predominantly focus upon (iconic and aberrant) examples of European modernism from within the realm of architecture rather than art, wherein its doctrine and principles are more strictly and forcefully codified—not to mention overtly masculine and sexist—both in terms of theory and practice.

Index, 2022, acrylic on linen, 91.4 x 71.1 cm

Exchange, 2022, acrylic on linen, 91.4 x 71.1 cm

Notably we see Sutherland’s paintings acutely manifesting simultaneity – or as suggested by the exhibition title – the dualism of communication.** The ‘things’ in her paintings, whilst often partially obscured, can be seen as operating both literally, as objects (i.e. a typeface or French curve), and figuratively, as representations (i.e. as a landform, a cloud, a curtain or a body, or rather, bodies). They oscillate between these two states constantly.

Medium, 2022, Acrylic on linen, 91.4 x 76.2 cm

Spectre, 2022, Acrylic on linen, 91.4 x 76.2 cm

Furthermore, her active use of metaphor and allegory is an aspect of the paintings which seems altogether honest and simple—in so much that it reflects our broader collective understanding of art. That is to say, that art is understood as being intrinsically contextual, connected and fluid. Inherently oblique, the paintings carry a richness of references for those who choose to delve deeper, for those that choose to care. And significantly, the modality in Sutherland’s work, also mirrors one of queer culture (both historical and current). And so too it may be of little surprise then as to why art is so often generally viewed with an air of suspicion by social and political conservates—for being something which is inherently destabilizing and possibly dangerous, especially when it is also embodies a certain allure of beauty, sex and verve. – Sumer

*Love, Heather. 2007. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England: Harvard University Press.
**Peters, John Durham. 2012. Speaking into the air: a history of the idea of communication. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Courier, 2022 Acrylic on linen 91.4 x 76.2 cm

Symposium 1, 2022, Acrylic on linen, 121.9 x 101.6 cm

Symposium 2, 2022, Acrylic on linen, 121.9 x 101.6 cm

All Photos: Dan du Bern

Things That Shape Us
Curated by Melanie Oliver
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū
Christchurch, 2021

Composition for two planes, 2021, silkscreen on paper, 3 parts, 106.5 x 76.5 cm each

Extract from exhibition press release:

Composition for two planes uses the base isolation system of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū as a framework to think about the fluidity of ideas and potential for movement. The base isolators installed under the Gallery after the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes allow force to pass through them, moving with the building during an earthquake, decoupling the building from the ground and allowing a slow, rolling movement. A common way to depict planned movement is through the choreographic or musical score, a set of instructions for performers to interpret. Adopting this visual language of the score here, Ella Sutherland speculates on the Gallery’s seismic future, how it might move with any turbulence, suggesting this could be conceptual as well as physical movement.

Photo: John Collie

Pīpīwharauroa Shining Cuckoo
Sumer + Laree Payne Gallery
TENT New Art Weekend, Aotearoa Art Fair
Tauranga, 2021

Small Dance II, 2021, acrylic and flashe on linen, 76 x 66 cm

Small Dance I, 2021, acrylic and flashe on linen, 51 x 51 cm

Small Dance III, 2021, acrylic and flashe on linen, 96.5 x 96.5 cm

All Photos: Dan du Bern

Every Artist
Curated by Aaron Lister
City Gallery Wellington
Wellington, 2021

Sirens, 2021, acrylic on marine ply, twelve parts: 60 x 80 x 2 cm (each)

Extract from exhibition press release:

Framed by the narrative arc of Odysseus and his struggle against looking back, Sirens considers the idea of backwardness as directional impulse, a tradition in queer representation and as a negative association. The work draws on existing research on a group of non-heterosexual historical figures (architect Eileen Gray, writer Natalie Barney, and artist Djuna Barnes) to gather minor feelings, such as refusal, as a backward repository of making. These histories  become conduits to think through the impulse of queer practices to feel backward to histories – which despite often being marked by disconnection, loss and shame – maintain a significance that has been long subsumed by modern art’s relentless drive to propel culture forward.

Sirens (detail), 2021 

The forms depicted in Sirens are based on letter fragments from books in Sutherland’s library related to Gray, Barney, and Barnes. This strategy recalls Anne Carson’s description of the fragment in relation to her translation of Sappho: “A fragment releases us from time and space, from rectilinear complacency, from the noise of our own expectations into a different dark lacuna, a stillness of study that is possibly fathomless.” The splicing of these narratives with historical figures-as-fragment teases out the possibilities of a queer historical structure and reflects on what it means for an artist to embrace a legacy of damaged or refused agency.

History at Night, 2021, acrylic on wall, dimensions variable. Wall painting: Ana Iti

The City Gallery installation also reflects on traces and echoes of the previous life of this gallery as the ‘The New Zealand Room’ of the Wellington Central Library. Scrambling these different modes of knowledge exchange, the works draw out the ways that marginalised histories travel through time via both typographic fragments and built space.  The wall painting, History at Night, calls forth one of the generous windows designed to pour light into the space, now subsumed by the gallery walls.

Gloss, 2021, wax, found lock, desk c1940, originally made by Billiards Limited for Wellington Central Library

As with previous work, Gloss continues a suspicion of stable legacies. Nestled into one of the Library’s few remaining original desks is a broken lock found outside Sutherland’s Sydney studio, confidently positioned as a leitmotif for the wider project. The lock sits in a green wax panel, cast from the door of the desk, suggestive of a wax tablet, an early technology of written communication. 

Installation view: City Gallery Wellington

All Photos: Harry Culy

Whether the Weather
as part of No Show
ANKLES at Carriageworks
Sydney, 2021

Whether the Weather, 2021, installation view: ANKLES at Carriageworks

Extract from exhibition press release:

Framed by various physical, archival and conceptual threads related to the ‘the broadcast’ and ‘the forecast’, Whether the Weather combines wide-ranging research in the field of communication with the poetic potential of the weather.

Becoming Cyclonic, 2021 acrylic on linen, 79 x 69 x 4.2 cm (framed)

Good, Occasionally Poor, 2021 acrylic on linen, 79 x 69 x 4.2 cm (framed)

Drawing on visual and material languages often associated with these systems, Whether the Weather explores the capacity of the forecast and the broadcast to record, translate and distribute that which often resists: the weather or words.

A Measure, 2021 cedar, paper, biro, 42 x 30 x 1.6 cm

The General Situation, 2021 acrylic on linen, 69 x 53 x 4.2 cm (framed)

The Heralds, 2021 offset printing plate,
three plates, each 103 x 80 cm

All Photos: Jessica Maurer

Housepainting I + II
Centre of Contemporary Art Toi Moroki
Christchurch, 2021

House Painting I, 2021 acrylic on wall, dimensions variable

Extract from exhibition press release:

Informed by recent research on the relationship between modernist architecture and social and cultural histories, House Painting I + II draws on an ongoing interest as to the ways in which the built environment, social space and language take form.

House Painting I + II takes cue from Christchurch Style architecture—CoCA’s iconic Brutalist building, designed by Minson, Henning-Hansen and Dines, being one such example. The work considers the legacy of these iconic modernist designs and how they function in the present.

House Painting II, 2021 acrylic on wall, dimensions variable

Visually, the form of the work echoes that of a scaffold: strong vertical and horizontal planes connected by oblique diagonals. This structure is also reflected in the work’s titling. House Painting I + II adopts scaffolding as both an idea and an object: as a temporary structure aiding in the construction and renovation of buildings; as the letters of an alphabet providing the framework for language; and more broadly, as a generic structure which supports other people, ideas or objects.

House Painting II (detail), 2021 acrylic on wall, dimensions variable

Within the work two words are obscurely scribed: “ACT” and “– OR”. When joined, we see it become the word actor: as performer on stage, screen, or page; or rather, a generic object which plays a role within a system—something which could be either human or machine.

All Photos: John Collie

Tauranga, 2020

FOLDS, 2020, installation view: Sumer

Body Language (Type Set), 2020 acrylic on linen, two panels, 152.5 x 86.5 cm (each); 152.5 x 186 cm (overall)

Place Holder (Class), 2020 acrylic on linen, 152.5 x 86.5 cm

Place Holder (Act), 2020 acrylic on linen, 152.5 x 86.5 cm

Some Transgression, 2020 acrylic on linen, 122 x 91.5 cm

As in the Tide: Pleats
, 2020 acrylic on linen, 122 x 91.5 cm

Neither Window or a Wall, 2020, acrylic on linen, two panels, 152.5 x 86.5 cm (each); 152.5 x 173 cm (overall)

Living-room D'or, 2020 acrylic on linen, 91.5 x 122 cm

All Photos: Dan du Bern


Friendship as a Way of Life
Curated by José Da Silva and Kelly Doley
UNSW Galleries
Sydney, 2020

Glyph, a body, 2020, pigment ink on Fabriano Rosaspina paper, powder coated steel; 15 parts 80 x 664 x 80 x 15cm overall

Extract from exhibition press release:

Glyph, a body explores a threshold between the body and the mechanisation of a typeface. It takes as its basis the early production history of the Australian magazine Wicked Women. Celebrated for challenging the expectations of lesbian feminism, Sutherland was interested in how the magazine also created a relationship between the page and the social context surrounding its production.

Glyph, a body (detail), 2020

Early editions of the magazine were hand typed by editors Jasper Laybutt and Lisa Salmon on a broken typewriter with a faulty ‘w’ key. Each time the letter was used in the copy, the authors were forced to use a finger to put pressure on the key to print it legibly. For Sutherland, this letter form and printing process is representative of both the pressure of DIY publishing and the stress of a body working to make itself visible. The prints include a range of ‘w’ forms collected from the first issue of the magazine, reproduced at a scale that amplifies the form into smoky, ghostly shapes. They are installed with flat bars that hold the paper in place at a reduced width, causing each print to bow out from the wall.

SALT is a collaborative artwork comissioned by UNSW Galleries for  Friendship as a Way of Life.

Taking the form of a decorative display font, SALT is comprised of found letterforms collected by 26 contributors connected to Sutherland’s queer landscape.

SALT works against the shaping of standardise form to instead consider the capacity of letters to embody queer experience. In this light, we may read the characters of SALT as both a system of shapes for communication, and a network of moments: each holding the conceptual and material conditions of design, and the experience of reading.

Download SALT

All Photos: Zan Wimberley


Auckland Art Fair 
Virtual Fair, 2020

Letters, 2020, installation view: Sumer

Extract from exhibition press release:

Equal parts historiography and explication of form, Letters delves into the intricacies of public and private language. Tracing a path toward alternative queer histories, Sutherland draws on the sensibilities of clandestine correspondence, medieval illumination and vernacular design to position covert and connective movements across language and through time.

The primary touchstones for the series of paintings Letters are the archival records of per-sonal correspondence exchanged between three female luminaries from the history of English-language literature and their closest female ‘confidantes’; Emily Dickinson and Susan Gilbert, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. In these documents, Sutherland looks to the exchange of sensation and intimacy–that are simulta-neously figured and vibrant, and surreptitiously concealed–to consider letterforms and the epistolary notes that house them as pivotal channels for ‘fugitive’ desire.

Gertrude, 2020, acrylic on linen, 122 x 91.5cm

Emily, 2020, acrylic on linen, 122 x 91.5cm

Citing the initials of each eminent pairing (excepting Susan Gilbert who remains a silent partner on the historical record), Sutherland’s paintings articulate landscapes in which let-terforms have become figures, the limbs of type taking on postures that allude to emotion, memory and life. Recurring motifs suggest interiors, thresholds and the accoutrements of concealment; doors, screens and windows fluctuate with foliage and cloud forms, conjuring atmospheres or environments in which one might be hidden in plain sight. This treatment of pictorial space echo’s the illuminated manuscripts of the medieval period, in which decora-tive letterforms were embellished with flora, fauna, human figures, and patterning, to situate the flourishing of elemental and heavenly worlds beyond the confines of the text. Letters is not shy of the long arc of these reference points, preferring a slippery continuum between page and skin (vellum), gesture and word, and connotations of love that are at once both earthly and divine.

Character Study, 2020, pigment inks on cotton rag, 115.5 x 84 cm

Considered in this light, the page as a formal device becomes a vector for a wealth of hidden lifeways. Sutherland’s reparative approach to queer genealogy underscores the idea that, at their most expansive, letters are poetic instruments capable of generating move-ment, agency, furtive communities and power. This is gestured to directly in the largest of the suite of works, What is a Letter? ; mirroring the graphic and poetic methodologies that have shaped the artists approach, abstract page forms curve and fold, stack and stretch their spines open, suggesting the transformation of knowledge across eras and forms. With Letters, Sutherland elevates the craft of concealment to a form of portraiture in itself, me-morialising the shifting legibility of language and lovers, as the codes themselves slip in and out of focus.

Elle Loui August, April 2020

All Photos: Jessica Maurer and Dan du Bern

Vita, 2020, acrylic on linen, 122 x 91.5cm


Recto Verso
Auckland, 2019

Movement in Successive Phases (A), Movement in Successive Phases (B), 2019,
flexographic plate, framed, 42 x 59.4cm (plate, each)

Extract from exhibition press release:

Engaging materials ordinarily hidden in the production of the multiple, Recto Verso employs the physical components of printing technology to explore the material and poetic quality of mechanical print production.

Recto Verso, 2019, installation view: Objectspace

The works continue an interest in the ongoing development of visible language systems that employ universal and idealised forms. 

Mechanick Exercises, 2019, magnesium block mounted on plywood, 29.7 x 21 x 2.3cm

Recto Verso, 2019, installation view: Objectspace

Smoke Screen, 2019, dye sublimation print on silk screen mesh, framed, 52.5 x 37cm (print)

All Photos: Samuel Hartnett

Recto Verso considers politics of visibility– addressing how and by whom information is seen, and considers how the evolution of printing technologies have impacted the dissemination of thought.

Paragraph One, 2019, risograph print on risograph master, framed, 48 x 31cm (print)

Paragraph Two, 2019, risograph print on risograph master, framed, 48 x 31cm (print)

Printed by Aaron Beehre, Ilam Press
Photos: Dan du Bern

Paragraph Three, 2019, risograph print on risograph master, framed, 48 x 31cm (print)


with Adam Cruickshank, Will Holder, Olaf Nicolai, Roma Publications, Batia Suter
Curated by Warren Taylor
Monash University Museum of Art
Melbourne, 2019

Five Readings, 2018, silkscreen on paper, 5 parts: 76.2 x 55.8cm (sheet, each) 

Extract from exhibition press release:

Organised by Warren Taylor, Bookworks brings six leading artists, graphic designers, book-makers and publishers together to explore the materials, procedures, ambitions, economies and critiques around art publishing.

Time if You Are Paper, 2017, offset lithograph, 106 x 66cm (sheet). 

The term ‘bookworks’ was first used in the 1960s to refer to inexpensive, mass-produced books conceived and designed by artists and published independently in large or unlimited editions. Distinct from the traditional and precious ‘art object’, the book became a legitimate medium for conceptual artists, operating as:


All photos: Christian Capurro


Wall Painting
Enjoy Contemporary Art Space
Wellington, 2019

Wall Painting for various projected works, (Tim Wagg); Wall Painting for Ruth Buchanan, (David Ed Cooper); Wall Painting for Gordon Walters, (Tui Harrington); Wall Painting for et al., (Nathan Pohio)Wall Painting for Kāhui Rāranga: The Art of tukutuku (Annie Mackenzie), 2019–, acrylic on wall, dimensions variable to site. Photos: Simon Gennard

Wall Painting is a series of wall paintings developed for the office and library of
Enjoy Contemporary Art Space’s new gallery.

The work collates together colour suggestions by an invited group of artists who share the experience of working as a technician in a museum or gallery: David Ed Cooper, Turumeke Harrington, Annie Mackenzie, Nathan Pohio and Tim Wagg. The resulting paintings gesture toward both the form of the "wall painting" in an art historical sense, and the labour of "wall painting" as a job to support a practice.


Carte Blanche
Ilam Campus Gallery, University of Canterbury 
Christchurch, 2019

Carte Blanche, 2019, installation view: Ilam Campus Gallery

Extract from exhibition press release:

Carte Blanche brings together voices of order and control in the urban environment, of power in typographic systems, and of dissent, revolution, ruptures and identity.

Carte Blanche, 2019, digital print on knitted polyester, aluminium, cable ties: 800 x 9600mm

Beginning development while on residency in Paris for the first twelve weeks of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) anti-government protests, Carte Blanche looks to the yellow vest itself as a highly effective signalling device to carry the language of a movement.

French Curve, 2019, laser engraving on acrylic, Bic Cristal pens, 24 parts: dimensions variable

The exhibition plays between the detritus and improvisations of this moment in France’s history, socio-political upheaval and revolution, and some of the most culturally prestigious parts of Parisian identity.

Place de la Bastille–Place de la République (8 December 2018), 2019, digital print on paper, 26 parts: 594 x 841mm (each);
Playtime, 2019, laser engraving on acrylic, 2 parts: 500 x 200mm (each)


‘Bad Posture’
included in Present Tense : Wāhine Toi Aotearoa 
Ramp Gallery
Hamilton, 2019

Bad Posture, 2019, Silk Screen on paper: 594 x 841mm

Bad Posture continues an interest in the way visual language functions as an aid for social mobility, movement and visibility. The photographic forms in the composition have been constructed with a Lesbian Rule, historically a flexible mason’s tool used to reproduce irregular curves. Originally made from a pliable lead found on the island of Lesbos, the Lesbian Rule was also alluded to by Aristotle as a metaphor for the importance of flexibility in equitable justice.

A site of erosion and slippage, Bad Posture positions a queer typography within an abstracted POSTURE to make apparent the societal complicity inherent in the signification and design of language. If our inherited structures continue to work in service of oppressive modes of power, then their every iteration only enforces them.


Curated by David Teh
12th Gwangju Biennale: Imagined Borders
Gwangju, 2018

Extract from exhibition press release:

Based on printed matter from the first four editions of the Gwangju Biennale, Notes after the Textbegins with the question: How may an archive perform its contents to elicit an ethos or atmosphere, as opposed to illustrating a collection of events?

Notes After the Text, 2018, installation view: Gwangju Biennale

The series looks to the poetics of print: the space between visual language, the alphabet and the thread which connects this material to the world.

Notes After the Text, 2018, offset print on paper: 420 x 297mm (each), custom plywood tray

As opposed to a design history, the results might be seen as an abstract index of the organisation’s evolving self-image, that parallels the curatorial discourse but doesn’t always correspond with it.

Notes After the Text
, 2018, framed digital print: 210 x 497mm

Margins & Satellites
Curated by Sophie Davis 
Enjoy Public Art Gallery
Wellington, 2018

Extract from exhibition press release:

Margins & Satellites continues Sutherland’s ongoing enquiry into the relationship between printed matter, typography and social histories, focussing on what Sutherland describes as “a queering of mechanical reproduction.”

Margins & Satellites, 2018, installation view: Enjoy Public Art Gallery, Wellington

Drawing from research undertaken during her residency at Enjoy Public Art Gallery in January 2018, Sutherland has developed a new body of work that responds to serial publications produced in the 1970s–1990s held in the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand (LAGANZ) | Te Pūranga Takatāpui o Aotearoa.

Margins & Satellites, 2018, installation view: Enjoy Public Art Gallery, Wellington

Unpacking the wider design context of queer archival material, Margins & Satellites reflects on the way we understand the printed form as a mode of contemporary practice today, as well as reflecting on the continuous development of languages that are deployed and contested within LBGTQIA+ communities.

Margins & Satellites, 2018, installation view: Enjoy Public Art Gallery, Wellington

Various Breaks at Irregular Intervals, 2018, three custom A4 folders, digital print on paper

Sutherland’s research asks what specific language has developed within this space and how this printed matter has influenced design, text and language in similar spaces today.

Margins & Satellites, 2018, opening event: Enjoy Public Art Gallery, Wellington

Margins & Satellites also includes print-based work from Wellington-based practitioners Sean Burn, Laura Duffy, Simon Gennard, Robbie Handcock, Ana Iti, Rachel O’Neill and Aliyah Winter.

The Evolving Book: Contemporary Artist Book Practices
Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity
Banff, 2018

Five Readings, 2018, installation view: Banff Centre, Canada

Over the course of The Evolving Book residency, I wanted to see if, and how, the voices of the queer communities I had been researching were embedded in the form of printed matter; to think about the capacity of these artefacts to embody the cultural, technological or socio-political context surrounding their creation.

Five Readings, 2018, digitally printed pads: 215 x 297mm (each)

Coming from a background of producing books, I’m also really interested in how mechanical reproduction – a process based on the ‘standard’ – is used by queer communities. As much of this printed ephemera was created to exist for short period of time, it is intriguing to think that the survival of this material might create opportunities to recover or re-imagine overlooked narratives.

Five Readings
, 2018, silk screen on paper: 558 x 762mm (each), laser engraving on acrylic: 280 x 100mm (each)

Many of these publications were very specific about who they were for and how they were distributed – and I think it’s at this point – that the relationship to contemporary politics of publishing becomes super complex and interesting, especially in relation to how language is negotiated alongside identity.

John Fries Award
UNSW Gallery
Sydney, 2017

, 2017, installation view: UNSW Gallery, Sydney

Queue collates the typography from the spines of library books found in the “queer” section of five Sydney university libraries. The parameters for collection being that the sample be taken over one day in June 2017 and that the book title contain the word “queer”.

Queue, 2017, installation view: UNSW Gallery, Sydney

Queue cites Ariel Goldberg’s questioning of the value of “queer” as label in their book The Estrangement Principal. The work observes what is determined queer in learning and provides an illustration of the various ways in which it is deployed and interpreted in an academic space: both in terms of representation and omission.

Redlands Konica Minolta Art Prize
National Art School Gallery
Sydney, 2017

Time if you are paper follows the trajectory of the annual exhibition ephemera produced by The Group, an informal art association based in Christchurch, New Zealand, between 1927 and 1977.

Time if You Are Paper
, 2017, framed offset lithograph: 600 x 1000 mm

By isolating the typographic language of the archive, the work questions how graphic design might offer up alternative perspectives; continuing to draw upon historical, cultural and social precedents whilst offering a reading different to that shaped by more established canons.

Slow Seeing and Attention to Make
The Dowse Art Museum
Wellington, 2016

Slow Seeing and Attention to Make
, 2016, installation view: The Dowse Art Museum

Working with The Dowse Art Museum posters that were made between the 1970s and 1990s, Slow Seeing and Attention to Make removes the exhibition text and images but retains the specific graphic design elements.

Slow Seeing and Attention to Make, 2016, digital print on ACM: 841 x 1189mm (each)

The visual language or fundamental rules of design – aspects such as line, rhythm, movement, balance, pattern and framing – are used to analyse the voice of the institution through looking at the changes in typography over time.

Boring month start to finish, the whole month
North Projects
Christchurch, 2016

Boring month start to finish, the whole month
, 2016, digital print on trace, custom newspaper holders, assorted fittings: dimensions variable

Extract from exhibition press release:

You stay late till last and take from that morning’s paper the puzzles, twice, half-done and into the bag: pages pale like a fish, lines rambling like a derailed train. What does it mean to function, be fiction, be helpful (or not)? To bite wet paper in the fashion of a vandal—

The outline of our exchange, on the page, a reasonable territory to begin.

Lying around the tumbly jungle of the book might a cryptic creature live in the signature above? Could today’s clue relocate to trace the posture of a beanbag, the exhausted river bird found in the street, a free tooth prominent up front?

Knotty words with a snappy comic: horsing around, sheepishly human, falling and flashing pages, rudely.

Boring month start to finish, the whole month
, 2016, digital print: 594 x 841mm (each), custom newspaper holders

Dawn Blood, Sophie Davis, Newspaper Reading Club, Ella Sutherland, Eleanor Weber, Riet Wijnen,
Pale Like a Fish, Christchurch, N.Z : Ilam Press and North Projects, 2016. Risograph printed, 104pp, 112 x 178mm, edition of 200

Pale like a Fish brings together a series of contributions from artists, writers and designers, developing a territory to think about the navigation of text, language and design in printed spaces. The publication seeks to position the page as a space to work in and outside of commercial endeavors; looking at how the influence of gesture and narrative in understanding ‘typical’ reading spaces may include detour and occasion, rereading and exchange.

Speaking Places : How to Work
with Matthew Galloway, curated by Kim Paton
Ramp Gallery
Hamilton, 2015

Speaking places: How to Work, 2015, with Matthew Galloway, installation view: Ramp Gallery, Hamilton

An exhibition developed in collaboration with  artist Matthew Galloway to signal the launch of a larger temporary public art project, Speaking Places.

Speaking places: How to Work, 2015, with Matthew Galloway, installation view: Ramp Gallery, Hamilton

Focusing on the ways language may exist and collide within the context of a specific locale, Speaking Places: How to work looks at the different ways in which the by-products of the natural and constructed environment can be understood, highlighted, traced and proposed.

Ella Sutherland and Matthew Galloway, Speaking places: Hamilton 2015, Hamilton, New Zealand : Ramp Gallery, 2015.
Offset printed, 24pp, edition of 1500

The Speaking Places: Hamilton 2015 publication seeks to question how graphic design might offer alternative perspectives; drawing upon historical, cultural and social precedents whilst also claiming its own identity as an autonomous form.

The Right Here and the Moving
ST Paul St Gallery
Auckland, 2014

The right here and the moving
, 2014, installation view: ST Paul St Gallery, Auckland

Extract from exhibition press release:

Borrowing the aesthetic of economic modeling, The right here and the moving is an attempt to visualise two options for the artist working in a social setting: either adopting a common language, or imposing one from outside.

The right here and the moving, 2014, installation view: ST Paul St Gallery, Auckland

While as a diagram it implies linear clarity and textbook resolution, here pattern, colour and narrative are equally important. In the window space the diagram is broken down into its physical components, and operates simultaneously on multiple planes.

princess x sleeping muse

with Dawn Marble

Melbourne, 2015

princess x sleeping muse, 2015, installation view: TCB

Home & Away
with Dave Marshall
RM at David Dale Gallery
Glasgow, 2014

Ella Sutherland and Dave Marshall, Home & Away, Auckland, New Zealand : RM Gallery, 2014.
Risograph printed, 24pp, 210 x 297mm, edition of 300

A publication commissioned by RM Gallery for inclusion in International Artist Initiated, an exhibition project hosted by David Dale Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland.


Window Gallery
Auckland, 2014

Extract from exhibition press release:

Using elements of the past two years of Dog Park Art Project Space exhibition posters, Doghaus explores the notion of an unfolding graphic identity within an exhibition practice, the practical aesthetic of Bauhaus, and a personal obsession with Matisse’s mural Dance (1932–33).

Doghaus, 2014, digital print on PVC: 4000 x 2800mm

Framed as a provisional conclusion to a project that sought a permanence and momentum Doghaus reveals Dog Park’s exhibition poster series as a practical, parallel action—acknowledging what perhaps began as a crafty elimination to a problem, gradually became the basis for a cohesive visual identify.


Like completely erased – one hot line spinning through time
with Dawn Marble

Auckland, 2013

Extract from exhibition press release:

She looks around the room
Smooth room
Sandy, smooth room
Nothing to fear here in the sandy, smooth room

Walk into the office and the floor is covered in flowers, I pass you a small white bear and say, "something I found at the mall or something." I notice a koala bear clipped to your finger, one of those ones that can clip onto anything. Cheap but yummy.
Quality / quantity.

What are you looking for?
(Looks around the room)
Empty, smooth look around the perfect smooth room

Like completely erased – one hot line spinning through time, 2013, with Dawn Marble, installation view: Fuzzyvibes, Auckland

An Unbearded Athletic Youth
Curated by Melanie Oliver
The Physics Room
Christchurch, 2013

No repeats, one moment, one space, 2013, digital print: 594 x 841mm (each)

Extract from exhibition press release:

An unbearded, athletic youth negotiates the responsibility of a graphic system across contexts; appropriating, transcribing and collating to figure the relationship between communicative language and representational objects.

Slurring of the false spiral, 2013, clay, slip, pine, water-based acrylic: dimensions variable

An unbearded, athletic youth coaxes a graphic sensibility to operate in a different register; the planned and the erratic are brought together to complement and complicate a rational system.

A remarkably sure touch, 2013, digital print on aluminium: dimensions variable

Where does one begin, making our way through this riot of voices tumbling forth from our own histories, your history, history’s history. It’s a real fruit salad of surfaces out there, but how does once describe a voice whose time we cannot see?

Seeing Which Way The Wind Blows
with Matthew Galloway 
Auckland, 2012

Seeing Which Way The Wind Blows, 2012, with Matthew Galloway, installation view: split/fountain, Auckland

Seeing which way the wind blows was a collaborative project with Matthew Galloway at split/fountain in early 2013. Over a period of ten days split/fountain was used as a meeting place, studio, and point of entry into Auckland City.

Seeing Which Way The Wind Blows, 2012, with Matthew Galloway, installation view: split/fountain, Auckland

We wanted to use graphic design as a tool to mark, measure and translate; to produce a publication that would act as a flag of sorts in our new location. The hope was that, once marked, measured and translated, it would look something like a map of the city.

Ella Sutherland and Matthew Galloway, Seeing Which Way The Wind Blows, Auckland, New Zealand : 2013.
Risograph printed, 56pp, 195 x 280mm, edition of 200

Armed with only four loosely outlined approaches we had no choice but to be authors of the situation and to engage our power as producers to translate our quick succession of experiences into an experience for the audience. It was only through this, through presence in production, that we could tame the unique moment into readable form.

This That
with Dave Marshall
Dog Park Art Project Space
Christchurch, 2012

This That, 2012, with Dave Marshall, installation view: Dog Park Art Project Space, Christchurch

Extract from exhibition press release:

This That  developed out of a conversation between Waltham, local car culture and the nature of the surrounding industry. There was no avoiding that the gallery, situated in an ex-mechanics workshop under the shadow of the former AMI stadium, was anything other than this. And then there were the cars.

This That, 2012, with Dave Marshall, cut vinyl: dimensions variable 

Given the nature, the history and location of the space it seemed appropriate to be offering a service; to position the gallery in approximately the same realm as what was native to the area. We started collecting images of factory standard vehicle decals and redrawing them as single colour replicas – we liked the idea of coming in at the soft end of the industrial spectrum with superfluous decoration.

This That, 2012, with Dave Marshall, opening event: Dog Park Art Project Space, Christchurch

We installed a workspace and designed a system for the application of the decals to the cars, all the while constantly assessing whether what we were doing was for practical measures or for art. We aligned everything as closely as we could to our idea of the area—racks, rolls, bench, heater, numbers, plants, stereo, liquids—hoping to imbue enough subtle cues for people to connect into their own familial map of industry.

This That, 2012, with Dave Marshall, installation view: Dog Park Art Project Space, Christchurch

For the duration of the show, Dave and I were in and out of the space working on people’s cars. They would drive in, have a bad cup of coffee, discuss what they wanted and then hang around, bored, for 40 minutes while Dave and I tried on our best professional look. The simple parameter of applying decals to cars created a space for a whole range of conversations.

What eventuated was a process that produced markers for a certain group of people – the decal indicating a certain membership to a series of events and to a community. The cars became firstly moving advertisements for the show, and then, once the show was finished, a living documentation.

New Artists Show
Auckland, 2012

Popular Brands to Steal, 2012, digital print on vinyl: 841 x 1189mm

Popular Brands to Steal, proposes a series of models that attempt to analyse the underlying parameters of a set of serial information. In this instance, the data lists all of the stolen cars in Auckland from the beginning of 2012, until the point when the project was presented at Artspace in October of that year.

Popular Brands to Steal, Auckland, New Zealand : Artspace, 2012.
Risograph printed, 42pp, 205 x 285mm, edition of 200

The publication looks at the re-use of logic to sanction new space, sites that are built using the constraining order of the city but reconfigured to function in a new way. I was interested in how parts of established systems can be filled with new languages, meanings and codes through a process of tactical negotiation. Popular Brands to Steal is about the renegotiation of public to private via. subtle tactics of resistance.

The second component of the work is a reimagining of the data in the form of car stickers, which alongside the publication, possess an inherent sense of potential. The distribution of the stickers introduces an element of process to the work, an element that playfully echoes the movement suggested by this context. Each component encourages fluidity between the audience, their own experience and the models in the publication.