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New Zealand artist, migrating thru space

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PHOTO: Alar Raudoja

The Pärnu City Gallery Artist’s House presents Journey Through Space, an exhibition by Donna Riddington of New Zealand, residing in London.

Donna is tied to Estonia by good friends, and the idea of having her first exhibition over here came quite naturally.

Ms Riddington says her multidisciplinary art roots lie in scenic ethics, New Zealand’s landscapes, ideas of urban graphics and city life. Coming from an isolated place like New Zealand, the artist is moved by topics like leaving home, separation, being a migrant.

So, the gallery hall features an installation reflecting her feelings seeing her homeland again. Plaques present words and phrases whirling in her mind as she approaches her native New Zealand on board a plane.

Countries of a kind

«In a way, Estonia and New Zealand are similar,» Ms Riddington finds a surprising parallel. «Both come with a unique nature, both are quite isolated and small. I still have New Zealand deep in my heart, it means a lot to me. And yet, not wishing to live in isolation, I consider London my second home, having lived there for 13 years. London is highly multicultural, but culturally speaking I’m still a migrant.»

The similarities between the two countries are also confirmed by Mare Tralla, a friend of Ms Riddington’s. The ladies met in London; with a Lithuanian female artist, they have held a joint exhibition in Berlin.

«Me and Donna have shared about our childhoods and found that, emotionally, we are close: both raised in the countryside, coming from periphery,» said Ms Tralla. «New Zealand is separated, from the rest of the world, geographically. Estonia, as I was growing up, in Soviet times, was isolated politically.»

Journey thru space

Ms Riddington unfolds her cultural identity by a definition of the third dimension, the in-between-space, where a migrant has his/her existence.

Having taken the morally complicated decision to leave her homeland, the artist has made herself a «home» in a new land, all the while tied strongly to elsewhere. Thus, Ms Riddington has repeatedly disassembled and reassembled herself, calling herself a cultural outlaw.

More generally, she takes an interest in society’s views of the indigenous people, who have been robbed of something spiritually, economically or morally; or who have moved away.

Thus, one work of hers is inspired by the Maori, now a minority in New Zealand. Ms Riddington has been given an old brooch as a gift, with a Maori lady on it. Thinking about that lady’s life and stories, perhaps, related to it, a lavishly framed portrait of her was born.

A series of drawings is dedicated to homosexuality. The artist touches upon «queer», meaning both homosexuality and weirdness, other-kindness. Again, the idea of separation pops up, video screen with female affection surrounded by graffiti-covered curtains.

«Both migrant and queer come, in a way, as labels. Not belonging to the society, yet a desire to belong someplace else,» thinks Ms Riddington, expressing hopes people would exit their «closets» and be themselves.

Donna Riddington

Journey Thru Space

Till May 25th, in Pärnu Artist’s House.

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