Public Exhibition: Southern Mother - Ko Murihiku Tōku Whaea

Touring Exhibition: Kyla Cresswell, Emma Kitson, Kim Lowe

Southern Mother Exhibition


27 May 24 –
14 June 24


Dunedin School of Art Gallery
19 Riego Street
Dunedin 9016,
New Zealand

View map

About the Exhibition
A group exhibition exploring the artists’ connections to Southland and celebrating Murihiku, the great Southern Mother, who nurtured their artistic talents and values.

In the Murihiku region, there is a feeling of being lightly tethered to the wild land beneath. At the coast, there are vast skies, far reaching horizon lines, and expansive sea. Inland, landforms loom high, and mountain caps feed the bitterly cold awa. The rich resources of the area have attracted generations of people, however, the harsh climate has put off just as many. Among Southlanders exists a strong social fabric, and your whakapapa — along with the weather — is often the first topic of introduction.

Emma Riha Kitson is a descendant of Kai Tahu ki Murihiku. Kyla Cresswell and Kim Lowe both grew up in Murihiku and are descendants of Southland settlers.  Emma, Kyla, and Kim met at the Dunedin School of Art in 1993. Over the following decades, they followed different paths, yet all three have gravitated towards the process-heavy technique of printmaking.

Emma loves the egalitarian nature of printmaking and its connections to historical revolutionary movements; she also enjoys just getting to play with knives. Kyla enjoys the progression from mark-making to printed image, and the distinctive elements each printmaking process gives to the image. For Kim, it is all about working in reverse and taking tiny steps following a traditional and time-laden process.

Kyla has returned to Murihiku recently, while Kim resides in Ōtautahi and Emma is based in Te-Whanganui-a-Tara.

The artists acknowledge their teacher Marilyn Webb, who encouraged them to explore the depths of their rich ancestry and identities, to value a connection to place, and to believe in their strengths and voice.

E te manawa tītī, e te māreikura. Moe mai rā e tō mātou kaiako ātaahua, Marilyn Webb (1937-2021).

CLOSING: 5-7pm Friday
14 June  |  Cash & carry (no eftpos)

About the artists:
Kyla Cresswell grew up in Murihiku/ Southland, New Zealand. She majored in Printmaking at the Otago School of Art before spending many years travelling, eventually settling in Wellington for 16 years, then more recently Dunedin.

Kyla has always been drawn to a pared down aesthetic and through a variety of printmaking techniques—mezzotint, drypoint and embossing—she explores the micro and macro of the natural world. Kyla’s practice relates back to the land. It is grounded in the space where she stands. Her work over the past two decades has often reflected on challenges faced by the natural environment, focusing on nature’s fragility, tenacity and resilience.

In 2022 Kyla was awarded the William Hodges Fellowship producing a series of works ‘Tracing the Land’ which explores the biological histories in the built environment. Highlighting the connection between the urban landscape and precious remnant endemic bush and wetland.

Kyla has exhibited widely nationally and internationally. Her work is held in private and public collections around the world including the Department of Conservation Collection and the Southland Museum and Art Gallery Collection.

Emma Kitson is an Artist, Designer and Curator who resides in Whanganui a Tara (Wellington). Her whakapapa traces its roots to the small island of Whenua Hou west of Rakiura (Stewart Island) at the southern end of Aotearoa. After graduating from Dunedin School of Fine Art in 1996 she regularly exhibited at the Blue Oyster Gallery including being the curator for their inaugural exhibition, “Collection: Taonga /Trash?” Emma worked at Otago Museum which then led to employment at many museums and art galleries in New Zealand and Australia. After studying Industrial Design at Massey University (2004-2006), she focussed mainly on her design work. She was employed as Exhibition Assistant at the Dowse, and contributed to the design and installation of many exhibitions there.

Becoming a mother in 2012 was a catalyst for Emma to return to making art from a desire to create a Māori centered space for her tamahine. While her earlier artwork was mixed media (video/textile/sculpture), and her design work was mostly digital, printmaking became her practice of choice because it combined her love of art and nature with technical problem solving and experimentation. The accessibility of print also made it a practical choice for creating art at home.

“The decision to go back to making art by hand rather than digital art was in part because I wanted to find my own voice as an artist. I also felt a need to create something with my hands; to feel a tactile connection to my work.’

After a wananga at Råpaki in 2014, Emma joined Paemanu, Ngai Tahu Contemporary Artists and has been a contributing artist in their exhibitions at COCA and Dunedin Public Art Gallery. “My work depicts native New Zealand flora and fauna and explores the importance of plants and animals in indigenous narratives. I am drawn to the many endemic species that are overlooked because they are not fluffy or cute. These “lesser known natives” have become a metaphor for my own bicultural identity.’

Emma also explores the associations between maahika kai (traditional foods) and cultural identity in her artworks. “The loss of cultural harvesting practices and the decline of our native species are linked and by reclaiming these traditions we might have a positive impact on the world we pass on to our tamariki.”

Emma was employed as Curator Community Exhibitions from 2019- 2021 at PATAKA, Porirua. While there she gained considerable expertise in the curation, design and installation of professional art exhibitions. Since then she has worked on various creative projects including as an arts educator at Artragaeous Children's Holiday Programme. Emma shares her love of accessible printmaking techniques through workshops which cater to a wide range of ages.

Kim Lowe (1967) is an artist, printmaker and painter based in Ōtautahi Christchurch. She grew up in Invercargill and is a descendant of Chinese settlers and Pākehā farmers to Southland. Kim’s work is about whakapapa and often incorporates elements from the natural environment of Te Waipounamu with her mixed Chinese ancestry. 

Kim studied Printmaking at the Dunedin School of Art in 1996 and completed a Masters in Fine Arts at Ilam School of Art, Canterbury University in 2009. She was the recipient of the Olivia Spencer Bower Award in 2019 and is currently Senior Academic at Ara Institute of Canterbury, leading the Applied Visual Arts specialisation of the Bachelor of Design.

View more of the artists’ work:

Emma Kitson’s Instagram @lesserknownnative

Kyla Cresswell’s Instagram @kylacresswellartist

Kim Lowe’s Instagram @kim.lowe88