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Complicating everyday things

Image credit: Adam Art Gallery
2018 Gasworks Resident Hikalu Clarke examines architecture and human behaviour. He’s off to London for 3 intensive months of “nerding out” amongst some of the most impressive buildings on earth.


You may have heard of Gasworks in the UK. If you haven’t, it’s a London-based organisation that focuses on developing artistic talent. One of the ways they do this is through international residencies. These residencies are opportunities for artists to come live in London and use the Gasworks facilities for a few months, spending time focussing on their craft.

Hikalu Clarke: Gasworks Resident 2018

Which brings us to this year’s resident - Hikalu Clarke. Born in Japan, he moved to New Zealand when he was a toddler in the early 90s. Last year, he finished his Master of Fine Arts from Whitecliffe, where he interrogated and refined the concepts that he explores in his work.

His work explores the relationship between buildings, spaces and people. “Architecture is supposed to serve people in the buildings, but often it serves the people who commissioned the buildings,” he says.

He’s approached this from a lot of different angles. For example, “It’s a pond, not a moat,”  showed how public spaces control us in subtle ways. A garden planter looks pretty, but it also stops you from driving or walking through. Park benches may be nice to sit on, but they are frequently designed to prevent the homeless from sleeping on them. This is the kind of thing Hikalu’s work examines and highlights.

Hikalu likes to draw attention to these issues by complicating conventional spaces. One  of his contributions to an exhibition last year was a a reimagining of a staircase. Rather than have the handrails on either side, and in the middle, he moved the handrails into different positions, so that they ushered people down different paths. Of course, you notice this when handrails are set up in an unconventional way - but conventional handrails control you just as much as unconventional ones do. You just don’t notice it when it happens.

The same goes for a myriad of other things in our day-to-day life. Malls are a great example - perfectly controlled environments, often on the edges of urban centres, surrounded by carparks. If you want to shop in a mall, you’re going to have a hard time getting there without driving.

There’s also the matter of where it is, London as a giant city and a center of global finance, is the perfect space to explore the issues that Hikalu is interested in. “New Zealand has a lot of these issues, but they are kind of a ‘lite’ version. London has more and at a larger scale, so I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to nerd out on them for a few months.”

The residency starts in October, but Hikalu is keeping busy in the meantime. He’ll be exhibiting in Projects 2018 at the Auckland Art Fair, 23 May-27 May commissioned by Lexus NZ. Pop down and take a look!


The New Zealand Gasworks Residency was created a few years ago by the Jan Warburton Charitable trust, and is now funded by a group of people called the NZ Friends of Gasworks. Every year, a small panel from the NZ Friends of Gasworks collaborates with Gasworks to choose a resident from a pool of applicants, many who have found out about the residency right here on The Big Idea.

Gasworks doesn’t look for a specific “type” of resident in terms of interest or medium. Stephanie Post who with Jan Warburton oversees the NZ Friends of Gasworks said “Gasworks are looking for artists who are outstanding in their field AND whose practice will really benefit from having a period for nothing but research in London. We try to find people who will get a lot out of their time in London.”

By looking for a variety of artists from the community, they hope to spread this influence as far as they can.  

You can see this diversity in the previous residents Last year, multidisciplinary installation artist Katrina Beekhuis explored the relationship between everyday things and artwork. In 2016, the resident was Sriwhana Spong, who works in writing, performance, dance and sculpture.

Being a research residency, there’s no obligation on the artist to exhibit work at the end of their residency. It’s as much about the artist’s project as it’s about the their skill level.

Image credit: Adam Art Gallery.

Written by

Sam Grover

14 May 2018

Sam loves telling quirky stories about The Big Idea’s community of artists and interviewing successful arts practitioners to gather insights about funding and commercialising their art.