Raewyn Atkinson was born in Napier, New Zealand. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Victoria University and an involvement with clay that spans over 30 years during which time she has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally. Atkinson was the recipient of the Portage Ceramic Award in both 2003 and 2015. In 2015 she was awarded the Juror's Prize at the Gyeonggi International Ceramics Biennale in South Korea.

A three-month Japanese residency in 1998 combined with two visits to Antarctica, first in 2000 on an Antarctica Art Fellowship and another journey in 2003, sparked an interest in working with translucent porcelain. These visits have resulted in several major exhibitions, Terra Nova, (Dowse Art Museum, Wellington 2002, Te Manawa 2003) and Designs on Antarctica, Wellington City Gallery 2005, Objectspace, Auckland 2006. Work by Atkinson is held in a number of national and public collections including Te Papa Tongarewa and international collections that include LACMA, USA and the Museum of Contemporary Ceramic Art, Shigaraki, Japan.

 

In 2018 Atkinson created another iteration of I Too Am in Paradise, first installed in the open air courtyard of The Dowse Art Museum over the summer of 2016-17. The title is a translation of the renowned seventeen century Nicolas Poussin painting, Et in Arcadia Ego. The installation consisted of a series of unfired clay urns, each bearing this phrase and containing a young kōwhai ngutu kākā (kākābeak) plant which at the end of the exhibition, were gifted to members of the community who wanted to participate in its recovery. For I Too Am in Paradise II, Atkinson installed a new grid like series of urns in her garden in Wellington and recorded them over a 10 month period.

This time the urns were planted with kowhai ngutu kākā mā (white kākābeak), taonga entrusted to the project by East Coast iwi, Ngāi Kohatu (Ngāti Hinehika), who are kaitiaki for this particular species that had long been considered extinct. This plant species was last seen growing on cliffs inland of Wairoa in the 1950s and has been successfully brought back from the brink of extinction through the combined efforts of Ngai Kohatu and the Crown Research Institute, Scion. I Too Am In Paradise II captures the forces of seasonal change. While the kowhai ngutu kākā mā grows and builds strength over time, the clay urns decay, changing shape and material structure, slowly returning to the earth.

"(Thus) the ecological, social and cultural importance of conserving ngutu kākā mā is at the heart of I Too Am in Paradise II. In capturing the struggles of developing these vulnerable plants from seed to shrub, the work stresses that preserving the ecodiversity of Aotearoa New Zealand against introduced species, disease and pests is an ongoing challenge."
Melanie Oliver (PDF of full essay here)

About three quarters of the way through the film, as weeds grow through the collapsed urns and seem to threaten the installation the plants flower spectacularly.

"Beautiful creamy white clusters of crescent-shaped blossoms, unique to the Wairoa variant of kōwhai ngutu kākā, first form and then explode simultaneously across the installation. It is these processes of te tupuranga me te puāwaitanga 'growth and flowering' that tangibly demonstrate a once endangered taonga is now living."
Rangīhiroa Panoho. The full essay is at (http://www.objectspace.org.nz/journal/e-korero-ana-nga-rakau/).

www.raewynatkinson.co.nz