Ella Sutherland: House Painting I + II

Informed by recent research on the relationship between modernist architecture and social and cultural histories, 'House Painting I + II' draws on artist Ella Sutherland’s enduring interest as to the ways in which the built environment, social space and language take form.

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

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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. Sutherland 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. 


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. Yet when read separately, the wall paintings present something which might instead be a proposition, a command or a query.

Ella Sutherland (b. 1987, Auckland) works across the fields of visual art and publishing. Sutherland utilizes printing, painting, and installation to analyse and activate complex reading systems across built and digital environments. Her most recent work has drawn on extensive research periods spent in specialist archives, through which she continues to explore the relationship between language and social history and the evolving role of technology in disseminating thought.

Ella Sutherland graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from Ilam School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury, Christchurch (2012). Since graduating her work has been shown widely throughout New Zealand and international venues. Recent exhibition highlights include FOLDS, Sumer, Tauranga (2020); Friendship as a Way of Life, UNSW Galleries, Sydney (2020); Letters, Auckland Art Fair 2020 Virtual Fair (2020); Bookworks, Monash Museum of Art, Melbourne (2019); Recto Verso, Objectspace, Auckland (2019) and Returns, 12th Gwangju Biennale-Imagined Borders, Gwangju (2018). Sutherland has been awarded residencies with Banff Centre for Arts, Banff; International Art Space, Perth; and Art Gallery of New South Wales Studio, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris. In October 2021, Sutherland will be an artist-in-residence for 12 months at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin.


Ella Sutherland is represented by Sumer, Tauranga.




Two Walls is an ongoing series of site-specific works across two walls of CoCA: the outdoor courtyard at the gallery’s entrance and the eastern inner wall of Lux Espresso. Every twelve-months, a local Ōtautahi artist will be commissioned to create a new two-part work which will welcome gallery and cafe visitors to the building.



Two Walls is generously supported by Resene, with special thanks to Sumer, Tauranga.