Born 1951, Te Aroha, New Zealand
Susan Te Kahurangi King doesn’t speak with words, but shares much of her world through extraordinary drawings.
Susan Te Kahurangi King was born in 1951 in Te Aroha, a small rural town in the Waikato, New Zealand. She is the second eldest in a family of twelve children. Her father, Doug King, also known as Takarangi King, though a copy editor by profession, was a passionate advocate and teacher of Maori language and culture. Therefore, it is no wonder most of the children’s middle names are Maori. “Te Kahurangi” translates as “the treasured one.”
At the age of three, King loved to talk, sing, and imitate anything she saw or heard. By the age of four, her ability to speak was in decline, and by the age of eight, it was a thing of the past. Occasionally she would sing in bed at night, but before long, that too had stopped. Though professional advice was sought and a number of assessments made, there were no conclusive findings or a diagnosis. At the age of five, King started school. Though her stay was short, her teacher reported that Susan displayed remarkable mental activity in the creation of complicated figures drawn on paper, and that she was able to concentrate on drawing for hours at a time. As King’s inability to speak set in, so too did her heightened ability and commitment to draw. Even at the tender age of seven, she was prolific and showed signs of talent as a young artist. In 1960 the family moved to Auckland to meet King’s educational needs. She now lives in the family home of one of her sisters in Hamilton.
At some stage in the very early 1990s, coinciding with a period where she was evidently feeling low, King left drawing completely. However, in 2008, fueled by renewed interest shown in her work, during the filming of Pictures of Susan (directed by Dan Salmon, Octopus Pictures Limited, 2012), she picked up the pencil and began to draw, continuing where she had left off almost two decades prior. King’s earliest drawings share the same qualities as other children’s, save for their exceptional precocity. As one becomes acquainted with her work, the rigorousness of her visual vocabulary—which shows a disregard for and indifference to time and medium—is evident.
In spite of King’s “isolation” from verbal and written communication, she has methodically created an entire analogous world through her work. After spending time reviewing the drawings and their chronology, the viewer will begin to discover visual lists, catalogs, or indexes of certain objects, which get reconfigured and distorted beyond recognition in subsequent pictures.
Exhibition Resume & Bibliography
Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, New Zealand.
James Wallace Arts Trust, New Zealand.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA, USA.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
Susan Te Kahurangi King (curated by Chris Byrne), Marlborough Contemporary, London, England.
Susan Te Kahurangi King: Drawings 1960-70, Robert Heald Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand.
Susan Te Kahurangi King, Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, FL, USA.
Susan Te Kahurangi King: Drawings 1975-1989 (curated by Chris Byrne and Robert Heald), Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY, USA.
Susan Te Kahurangi King, Robert Heald Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand.
Susan Te Kahurangi King: Drawings from Many Worlds (curated by Chris Byrne), Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY, USA.
Susan Te Kahurangi King, Outsider Art Fair, Chris Byrne + Marquand Books, New York, NY, USA.
Susan Te Kahurangi King, Outsider Art Fair, Chris Byrne + Marquand Books, Paris, France.
Introducing Susan Te Kahurangi King (curated by Sophie Watson and Aaron King-Cole), the High Seas, Auckland, New Zealand.
Susan Te Kahurangi King (curated by Peter Day), Callan Park Gallery, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
Margins Beyond, Kirk Hopper Fine Art Gallery, Dallas, Dallas, TX, USA.
Susan Te Kahurangi King, Outsider Art Fair, Andrew Edlin, New York, NY, USA.
Susan Te Kahurangi King, Outsider Art Fair, Andrew Edlin, Paris, France.
The 11th White Columns Annual, White Columns, New York, NY, USA.
Susan Te Kahurangi King, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, NZ.
Susan Te Kahurangi King, Matt Hinkley, Sonya Lacey, Patrick Lundberg (curated by Robert Heald), Spring 1883, Melbourne, Australia.
Susan Te Kahurangi King, Outsider Art Fair, Andrew Edlin, Paris, France.
Interfaces: Outsider Art and the Mainstream, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Word Builders: Bob Gerrard, Susan Te Kahurangi King, Harry Watson, The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand.
Susan Te Kahurangi King | Shannon Te Ao: from the one I call my own, City Gallery Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.
Susan Te Kahurangi King | Peter Saul, Outsider Art Fair, Chris Byrne, New York, NY, USA.
PURPLE STATES (curated by Sam Gordon), Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY, USA.
Promenades, Robert Heald Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand.
Shit Like Hair, White Flag Projects, St. Louis, MI, USA.
Secret Garden, Hastings City Art Gallery, Hastings, New Zealand.
Local Knowledge (curated by Stuart Shepherd), MADmusée, Liège, Belgium.
Look, Know, Robert Heald Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand.
Cocozza, Paula “Silent witness: the outsider art of Susan Te Kahurangi King”, The Guardian, May 31.
Koerner von Gustorf, Oliver “Disney Girl”, BLAU, Summer.
Mobilio, Albert “The Drawings of Susan Te Kahurangi King”, BookForum, Apr/May.
Price, Patrick “The Joys and Terrors of an Outsider Artist”, Hyperallergic, July 1.
Byrne, Chris “A Voice Through Drawing”, Patron Magazine, August/September.
Hall, Emily “Susan Te Kahurangi King”, ArtForum, December.
Kukielski, Tina (ed.) The Drawings of Susan Te Kahurangi King, ICA Miami.
Nadel, Dan “There is no center: Susan Te Kahurangi King’s disorienting worlds”, Modern Painters, June/July.
Roffino, Sara “Tina Kukielski with Sara Roffino”, The Miami Rail, Summer.
Shepherd, Stuart “The adventures of a travelling and performing line”, Art News New Zealand, Spring.
Amery, Mark “Inside Out,” New Zealand Listener, July 7.
Hirsch, Faye “Susan Te Kahurangi King,” Art in America, March 13.
Ebony, David “David Ebony’s Top 10 New York Gallery Shows for November,” artnet news, November 21.
Ebony, David “In Step with the Outsiders: The Outsider Art Fair,” Art in America, May 9.
Frank, Priscilla “Here Are the 15 Best Art Exhibitions of 2014,” Huffington Post, December 16.
Frank, Priscilla “This Outsider Stopped Speaking As A Child, Communicates Solely Through Her Work,” Huffington Post, November 7.
Gómez, Edward M. “Explosive Drawing: Susan King’s Mash-ups, Strange Landscapes, and Other Worlds,” Hyperallergic, November 8.
Gómez, Edward M. “Outsider Art Preview: Blurred Categories and Fairs Big and Small,” Hyperallergic, May 3.
Gómez, Edward M. “Remarkable Draftsmanship from Way Down Under,” Raw Vision 83.
Indrisek, Scott “The Many Worlds of Susan Te Kahurangi King,” BLOUIN ARTINFO, November 5.
Rosenberg, Karen “Art in Review, Susan Te Kahurangi King: ‘Drawings from Many Worlds’,” New York Times, November 20.
Rosenberg, Karen “Unorthodox, Maybe, but Scarcely on the Fringe,” New York Times, May 8.
Rudick, Nicole “Staff Picks: Crayoned Cartoons and Computer Corruption,” Paris Review, December 19.
Saltz, Jerry “All Hail Susan Te Kahurangi King,” Vulture, November 21.
Saltz, Jerry “Seeing Out Loud: The Best Things I Saw at Frieze New York and the Outsider Art Fair,” Vulture, May 13.
Saltz, Jerry “The 19 Best Art Shows of 2014,” Vulture, December 10.
Salmon, Dan (Dir) Pictures of Susan, Octopus Pictures, 2012.