The Whangarei Art Museum is proud to present Kushana Bush: The Burning Hours. In December 2016 the Dunedin Public Art Gallery (DPAG) launched a significant exhibition of works by Dunedin-based New Zealand artist Kushana Bush.

As one of the most exciting contemporary painters to emerge in recent years, Kushana Bush has received serious attention, nationally and internationally, for her original subject matter and distinctive style.

The exhibition focuses on works produced between June 2014 – late 2016, with the aim of illustrating the shift that has taken place in Bush's recent practice. While her early works characteristically positioned the subject matter centred on the page, her newer paintings have grown larger in scale and are more visually rich and compositionally complex.

This new body of work is rich with detail – each surface, of gouache and gold, is filled with references to illuminated manuscripts, Persian miniatures, European art history and modern life. These disparate sources bind Bush's works to both the past and the present; the historical and the contemporary. Human interactions, humour, dramatic tension and intimate scale are her tools to draw viewers into a private conversation and, in some cases, a spiritual space.


This sense of a spiritual space is the cornerstone of the body of work presented in The Burning Hours – a title that pays homage to the medieval illuminated manuscript, 'The Book of Hours'. In 2014 Bush visited the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, where she viewed illuminated manuscripts, miniatures and decorative arts from Islamic, East Asian and Western traditions. This experience was the closest thing to a spiritual event that she, as secular individual, had experienced.

With her source material extending from thirteenth-century manuscripts to twentieth-century painters (including Stanley Spencer), Bush is interested how religious themes blend with secular narratives, often manifesting in ritualistic violence. This interest is permeated by Bush's enquiry into grand narrative constructions, resulting in a series of works that examines what spirituality, ritual and community might mean in a contemporary world.

Kushana Bush: The Burning Hours is accompanied by a substantial and generously illustrated book, which is the first major publication focusing on Bush's practice to date. The book will include three essays; by the exhibition's curator Lauren Gutsell, Heather Galbraith (Massey University) and Justin Paton (Art Gallery of New South Wales). Exhibition closes at Whangarei Art Museum on May 27, 2018.