Heather Straka

Heather Straka’s deep explorations into perceptions of socio-political and cultural lives have created a significant body of compelling and controversial work in painting and photography.  With these two strands to her practice, she has always shown a love of surface, almost a fetishist obsession for the look and appearance, for dressing up the subject.  Her palette is rich and elegant, but also utterly restrained.

The flawless nature of her early sculptural work was to be a precursor to the immaculate technique and precision that has come to characterise her paintings and recent photographs. Her practice regularly explores the nature of authenticity and issues around representation.

Studying sculpture at the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts in the early 90’s Straka honed acute attention to detail that she later carried through to her painting practice, a shift made while working as Julia Morison’s assistant in France. Scarcity of sculptural materials and proximity to the great paintings of Europe informed the refocus of her practice.

Straka returned to New Zealand and exhibited her first painting show in 1998, later graduating with an MFA in Film from Canterbury School of Fine Arts in 2000.  Straka has been awarded several scholarships and residencies. In 2002 she was presented the Pierce Lowe Award for Excellence in Painting from the Royal Overseas League, London; she was awarded the Williams Hodges Fellowship.  Her exhibition history spans decades, and her work is held in all of New Zealand’s major public collections. Heather Straka lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand.

This more recent Isolation Hotel series of photographs inhabit an eerie liminal space that sees them hovering somewhere between the worlds of painting, photography, and film.  The series recreates a detailed impression of a 1930’s German hotel.  Creating a multi-component artwork, of drama, art history, and cinematic vision, combining photography, performance, sound, installation and set design.  

Suffice to say that as an artist, Heather is much more an aroused naturalist than a realist. That is, she is someone who enjoys suggestion, who relishes the play of ideas around the form, more than she enjoys the execution or meticulous reproduction of form itself.