Paul Zika teaches at the Tasmanian School of Art in Hobart. He exhibits at Stephen McLaughlin gallery



Cornucopia (Santiago) 170 x 220cm

My artistic research focus is twofold. The studio-based outcomes are in the form of artefacts exhibited in art galleries. I have had fourteen solo-shows in Hobart, Melbourne and Brisbane since 1973. The other important aspect of research enquiry is the curatorship of exhibitions. Over a twenty-year period I have curated sixteen exhibitions of contemporary art, craft and design for the Plimsoll Gallery at the University of Tasmania.

During the eighties this practice focused on issues of place and identity. The site specific ‘Place of Contemplation’ on Mt Nelson was followed by a series ‘As I gaze upon the mountain’ which reflected upon current debates on land rights and Asian immigration. Two important concurrent curatorial projects were ‘A Place of Contemplation: architectural attitudes to space’ and ‘Outgrowing Assimilation?’

Over the last ten years I have been researching even more radical spatial scenarios in painting through a re-interpretation of elaborate décor and the audacious interplay within highly ornamental architectural scenographies. I have employed an eclectic assortment of fragments of Baroque, Rococo, and Spanish Art Nouveau decorative systems in this research.

My parents were refugees from post-war Czechoslovakia. After time in an Austrian transit camp they were granted entry to Australia (The final destination was a ‘lottery’, having applied to Brazil, Canada and Australia). I was born in Albury two months after their arrival at Bonegilla Migrant Camp. The Russell Family greatly assisted my parents as ‘new Australians’ and became my godparents.

My father became a designer of stained glass windows and other decorative art objects. The parish priest of the Anglican Church of St James the Great in East St. Kilda became an important patron and over fifteen years my father completed a series of commissions for the church. The attribute of St James is a shell.

For many refugees seeking a new life, there are severe limitations on possessions they can carry. Lace and other highly decorative materials are often the only vestige of a previous place/life taken to the new haven. What began as a simple keepsake takes on a resonance of association over time. A seemingly innocent pattern becomes a claustrophobic web. While the ‘rocaille’ encloses and contains, we lose track of its form - we are suspended in an undelineated space.

The work is dedicated to Heda Schaefer (my mother) and Eileen Russell (my godmother)

Paul Zika 2002