Coolahan's art is centrally concerned with questions of
identity. A continuing
preoccupation is with the ways in which status, territory and environment are
and owned by the societies that inhabit the South Pacific. Many of her works
explicitly tackled the systems of control, oppression and alienation that
women's identity and roles in settler societies like Australia and New Zealand
(and, in a wider sense, around the world, as gender formations have been
scrutinized). In order to give primacy to themes and issues, Coolahan has
pursue a single-media approach, allowing shifts in materials, processes and
technology, and the values these embody, to play a key role in her exploration
Coolahan suggests that her work is characterized by “eclecticism,” which “is not
not being able to make up your mind, it's about acknowledging different needs
finding a way for them to co-exist.”
Furthermore she said, "I would like to be remembered for portraying certain sorts of sensibility that
during my lifetime, and it is only the creative area that can communicate that.
What I can
give people can only be what I am, where I am, at the time that I am. My work
touch a lot of people but it may touch others in a similar situation at a later
Information excerpted from Things that
have a long way to go: a biography of Kate Coolahan
by Damian Skinner in Art New Zealand, Issue 104.
Design School Stalwart Honoured
The conferment of an Honorary Doctor of Literature on
Wellington artist Kate Coolahan
is an acknowledgment of her "very significant" contribution to New Zealand’s
identity, says Pro Vice-Chancellor Dr. Duncan Joiner.
In his conferment speech at the College of Design, Fine Arts and Music
ceremony last week, Dr. Joiner made particular reference to Dr. Coolahan’s
roles in the School of Design since 1962, when it was under the Wellington
"She brought to those roles her insights, passion and determination to ensure
design curriculum maintained an international standing," he said.
"Many of the current courses now being taught at the School of Design still bear
hallmarks created by Kate Coolahan some 40 years ago. Through her work at the
School of Design - and her teaching of drawing in particular - she has
of New Zealand’s now-prominent designers, and indeed some of the world’s
Dr. Coolahan was born, trained and raised in Sydney, where she worked as an
illustrator. The first painting she sold was hung in the Australian Embassy in
Washington. In 1952 she moved to Wellington, where she had been offered a
advertising designer’s position with Inglis Wright. She later moved to Carlton
Carruthers du Chateau and King.
"For the next ten years, her sophisticated illustration and advertising
advanced the standard of advertising work in New Zealand."
Dr. Coolahan’s profile as a significant modernist New Zealand artist began to
after her arrival at the School of Design.
"But it is not as a painter that Kate Coolahan is best known. Rather, her career
development has been closely tied to the emergence of printmaking as an art
Indeed, through her teaching of printmaking at the School of Design, she has
influenced many of our best-known graphic designers and illustrators."
Dr. Joiner also referred to Dr. Coolahan’s multiple roles in art and design
administration, and her generous contributions of time and energy in the
of art and design organisations.
Her internationally-recognised art can be found in major state and private
New Zealand, Australia, United States, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Chile.
exhibited regularly at international Biennales, including those at Venice,
Cracow and Tokyo.
"The list of national and international awards and successes continues to grow,
influence as a design educator continues to reverberate around the world in the
successes of Massey University design graduates."
From Massey News as published on the Massey University