Critics’ Picks

Owen Connors, A True Story, 2020, egg tempera on board, 12 x 15 1/2".

Owen Connors, A True Story, 2020, egg tempera on board, 12 x 15 1/2".


Owen Connors

448 Karangahape Road Newton 1010
November 20, 2020–January 16, 2021

Scaling the walls of this apartment-stairwell-turned-artist-run gallery, Owen Connors’s “For Future Breeders” features seven new paintings that delicately tune ancient cosmogony and painting technique to a present-day imagining of queer approaches to reproduction and familial lineage. The works are insets, embedded into the physical building’s archaeology as well as to the historical context that seams queer and artistic communities to Karangahape Road, Auckland’s slowly gentrifying red-light district.

Across three flights of stairs, Connors presents a modern retelling of On the Origin of the World, a fourth-century Gnostic text that now resides in the Nag Hammadi Library. The scenes are charming Frankenstein collections of stock imagery, porn, and queer art history. In Yaldabaoth, all works 2020, the ruler of the demonic entities who preside over worldly matter, and who has the face of a lion and the body of a serpent, is rendered by Connors as a petulant cat in the midst of bath time. In A True Story, a child is birthed through the calf of a gym aficionado, its imagery inspired by one of Aubrey Beardsley’s 1894 illustrations for Lucian of Samosata’s titular second-century satire.

Connors’s nod to the fantastical elements of classical antiquity emphasizes the artist’s disavowal of thanatotic and tragedy-laden narratives of queerness, instead embracing a future-oriented vision of queer life. The durable materiality of the works—egg tempera worked in horizontal lines, like thread through tapestry—is but one manifestation of this. Connors lovingly weaves dense historical references across time and place, their layers a testament not just of survival, but of a welcome prosperity.