Richard Killeen

Repetition Triangle Wasp
750 x 750 mm
UV inkjet on plywood, Bona Mega Matt varnish
Courtesy of the artist and Ivan Anthony, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

Estimate: NZD 5,000 — 9,500

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Since the late 1960s Richard Killeen has been a central figure in the Aotearoa art scene. His pivotal role was acknowledged in the Artspace exhibition After Killeen: Social Observation in Recent Art, curated by Anna Miles in 2001. This exhibition and catalogue also included works by a number of artists curated into When the Dust Settles including Yvonne Todd, Andrew McLeod, Peter Robinson, John Reynolds and Ava Seymour.

Over the last five decades Killeen’s practice has traversed Pop influenced realism, Pacifica inspired abstraction, his series of multi-part cutouts and more recently, technology driven forays into freestyle composition.

Repetition Triangle Wasp (2021) gathers many of these phases or parts into a dynamic whole, encompassing his signature insects as relentless harbingers of cross-cultural fertilisation as well as effortlessly negotiating the realism/abstraction rubicon. The ultimate decision as to deployment of the forms, like much of contemporary life, is made by an algorithm - a supposedly ‘neutral’ determiner that in this work looks curiously like a painting ‘after Killeen.’

Artist Biography & History
with Artspace Aotearoa:


Richard Killeen’s practice was the centrepiece of the 2001 exhibition After Killeen: Social Observation in Recent Art. This seminal exhibition was curated by Anna Miles, who presented a fraction of Killeen's content-rich work alongside work by mostly younger artists, to consider approaches to social observation that emerged in Aotearoa New Zealand art since the exhibitions After McCahon (1989) and Headlands (1992).


After Killeen: Social Observation in Recent Art (group), 13 November — 15 December 2001, curated by Anna Miles

The Gift of the Artist (group), 7 September — 25 October 1993

Light Sensitive (group), 11 February — 6 March 1992

Exhibits: The Museum Display and the Encyclopaedia Plate (group), 6 September — 28 October 1988, curated by Robert Leonard and Priscilla Pitts and produced in collaboration with the National Art Gallery, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington


Work by Killeen was illustrated in After Killeen: Social Observation in Recent Art: Flying over the Dominant Culture, edited by Anna Miles and published on the occasion of the exhibition After Killeen: Social Observation in Recent Art at Artspace. Killeen was also included on pages 19 - 21 of the exhibition catalogue Exhibits: the Museum Display and the Encyclopedic Plate, produced in 1988 and edited by Priscilla Pitts and Robert Leonard.

Richard Killeen


Since his first solo exhibition at Barry Lett Galleries in 1970, Richard Killeen has maintained a five decade exhibiting career. In 1999 he was the subject of the then career survey exhibition Stories We Tell Ourselves at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and the accompanying publication by curator Francis Pound. In 2018 his work was curated into the exhibition Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa at Te Papa Tongarewa.

Since the late 1960s Killeen’s practice has oscillated between the figurative and the abstract and in his signature cutouts evince both with a dexterity that reveals the elasticity of his conceptual concerns.

Exhibition text: After Killeen: Social Observation in Recent Art (group), 13 November — 15 December 2001, curated by Anna Miles

'One can't imagine an Auckland City Art Gallery show with the title After Killeen', wrote Francis Pound, reviewing the Auckland Art Gallery's 1989 exhibition After McCahon. Pound continued to imagine such a show in some detail. Unlike Pound's hypothetical After Killeen, but like After McCahon, this show explores a world of 'connections without indebtedness'. No artist here follows Killeen more closely than Killeen, and as he follows himself he can also be seen to follow others. Curator Anna Miles presents a fraction of Richard Killeen's content-rich work alongside work by mostly younger artists, to consider approaches to social observation that have emerged in New Zealand art since After McCahon (1989) and Headlands (1992).

The exhibition is a cabinet of curiosities that reflects Killeen's interest in suburban identity, feminism, biculturalism, the legacy of Gordon Walters, and the advance of New Right thought in New Zealand. How these various commentaries can be seen to merge and inform one another drives this salon-style show. If After Killeen seriously follows any single exhibition it is Stories We Tell Ourselves, the 1999 survey of thirty years of Killeen's practice curated by Francis Pound for Auckland Art Gallery. Since his retrospective Killeen's engagement with social and cultural circumstances has become more vital than ever. During this time he has reconfigured his signature format, the cutout, an invention central to discussions of postmodernism in New Zealand art. This year marks the emergence of Killeen's one-piece cutouts, which revisit the cutout's premise of 'compositional democracy', with consequences for how he can engage his social concerns.

After Killeen echoes the cross-referencing in Killeen's own work. It looks at conversations within Killeen's work and stages conversations with other artists. The earliest Killeen in the show, Your Daddy's Rich and Your Momma's Good Looking of 1969, is associated with works by Ava Seymour and Yvonne Todd, who like Killeen have the suburbs under observation. Alongside Killeen's Polynesian Green (1976) is Andrew McLeod's painting Economy (1999), which conflates Gordon Walters abstraction and Purex toilet paper packaging. In recent years Killeen and McLeod have both responded to the impact of the appropriation debates focused around Walters in the 1990s. The show also includes examples of Peter Robinson's Strategic Plans and Brendon Wilkinson's modelscapes, which raise the stakes for Killeen's analysis of the advance of the New Right in New Zealand.

A suite of Killeen drawings from 1986 represent his explicit engagement with feminism, a mode of social critique which informed the development of the cutouts and released a humour which persists in Killeen's subsequent work. It is Roger Mortimer, rather than the women artists in the exhibition, who follows Killeen's feminism. Paying attention to his matrilineal inheritance, Mortimer's row of ceramic teeth, inscribed with a text copied from his mother's school art-history notes, form a Taranaki landscape.

At the centre of the show is Peter Robinson's The End of the Twentieth Century (2000), a sprawling assemblage of cheaply purchased, downloaded, and variously perverted cultural relics. Part outpouring, part parting-shot, The End celebrates a marriage of exotica and cultural alienation. In this exhibition it emphasises the global issues that colour thinking about the local. Robinson's international shopping spree foregrounds an interest in cultural traffic which permeates Killeen's vision.