Jae Frew

4 - 21 April

While reminiscent of a vanished era, the photographs offer a reminder to treasure and protect what remains in the present. This emphasis on elevation of status speaks to the sense of importance and urgency that Frew feels for the preservation of our native species of birds and forest life.



Frew was granted access to collections and specimens held within institutions such as Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, spending hours observing his subject from every angle, just as he did as a boy with the birds in his family’s aviary. By capturing his still life avian subjects in ways that would have us believe they might suddenly stir and take flight or turn their head to meet our gaze, Frew has resurrected these dormant specimens. An evocative sense of each bird’s personality is revealed, offering an invitation to the viewer – in the tradition of viewing portraiture – to attribute and project character, temperament, memories, and history to each subject, to connect as we would with a portrait of someone known to us, a loved one, family member, or ancestor.

Frew designs the profile for each of his frames with careful and sensitive consideration to how a frame belongs and relates to each subject. Creating, shaping, joining, and painting the lengths of moulding by hand from reclaimed and salvaged native timber, he is connected to and honours the skills taught to him by his father, while elevating and bringing new life to cast-away remnants of our endangered timber.

A continuation of his first Manu Koingo series that debuted at Parnell Gallery in 2023, this latest body of work presents engaging, large-scale portraits of the nocturnal ruru, the majestic kea and kārearea, alongside kōkako, kōtare, a huia pair, and a rare white tūī. Frew photographed a number of his avian subjects for the exhibition with the iconic Swiss Hasselblad camera. Constructing his own Hasselblad himself, the hands-on photographer brought together components sourced from around the globe.