The February/March 2023 issue of HOME Magazine featured the works of upcoming exhibiting artist, Jae Frew, featured in the Art Edit with an overview of Manu Kōingo – Birds of Yearning which will be on view at Parnell Gallery from 12 March – 4 April 2023.

Traces of presence

With time and space to pursue his own photographic interests during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, contemporary portrait photographer Jae Frew brought to life Manu Köingo – Birds of Yearning, a project that pays tribute to New Zealand’s extinct and endangered wildlife.

It was a concept that had been on his mind for many years -the idea to create a series of works that speaks to and engages the interests of his youth while raising awareness of our fragile and diminishing forest life.

Manu Köingo – Birds of Yearning brings together his in-depth knowledge of portraiture with a life-long interest in birds, and fervour for creating objects with wood.

The formal, fine-art style of Jae’s large-scale portraits of birds, with their darkened Victorian backgrounds and heavy wooden frames, calls to mind the solemn dignity of 19th century portraiture, a symbol of status that the subject was beloved, important, or revered.

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 Jae feels for the preservation of our native species of birds and forest life.

Granted access to collections and specimens held within institutions such as Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Jae spent hours observing his subject from every angle, just as he did as a boy with birds in his 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, he 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.

Manu Köingo – Birds of Yearning will be exhibited at Parnell Gallery in 2023.

Pictured in the magazine is Patty’s Kōtare and Huia No.2.