Jane Zusters was born in Christchurch in 1951. As Jane Arbuckle she was a founding member of the Christchurch Women's Liberation Movement. In 1973 she completed a Bachelor of Arts in English before taking up a position as a teacher at Navua High School in Fiji. Zusters returned to New Zealand to study at the Canterbury University School of Fine Arts for two years and in 1975, while still a second year painting student, exhibited her photographs in the '6 Women Artists' show, curated by Allie Eagle at the McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch. In 1978 she was awarded a major QueenElizabeth II Arts Council Grant and moved to Auckland. In 2003 Zusters completed a Master of Fine Arts (First Class Honours) in Photography at Whitecliffe College of Art and Design.
Zusters visited Italy in 1984 following her success at theMontana Art Awards. Here, she was inspired by the artists ofTransavante-gardia (Sandro Chia, Francesco Clemente, and EnzoCucchi), a band of artists who drew inspiration for their multimedia works from historical and contemporary art (Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism as well as aspects of Renaissance artand Classicism) and portrayed personal concerns about the human condition in a manner that resonated strongly with Zusters. On herreturn to New Zealand, Zusters incorporated elements of the Transavante-gardia practice into her work, melding them seamlessly with her penchant for photography, the compositional fracturing of the picture plane and the expressionistic aspects ofcollage to create work that dealt generally with relationships (ofboth the human kind and the formal, painterly relationship between elements in a composition) and more specifically with notions ofgender and the role of women in culture and society.
As with the work of the Transavante-gardia, Zusters' fragmented,layered style refers to the accumulation and accretion of stylisticelements through history, yet in Zusters' hands this style has adeeper reference to the handing down (or building-up, as it were)of cultural imperatives, stereotypes and learned beliefs, ultimately leaving open to the viewer the possibilities of interpretation as based upon their own beliefs and experiences.
An established New Zealand artist, Zusters' work is held inprivate and major public collections throughout the country andoverseas. The recipient of two prestigious Queen Elizabeth II ArtsCouncil grants (in 1978 and 1986), Zusters was awarded the TokoroaArt Award in 1988 and visited Berlin on a Goethe Institute Scholarship in 1992. In 1995, Zusters was invited to be a guestartist in residence at Canterbury University and in 2004 took upthe position as William Hodges Fellow in Southland.
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