Skip to main content

Vivian Lynn


Vivian Lynn is a prominent New Zealand feminist artist.  Her work has been featured in numerous art galleries around the country including the National Art Gallery and Te Papa.

She is best known for using hair, skin and other human materials.  Her creations are hard to categorise because she has worked with so many different media over the years, such as painting, sculpture and printing.  This is characterised by her wish to not be defined by a particular style, and the constant use of different media keeps her on the edge with her art.  She branched out from oil on canvas by 1968 because it was a medium with a very masculine history.  Lynn examines the pressures of society on the individual, the norms that dictate our behaviour, the attitudes that direct our thoughts, and the clichés that shape our beliefs.

Vivian Lynn was born in 1931 in Wellington.  She attended Wellington Girls’ College from 1945 to 1948.  Her art teacher took her on weekend trips to Otaki to paint.  Lynn continued her education in Christchurch, where she studied painting. After receiving her Diploma in Fine Arts she studied at Auckland Teachers’ College and she received an award for outstanding art student of the year.

Until 1996 she was a lecturer in drawing and design at the Victoria University and Wellington Polytechnic Schools of Architecture and Design.

One of her best-known exhibits is the ‘G(u)arden Gates”, a collection of seven pairs of farm gates with hair arranged over them in in a variety of different ways. It was part of a Te Papa exhibition of female contemporary artists. They represent, amongst other things, the influence of our patriarchal society and the process of discarding that influence in order to truly be herself.

Another prominent piece was Iron Maiden, which Tina Barton described as ‘a mirrored box with an open lid in which she displays a line-up of tiny, malformed foetuses crafted out of modeling compound that are positioned under magnifying lenses to exacerbate their deformities.’ Lynn takes a deep interest in ecology. In fifth form she won the school prizes for both art and science. This work is one of many which make an environmental statement. In particular, it shows what impact our actions now will have on the children of the future.

Today Vivian Lynn is still a practising artist, always looking forward to contemporary forms of inspiration and to what thrills her next work will unlock. Some of her work has been purchased as recently as last year and she is donating a catalogue of her work to our very own WGC.