Tanya Ashken

b. 1939

Tanya Ashken was born in London (England) and attended the Central School of Arts & Crafts in London, where she was awarded a diploma in silversmithing in 1960. The following year she also studied sculpture at the Atelier of André Del Debbio (Paris). Primarily working as a silversmith, Ashken created a number of silver pieces for churches throughout New Zealand. Alongside her sculpture practice she also made jewellery in semi-precious materials in a practice that blurred the distinction between the disciplines.

Ashken married New Zealand artist John Drawbridge in 1960 and emigrated to New Zealand in 1963, where she continued to practice producing jewellery and sculpture.

In 1966 her work was included in Recent New Zealand Sculpture at the Auckland City Art Gallery, and in 1967 was awarded the second ever Frances Hodgkins Fellowship.

Ashken received a number of major commissions, including 'Seabird V' (1974) for the New Zealand High Commission in Canberra and 'Albatross' (1986) in Frank Kitts Park, Wellington.

In her survey of women artists Anne Kirker has described Ashken's sculpture as “graceful organic forms articulated by the play of natural light”, noting the evocation of “weathered stone or the graceful movements of seabirds – familiar components of her Island Bay home in Wellington“. (p158)

See also:

Tanya Ashken, ‘Albatross’ (1989), Taranaki Street Wharf, CBD, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington

Image: Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, Public Art Heritage Aotearoa New Zealand, 2021