Janet McAllister on the arts

Janet McAllister looks at the world of the arts and literature.

Janet McAllister: One hundred ways to delight in life

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New Zealand designer Emma Rogan has turned the 100 Days Project into something massive.

Jo stitched spiders for the 100 Days Project.
Jo stitched spiders for the 100 Days Project.

Nichole drew 100 drawings with her left hand. Lena wrote down 100 overheard conversations. Jo stitched 100 spiders. Others pressed flowers, sculpted paper food, photographed everyday objects in microscopic close-up. Over 100 days, once a day, they added to their collections and last month, with 150-odd others, they exhibited their oeuvres in the 100 Days Project 2013 show at Britomart's Nathan Club.

The massed creativity was a flabbersmacking delight. Like possums, we got dizzy checking out 100 x 150 dazzling moons. Yet technically, participants were just repeating a repetitive exercise in design discipline that influential graphic designer Michael Bierut gives his students at Yale. Impressively, off her own bat, New Zealand designer Emma Rogan has turned the 100 Days Project into something massive.

Her project takes, as unofficial motto, a blood-sweat-and-tears quote from photorealist artist Chuck Close: "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work."

And yet, all-comers, even "amateurs", are welcome as project makers, including children. If you want to join, just sign up for next year's announcements.

At her TEDx presentation last year, Rogan suggested that "the appeal is the permission it gives you to create". I would add: and the platform to share with others. Some even sell their work.

The website shows the breadth of creative endeavours. Originality predates day one: people work in music, headbands, curtain tassels, matchboxes and crayons moulded into cars.

Afifa designed words describing attributes of God in contemporary Arabic calligraphy. Jana photographed 100 heart shapes made with hands, leaves, weaving, origami. Raul's "graphic archaeology" photo essay is about ripped, faded and scrubbed-away signs. Jessica created 100 vegetarian recipes - thanks to her attractive give-away cards at the show, we made her cherry choc-chip sorbet at home, and can recommend it.

Others have elaborate plans. Every day, Sarah, Nadja, Catherine and Simon from Cube responded visually to one word from a 100-word passage from Katherine Mansfield's novel Bliss. A sequined skull and a furry "R" illustrate the word "are" on Day Seven.

Siran Li's achievement is breathtaking: drawings and architectural models for 50 Roald Dahl short stories. They were an entire exhibition - an entire intricate world - by themselves.

Others document themselves and their families. Themes this year were zeitgeist: travel, food, cats and things to be grateful for. In another context, some might seem self-indulgent, but why not use the project as a personal diary? It's for play, for fun.

James whittled 100 wooden bottle openers. They came in handy for opening-night refreshments. James' artist questionnaire stated he enjoyed "sampling new beers and lots of time spent in my shed listening to Pink Floyd". He modestly wrote that bottle openers are "not creative but a genius invention".

But what is creativity? For Rogan, it is imagining, solving and inventing. Chuck Close again: "You sign on to a process and see where it takes you. You don't have to invent the wheel every day." Ditto the bottle opener.

100daysproject.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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