On the shelf

The handcrafts of our grannies and aunties evoke powerful memories of our domestic past - a past that has earned a place in our artistic heritage

Alison Milne's Precious. Photo / Richard Robinson
Alison Milne's Precious. Photo / Richard Robinson

Open a cupboard at the new Artstation show, Cupboards, and you'll find shelves loaded with nostalgia. Cupboards, put together by 30 members of Knitterati, an arts and crafts collective based at the Ponsonby community gallery, is a "family geography", according to curator Liz Wilkinson.

"Family geography was just a way of sparking people's ideas up," she says. "A lot of it seems to be involved with past things or their parents."

So Ngaire Mains' curtained Celebration Cupboard includes a large jar of old buttons, something you always used to find in grandma's home, its strata of buttons marking times and styles long past. Embroiderer Lynn Kearns has sewn an image of a black and white cupboard, while Alison Milne's Precious refreshes a recycled crocheted cardigan with woven ribbons and a secret revealed when the buttons are undone: knitted breast prostheses.

Marlyne Jackson's Lavender and Roses spells out the title in French knitting above two tiny cupboards containing pretty trinkets, tiny embroidered doilies and little jars of natural skin care essences, reflecting her "thinking about Mum and my grandmother".

There is a cupboard full of knitted teapot cosies (Lyanne Corbett), a minuscule paper cupboard decorated with photos inside and out (Reflections on My Forebears by Sharon Rochford), and a cabinet full of milk jug doilies (Maggie Gresson). Jude Graveson's Serving Tea at Mason's Ave is a tea trolley covered with macabre objects like a bowl full of artificial eyeballs, a cup filled with eye teeth, dried cow gut, bird skulls and three slabs of anatomically carved soap.

Egg Cupboard, by Gillian Clark, features the "cosmic egg" hovering above a broken egg cup, while Liz Wilkinson has two pieces in the show: About A Year, a box of recycled envelopes-cum-diary, and Morandi's Bottles, woollen bottles knitted in the round as a tribute to Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, who painted bottles and bowls in simple muted colours.

Knitterati, who have been working together for about 10 years as part of a worldwide Knitterati movement, started with classes at Artstation taught by Auckland University of Technology lecturer Trish Scott.

Since then, they have evolved into an "untutored" group which meets monthly to knit, practice craft and visit public art spaces. As Wilkinson explains, the group is not restricted to knitting. "In fact, in one of the earlier exhibitions one of the artists put in all her recipes for coleslaw."

But there is knitting aplenty. For its House to House show in 2011, Knitterati went to Taupo and knitted in public for six hours a day for nine days for the Erupt Festival, while they knitted huge blankets for a year for a 2008 show called Shelter, with the blankets later donated to Mangere Refugee Centre.

Knitterati are also associated with the Artists Alliance's Oily Rag Project, or "How to have an exhibition/event on the smell of an oily rag" designed to encourage artists who want to show their work who are otherwise inhibited by a lack of funding.

As with all Knitterati shows, Cupboards includes a charitable objective. Viewers are invited to bring non-perishable food to place in Old Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, which will go to the Auckland City Mission.


Exhibition

What: Cupboards

Where and when: Artstation, 1 Ponsonby Rd, to April 13

- NZ Herald

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