They call it an "artistic explosion" - eight days in which Auckland celebrates its artists, with more than 100 events spread across 10 areas: the central city, Newmarket, Ponsonby, Arch Hill, Parnell, K Rd, the North Shore, East, West and South Auckland.

It also coincides with the last week of the October school holidays, so if you're looking for something to do - a day trip with great art - here are three exhibitions to consider:

KNOT TOUCH BY JAE KANG
New Zealand Maritime Museum, Edmiston Gallery; until April 29, 2018

"Most people wouldn't consider coming to the Maritime Museum to see contemporary art," says exhibitions curator Jaqui Knowles.

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But until April, the museum will be the place to go to see one of the most colourful examples of how one contemporary artist has crafted a breath-taking site-specific installation for people of all ages and abilities.

Knot Touch, by Waiuku-based Korean artist and teacher Jae Kang, uses materials commonly found in the maritime industry, like nets and ropes, and a staggering variety of knots - with names like baggywrinkle, monkey fist, constrictor knot, the falconer and crown loop.

Hanging from the ceiling, draped across the walls and the floor, Kang's creations remind one of sea creatures and sailing ships, forgotten crafts and modern ecological issues, freedom and entrapment.

The installation is complemented by a soundtrack by Christine White who, inspired by the names of the knots, tried to capture their textures and qualities in sound.

Best of all, it is art to be touched, climbed in and on, pushed and wiggled. You don't stand and look at Knot Touch, you move through it and become surrounded by it. Influenced by her own experiences, it reflects Kang's desire to make art that is accessible to all.

Jae Kang made Knot Touch specially for the NZ Maritime Museum - and those who like to be able to touch the art.
Jae Kang made Knot Touch specially for the NZ Maritime Museum - and those who like to be able to touch the art.

Kang's son, Taewon, 25, has severe autism and is intellectually disabled. She has never been able to take him to an art gallery because he would want to touch the art and in many galleries and museums, that's not permitted.

Trained in traditional Korean drawing, which uses measured and methodical strokes, Kang has expanded these ideas to make drawing-like installations. In 1988, she helped make public art for the Seoul Olympic Games but, arriving in New Zealand in the mid-1990s, concentrated on her family's business (they grow tomatoes) and her children.

In recent years, Kang has started making art again - her work was seen at Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Galley last year and Waiheke Island's 2017 Headland Sculpture on the Gulf - and as Taewon has grown, she's become more interested in making tactile and sensory-friendly art like Knot Touch.

"I am an artist who understands the minorities in our art industry and I want to invite them as the major viewers in this exhibition. They will become the centre of the work," Kang says, adding that it also suitable for people who are blind or are partially-sighted.
"How can blind people see the art works? Touching is their major sense for seeing, understanding, feeling, learning and enjoying."

Ramps throughout the installation mean it's also wheelchair-friendly.

Malcolm Harrison's Evening Star is one of his many quilts featured in an exhibition at Waiheke Community Art Gallery.
Malcolm Harrison's Evening Star is one of his many quilts featured in an exhibition at Waiheke Community Art Gallery.

CELEBRATING A LIFE IN STITCHES
Malcolm Harrison: A Celebration,
Waiheke Community Art Gallery, until October 16

Stunning beaches, wineries and restaurants and fabulous walks - we don't need much persuading to head to Waiheke Island for a day trip or short break. This month, its community art gallery also celebrates a milestone worth checking out.

It's holding its first nationwide travelling exhibition, Malcolm Harrison: A Celebration, which looks at the life and work of the Waiheke resident who became one of our most acclaimed textile artists. Large and small quilts feature, as do wool tapestries, linen embroideries, tapa cloth pieces and several works on paper.

There are also small sculptures, assemblages, poetry, illustrations and children's books.
Curator Cerys Dallaway Davidson says it shows the depth of Harrison's skills and interests.

"Malcolm made a huge contribution as one of our leading textile artists," Davidson says. "He liked to joke that he was our first male embroiderer and quilter and, in a way, he was spot-on."

She agrees it was unusual, especially for the time, for a male artist to be working with textiles and says Harrison faced criticism from some needleworkers - "they said he didn't use enough stitches" - and the more mainstream art world, that saw his work as craft rather than art.

"But he persevered and was always exploring as an artist, going beyond the textile sphere."

It was fashion where Harrison first made his name, starting as a window-dresser at the DIC department store while taking night-classes in patternmaking. Aged just 19, he was a finalist in the NZ Gown of the Year competition; a year later he placed second and went on to work with Auckland fashion designer Colin Cole before opening his own boutique, Jasper Johnsons Jamboree, in Takapuna.

While Harrison was known and noted for bridal wear, gorgeous gowns and bespoke suits, in the 1970s he swapped fashion for textile art. An early quilt, a tribute to French painter Henri Rousseau, related to his time as a fashion-designer by using dress fabric scraps (pictured). It is one of the few quilts Harrison sewed by hand as he generally preferred machine quilting which while more difficult, was quicker and gave a harder edge.

Davidson credits the Denis Cohn Gallery with giving his career a major spur. The gallery held his first quilt exhibition and Cohn himself introduced Harrison to Wellington art dealer Janne Land who showed his work regularly until his death.

Harrison went on to make two works, These are Matters of Pride and Whanaungatanga (Relationships), for Parliament and, in 2004, was recognised with the inaugural Creative New Zealand Craft/Object Art Fellowship.

Following its opening on Waiheke, the exhibition will travel to other Auckland galleries and then further afield.

Christine Hellyar has exhibitions at two Auckland galleries.
Christine Hellyar has exhibitions at two Auckland galleries.

SOUTH WEST DIRECTOR FOR ARTIST'S TWIN EXHIBITIONS
Looking West, Botanical Drawings by Christine Hellyar
Miranda Farm Gallery until October 31(opens Wednesday - Sundays)
Looking, Seeing, Thinking
Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery until November 5

About an hour south of Auckland on the Seabird Coast, which runs down toward the Firth of Thames, the main attractions are Kaiaua Fisheries - among the best fish 'n' chips in the country - the Miranda Shorebird Centre and the Miranda Hot Springs.
But there's another reason to head this way.

Miranda Farm Gallery, next to the Stray Dog Café and farm shop, is a light-filled room which hosts exhibitions by renowned artists like Michael Smither, Fatu Feu'u, Warren Viscoe, Clovis Viscoe, Neil Miller, Keith Woodley, Samantha Lissette, James Wright and Christine Hellyar.

In the midst of an orchard, it's an apt setting for Hellyar's latest exhibition. There are some 16 verdant botanical drawings of flooded coastland broadleaf forest in the Waitakere Ranges; they complement another exhibition on the other side of Auckland, Looking, Seeing, Thinking at Te Uru in Titirangi.

That features the silk screen-prints Hellyar made using these botanical drawings as well as upholstered furniture and scarlet-red sculptural textile figures that hang from the ceiling.

"The drawings are done with me using dyes in different ways on the paper - I start by dying the paper outdoors on my sloping lawn - and because I've done lots of drawings of the bush, I don't actually draw from those or from photographs or from the bush itself," Hellyar explains.

"It's just in my head, drawing from what I know and mostly in black and white then, when I'm looking at a piece of paper with the dye on it, I try to read what the piece of paper is telling me."

An interest in history, especially the Enlightenment, and what Hellyar describes as the domestication of nature have fuelled much of her work during a career which spans five decades. Indeed, these current exhibitions stem from 2002 when, with fellow artist Maureen Lander, Hellyar took the exhibition Mrs Cook's Kete to Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum.

It was based on the idea that Elizabeth Cook's "souvenirs" from her husband's voyages to the Pacific may have been markedly different to his and more from the domestic realm - items related to food gathering and preparation, sewing and textiles, dressing and decoration.

"That exhibition was the start of a lot of things for me about looking at the English in the 18th century as an interesting group to study - using ethnographical methods - and to look at the way they came to the Pacific and studied Polynesian people," Hellyar says.

There were clear signs early in her career that the so-called every day and ordinary would occupy. Aged 23, Hellyar made Country Clothesline which, inspired by rural washing lines, incorporated 22 garments dipped in latex and pinned to wire.

When the Govatt-Brewster Gallery, in her hometown of New Plymouth bought it, there was an outcry; one protester hung a banner outside the gallery declaring "Govatt-Brewster Lunatic Asylum" but it did not to deter Hellyar from making art or institutions from displaying and adding it to their collections.

She believes she has now made and exhibited close on 770 sculptures, 15 large installations and countless paintings, drawings and photographs. But the botanical drawings-turned-into-screen-prints are something different.

"I wanted to take my drawings somewhere else rather than just being drawings or painting," she says. "In a way, this is for me to learn something from but hopefully others will, too.

"My primary reason is always to make something for people to enjoy and be entertained by; my own kind of beautiful thing. I think we have a unique kind of beauty in New Zealand and maybe it might help others see as well because this kind of beauty doesn't exist anywhere else."