For Dannevirke's Mike Harold, art is about keeping stories from our past alive and his exhibition, Topdressing Daze, will be the first to open in a pop-up gallery at the Dannevirke Aerodrome.
Over the weekend of March 4 to 6, the aerodrome will be alive with the sights, sounds and stories of aviation's yesteryear, during the Tiger Moth Club of New Zealand's annual summer fly-in, as well as the inaugural showing of Mr Harold's latest narrative series of paintings.
Topdressing Daze has developed from a selection of mainly local stories, with the exhibition comprising 27 oil paintings in Mr Harold's distinctive quirky style, in which he aims to recapture the essence of those pioneering days of aerial topdressing in the 1950s.
"The paintings celebrate the rich, old stories from the 1950s when these cavalier topdressing pilots were our heroes," he said. "They were owner/operators who were driven by competition. It was a very special period in the economy of the southern Hawke's Bay and northern Wairarapa when they kick-started our farms and allowed them to grow good grass which turned into a boom time for our economy.
"This era in our history lasted just six years, but some very rich stories have emerged. These pilots, many war veterans, flew for better or worse and they were the epitome of the number eight wire mentality we are so well-known for. They were very resourceful."
Mr Harold said during this amazing period the Kiwi tradition of number eight wire technology and improvisation facilitated a revolution in New Zealand's hill country farming.
In March the presence of the vintage Tiger Moth aircraft, so integral to that pioneering topdressing era, will add a special animated dimension to the stories embodied in Mr Harold's paintings. In a further celebration of authenticity and improvisation befitting the subject matter, part of the Dannevirke Aero Club hanger will serve as a pop-up art gallery for the weekend.
Mr Harold is telling some funny stories with his brush and palette, including one of a pilot who wanted to curry favour with the landowner.
"He took a couple joy-riding, but they had to sit in the hopper," he explained "Unfortunately, the second woman was a bit chubbier and had to slide out of her clothes to get out of the hopper. These are humorous gems to be kept alive."
This is Mr Harold's fourth major narrative series, the others being Kilmore and Beyond, (2002), The Last Foxtrot in Mangakino, (2009) and Peas and Onions for Tea, (2012). A limited edition book of the Topdressing Daze paintings will also be available for purchase.
A celebration of aviation:
* The Topdressing Daze exhibition will be open at the Dannevirke Aerodrome Saturday, March 5 and Sunday, March 6, from 10am to 5pm. Entry is off Aerodrome Rd, immediately south of Dannevirke on State Highway 2.
* From Wednesday, March 9, through to Sunday, March 20, the paintings will be exhibited in the Home Industries Hall at the Dannevirke A&P Showgrounds, open daily from 1pm to 5pm.