Hokianga artist finds new audience

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Hokianga carver and painter Liz McAuliffe is attracting a whole new audience for her work in Denmark.

She began her art training in the Hokianga in 2006, with a specialised one-year visual arts programme under the tutelage of Sue Daly (painter), Dr Glen Hayward (sculptor) and Andrea Daly (jeweller), then undertook a Diploma in Applied Arts in 2010/11.

"I have always been intrigued and inspired by natural forms, and have an enjoyment of working with wood and a love and desire to work with my hands," she said.

"This has been directed into my career as an artist. I have been working up to 50-60 hour weeks as a fully self-supporting professional artist since 2014 to establish and maintain this challenging career."

The "Denmark chapter" began six years ago, when Odd Sinding and his daughter, Astrid, called at her local gallery, Village Arts in Kohukohu, to see her solo exhibition Ebb & Flow. She happened to be volunteering at the gallery that day, and struck up a comfortable conversation, Odd saying he would like to see her work in his home country.

"If you are an artist or a gallery owner, you know this is said relatively often in the course of showing artworks, and I agreed it would be nice and really didn't think too much more of it," she said.

"Both he and his daughter purchased some pieces, and loved them when they arrived at their homes.

"Six years later he contacted and informed me that he had spent the last three years renovating a complex of traditional buildings, set inside Mols Bjerge National Park, Denmark. Three guest houses, a transitional gallery space, conference facilities and many other exciting ideas were in the pipeline, making up Bogensholm Hovedgaards Hideaways (www.bogensholm.com), which officially opened on June 25.

"Odd wanted my work to be the inaugural exhibition, hence the invite, and of course I had to accept. How could I not? This is an amazing opportunity for my artworks and career.

"As this is my first exhibition in the Northern Hemisphere I simply had to accompany my works, to keep an eye on them, to mend any breakages. Surprisingly there were not as many as there could have been. I also brought several pieces that were under way in my workshop that I wanted finished.

"So here I am in Denmark, embracing this amazing experience. While seeing the countryside and the rich spring growth I have also been influenced and motivated to explore some new pieces inspired by Odd's love of the cherry trees lining his driveway.

"My exhibition is called Blurred Boundaries, inspired by my desire to explore and push boundaries, and my time at Bogensholm transporting me into another hemisphere, an unfamiliar natural landscape and a deeper richening of my attraction to nature. This exhibition reflects and encapsulates my interest in the blurred boundaries between 2D and 3D, man and nature, art and craft/design, formal and organic, deception and reality, and of course between cultures."

She was looking forward to sharing her experiences with other artists, predominantly in the Hokianga, a place that was already getting a name for 'good' art, when she returned.

"I am keen to pass on my ideas, experiences, and to inspire other isolated rural artists to step outside their comfort zones and to work towards 'making art' a conscious career choice," Liz said.

"Whether we acknowledge it or not, I believe nature influences humans, sometimes in very dramatic ways. We are thus drawn to remembering that we too are nature.

"My sculptures give a sensual experience as well as a visual one. Careful attention to detail, whether in form, surface or shadow, is central to my practice and works. I am intrigued by the minutiae found in nature, especially objects that are often bypassed or go unnoticed, working closely from found objects so that when upscaling these minutiae into life-size, I invite the viewer to re-examine their relationship with Nature.

I work in a variety of media, from contemporary man-made composite boards to New Zealand-grown timbers, including 40,000-year-old reclaimed swamp kauri. I work most days on my art, using the mornings for heavy carving when my mind and body are fresh, saving the afternoons and evenings for contemplative painting, bookwork and research.

"Creating from and with nature has long been a way for me to stay connected to myself and my environment. I see samples everywhere, from the native bush to the vegetable garden. Attracted to the plentiful, fecund shapes in nature, I take delight in replicating and celebrating their unique and individual forms, imbuing them with my own aesthetic."

Meanwhile Liz was running a crowdfunding campaign over her three-month residency in Denmark, to help cover the cost of travel, shipping and insuring artwork, setting up a small workshop there, buying materials, producing a regular blog and finishing with a publication to document this special opportunity. Contributions can be made at www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/help4liz#

"I would really appreciate any assistance, as I would like to encourage and inspire other artists," she said.

- Northland Age

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