Artisan:

Auckland Art Gallery's latest exhibition

Freedom Farmers: New Zealand Artists Growing Ideas

isn't just an art show featuring 20 of the country's top contemporary artists; it's also a celebration of New Zealand's culture of invention, forward thinking and liberty. While some of the artworks invite playful exploration, such as Richard Maloy's Tree Hut, others tackle issues we face today and examine the way we live and the consequences of this.

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Wayne Barrar's striking photographic series of Stewart Island is nature photography at its best, offering a rare view of one of New Zealand's more remote places. On close inspection the images show the advance of foreign grasses invading territories which formerly belonged to indigenous species. Artist Xin Chen's sculptural work Propositions investigates alternative lifestyles, in particular permaculture origins in international cultures with some focus on South East Asia.

Louise Menzies examines one of New Zealand's alternative lifestyle communities in her video work on Peloha (which takes its name from the first two letters of the words 'peace', 'love' and 'harmony'). Peloha was started by Herbert Sutcliffe, an advocate for healthy living who considered humans threefold beings consisting of mind, body and spirit. Sutcliffe began teaching these principals through Radiant Living schools, and in his lifetime established 36 schools across the United States, Australia and New Zealand. By 1942 he had made Havelock North his home and the international headquarters of the Radiant Living movement.

The exhibition doesn't only offer visual delights, but also provides practical advice on living well. The Ideas Market on Sunday 1 December showcases New Zealand's best sustainable-living businesses, including Solar Power from Greenstage, stylish and eco-friendly water tanks from New Water, along with experts on permaculture, composting and more. The famous 'Green Goddess' Wendyl Nissen will be on hand with easy tips for environmentally friendly living, and for those looking to try their hand at cycling, Rode Cycles will have some new urban cycles on show.

New Zealand's pioneers of off-the-grid living, husband-and-wife team Robert (Beansprout) and Catherine Long are a highlight on the event programme. Beansprout settled in Gorge River, Westland, two days' hike from the nearest road, and has spent 30 years living in one of the most remote locations in the country. Hear about life without the modern conveniences of city living and learn more about being self-sufficient at their talk on Sunday 8 December.

Riki Bennett (Ngati Pikiao, Te Arawa, and Ngati Porou) speaks on traditional uses of plants by Maori. His exhibits include various food-gathering traps, nets and materials that, in the past, Maori used in their daily lives. A must for anyone interested in herbal remedies, Riki's talk is on Sunday 17 November.

Freedom Farmers: New Zealand Artists Growing Ideas is on at Auckland Art Gallery until 23 February 2014. Entry is FREE. For more information on the Freedom Farmers, its special events, and other summer exhibitions focused on New Zealand art, visit www.aucklandartgallery.com.

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