The opportunity to see Rodin's Eve in the flesh, or rather in the bronze, drew art lovers from around the district to the Percy Thomson Gallery on Friday evening.

The opening night was packed, with everyone keen to get close to New Zealand's most significant Rodin sculpture.

The Remembering Rodin exhibition includes some special pieces of art, a lithographic portrait of Rodin (1914) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and a rare leather bound edition of Gustave Coquiot's Rodin (Paris 1915) with 57 hand-tipped photographs.

I expected this exhibition to take my breath away, and it did.

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If you have any interest in art, in history, or simply like things of beauty, then you should treat yourself to a visit to this exhibition while it is in town.

What was perhaps more of a surprise was the impact the accompanying exhibition, State of the Art, hanging with Rodin, would have on me.

Percy Thomson Gallery director has really shown her skill here, as she personally curated this exhibition.

In it, she introduces or re-introduces art lovers to a well-chosen range of Taranaki artists and sculptors who she considers to be pushing artistic boundaries with the development of new techniques, style or concept.

And she has certainly got it right.

The artwork boldly demands your attention and draws you in.

I would have thought art work placed on show alongside Rodin's Eve and a lithograph by Renoir would get lost, almost invisible against the timeless talent of these French artists.

I was wrong.

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Even as I walked in and looked towards Eve herself, I found my eyes drawn in a different direction.

Our eyes met across the room, and everything else faded out. I had seen Cyrus.

I thought I was looking at a photo from a front cover of a National Geographic magazine, and felt myself hypnotised by the subject's eyes. It was, I thought, the very best photograph I had seen in any exhibition.

Pantea Rastegari's charcoal drawing entitled Cyrus commands attention.
Pantea Rastegari's charcoal drawing entitled Cyrus commands attention.

I went for a closer look, and realised how wrong I was. I was wrong about the photo, and I was wrong to have thought Rhonda Bunyan would have curated an exhibition that would have got lost against Rodin.

Cyrus is not a photograph but a charcoal drawing by Pantea Rastegari.

Pantea won the 2019 National Art Award and the People's Choice award in the same year, and it is easy to see why.

Cyrus, and her other piece of art in this exhibition, A Glass of Tea, are incredible in their detail. Both commanded attention and were, for me, the absolute highlights of the exhibition. In fact, when I talk about the opening night - which I have, a lot, to everyone I have seen since - I talk more about those two pieces of art than Eve herself.

While Pantea's pieces were the highlight for me, others will find other pieces more to their liking, and there is certainly plenty to choose from.

Donna Willard-Moore's Old Lion perfectly captures a battle weary king of the jungle.
Donna Willard-Moore's Old Lion perfectly captures a battle weary king of the jungle.

From Jennifer Patterson's detailed and thoughtful piece depicting the Thai cave rescue to Donna Willard-Moore's bronze casting of an Old Lion (another favourite of mine), the artwork on display is all incredibly clever and shows just how full of talent Taranaki is. Kayla Upton is another one of my favourite artists from the exhibition, and her bronze and rimu Hermit is just one example of her extraordinary talent.

Rhonda has once again shown her merit as a gallery director. From securing the Remembering Rodin exhibition itself to choosing such a wondrous range of artwork to sit alongside it.

And all the while, she was busy with her own photographic exhibition as well.

Engram. Memory Trace by Rhonda Bunyan is also on display in the gallery, and as it merits far more than just a few lines at the end of one review, that exhibition will feature in a separate article next week. Suffice to say, it is well worth seeing and will leave you deep in thought.

So make some time and go and see Remembering Rodin at the Percy Thomson Gallery. Just don't be surprised if you stay for the others.