A week in Auckland led us to the Auckland Art Gallery. We always begin with a coffee in the welcoming café, set in trees where birds enjoy being watched and listened to. I also like the fact that endless, free mineral water is served there with a good strong coffee.
This set us up for viewing two exhibitions. The first, entitled From Pillars To Posts: Another Country, was a "project" at the Gallery's Creative Centre. An uncountable number of "dwellings", tiny, had been created from recycled cardboard by visitors of all ages, since the exhibition opened in April. Others were being made while we were there and more will be created before the end of the exhibition in September. The piles of little dwellings were ingenious in design and each uniquely encompassed the maker's idea of what home means in one's imagination. This is especially true when one leaves one's birthplace and moves around the world. Auckland is a city of many cultures. People have moved here from many other lands. It was evident that visitors to the project had indeed created a "dream home" from cardboard. Stacked high in pillars in the room, these similar yet shaded colours of textured cardboard will be added to other site-specific projects that the Filipino artists, Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan are creating world-wide. There is a video well worth watching on the gallery's web page.
The main exhibition, nearing the end of its time at the gallery, is a large exhibition chronicling the artistic stages of one of New Zealand's most prominent modern painters, Gordon Walters, who died in the mid 90s. I walked into the first room and thought , "Ah yes! Not my scene!" How wrong I was. Walters showed proof of his excellent ability to paint in a self-portrait included in the early part of the exhibition. I always respect an artist who then allows his own creativity and personality to influence his progress.
Walters was a Fundamentalist. In the 1960s, he fell in love with the Maori koru paintings and most New Zealanders have seen examples of this work. He loved simplicity of design and its possibilities when placed alongside the same sized pattern, a smaller or larger version, contrasting or repeated colours, different-sized canvasses. Each creation is a new venture though so often made up of the same symbol. He is meticulous in his work, aiming at perfect simplicity and accuracy.
The exhibition shows the work of others who influenced him and also photos of the rock art of ancient Maori which he worked through. At first sight, all his many works included here are striking but appear similar. However, with longer study, the shapes, sizes, tones and intricate relationships with each other bring new interest in and affection for his work. Amazing, too, that 40 years on , he was still tackling that fundamental relationship, bringing so much more to our and his vision. I can now understand the reason that he stands there in New Zealand art, alone but influencing and pleasing others. An excellent exhibition.
MIKE: Having enjoyed the Puanga exhibition at Gallery on Guyton, the opening of A Whole Other Story was too good to miss. As with the previous display, found items and materials were metamorphosed into "new creations, breathing new life and purpose into the objects". Bronwyn Hughes had used keys from an old typewriter, attaching them to wooden bases on which she had painted various figures — a person, bird, whale, peacock — in such a way as to highlight specific attributes, eg, the spouting of the whale. A large owl, Hector, Keeper of Secrets, was depicted on the central panel of a three-leafed mirror. Most impressive were two small tins with delicate butterflies fixed inside. Butterflies were also the main theme for Jutta Humpfer, a finalist in the 2018 Parking Prize in Wellington, who had made use of recycled nylon for their wings, while my attention was drawn to Lysha Brennan's two striking plates.
Steampunk-style top hats were the work of Lizette Britton, decorated with gems and buttons, all from local op shops. Mixed media of found metal and board were the inspiration for Julz Coffey's seascapes, where the movement of the sea is a constant process, transforming glass and other materials.
For me, the highlight of the show was the wall displaying Juan Coffey's works, in different styles, based upon the Christchurch earthquakes. Photographs were juxtaposed with "rubbings", both genres extremely attractive. They introduced us to four mixed media works, powerful and threatening. Juan told me he had spent more than four years helping with the city's re-build. The anger, despair and frustration of the residents come markedly to the fore here, containing, as they do, such an elemental force. The exhibition still has a week to run.
"Tui" or "tuis"? Which is the plural form? Whichever it is, I love those birds. In the small cul-de sac in Mt Eden where our daughter lives, the narrow road is flanked by several trees, all in full blossom last week. What type of tree? I cringe to admit I don't know, but the point of this addendum, sadly lacking in accurate information, is that tuis were inhabiting — nay, infesting! — the lot. Every tree contained at least three, and I counted over a dozen in one. They were croaking, cackling, twittering, singing — all shades of notes and scales — as they jumped around, their parson's bibs bouncing. I can't remember having heard such loud birdsong in a suburban area. It was glorious!
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