Suji Park | oo0O0oo0O0oo0O0oo

Hi there!

It has been quite some time since I’ve seen the work of Suji Park, and since I’ve last written, but the end half of 2016?  Yeah… Anyway, I was very excited to catch her latest exhibition at Ivan Anthony Gallery with its fantastically onomatopoeic title, oo0O0oo0O0oo0O0oo, which continues with her foray into experimentation, process and material.

With tactile, textured surfaces that have been decorated, studded, doodled, moulded, Park’s sculptures are the subjects of her playful inquisitiveness; an inquisitiveness that is conferred upon her creations.  Many have small, curious faces that beckon you to lean in and look closer.  Some of which you genuinely have to, as they are displayed low on the wall below hip height.  Works such as Saii (2016, oil, acrylic and crystals on fired clay) and Ori (2016, oil, tempera and gold on fired clay) resemble unearthed idols or relics: intricately and lovingly detailed, and made semi-precious with the inclusion of crystals and gold.  I was quite intrigued by Saii, who bears a passing resemblance to the Grinch, and there is something familiar about a few of the figures (perhaps from Miyazaki?).

Park has utilised a gamut of materials in this exhibition: oil, graphite, clay, feathers, watercolour, tempera, synthetic hair, garnet, quartz, the list goes on.  These are best seen on the trestle table, a cornucopia of curiosities, with smatterings laid out amongst her sculptures.  Though seemingly displayed at random, they are not as arbitrary as initially thought.  The feathers, black crystals, small iridescent discs and so on, are presented just so, possibly implying that the works are unfinished and we are only seeing them mid-process.  There is an abundance of detail to submerse yourself in as you weave through the four rooms of the gallery, down to the red fingernails of Aah (2016, oil, tempera, watercolour, graphite, gold and pigment on fired clay) and a single braid of synthetic hair.

This melding and mixing of materials in her work is fascinating.  Park has brought together finished and unfinished substances such as fired and unfired clay, and painted in tempera, a traditional medium made from colour pigments and egg, used for religious icons since the early centuries AD.  Her process of experimenting investigates the processes themselves, as she breaks the materials down and sees what else they can become.  There are a liberating number of potentialities and forms that her work can take on; they have chimeric qualities, and this adds an element of the unknown and the unexplored.  You do wonder as you glimpse upon them at this moment, what they will look like over time – will some of the elements fracture, break, sprout or disintegrate?

There is a lot to captivate with Park’s exhibition, and I recommend taking in the splendour with a bit of sun gleaming in through the windows.  That way you can enjoy the glint and grooves of the materials that make up her sculptures, in particular Dol Vii (2016, fired clay, non-firing clay, unfired clay, epoxy, garnet, mica, plastic, glass, acrylic, watercolour, tempera, quartz, chipped foam and plaster) as there is a lot going on there 😛

For images of the works, please see the gallery website:

oo0O0oo0O0oo0O0oo by Suji Park is on at the Ivan Anthony Gallery, near the corner of East St and K’Rd until Thursday 23rd February 2017.  Park has also released a publication, Original Unknown with images of her work thus far, and essays by Charlotte Huddleston, Emma Bugden and Karl Chitham.  It is available from the Ivan Anthony Gallery.

Thanks for reading!



Sam Mitchell – Desires Postponed

I could not contain my excitement when I saw this exhibition advertised at the Melanie Roger Gallery in Herne Bay.  Why?  It brings together some of my favourite things: art and the Classic Hollywood era.

Artist Sam Mitchell often utilises various mediums, and here she applies her unmistakable style to inky blue watercolours on paper displayed in a tight grid, and slick Perspex domes which she has painted on the inside, and thus in reverse.  As the title proffers, Desires Postponed is an exploration of hindered dreams and forgotten endeavours.  Filtered through Mitchell’s prolific knowledge of pop culture and imagery, it features tragic figures from history – some more recent, some only recently rediscovered.

Embodying this theme and providing inspiration is Hedy Lamarr, an Austrian-born Hollywood actress and inventor.  During World War II, Lamarr and composer George Antheil created frequency-hopping spread-spectrum technology, where the signals for radio controlled torpedoes would hop from frequency to frequency, rendering them difficult to jam.  Patented in 1942, it was never implemented and forgotten, until 1962 when the US Navy utilised the design during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Lamarr and Antheil’s invention laid the groundwork for our modern Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and other communication technology.

It is only in the last few decades that Lamarr’s achievements as an inventor have received recognition, and her face (in her own words, a mask she cannot remove, a curse) populates this exhibition.  I could spot at least two of the watercolour portraits that resembled iconic images of her.  In the Perspex dome work Cuban Missile Crisis (2016), Lamarr’s face is central with gilded seigaiha (Japanese wave design) hair and hollow eyes, as she floats almost deity-like.  Along the edge of the dome, runs a row of missiles which appear to be aimed at Lamarr.  This image could well be a commentary on the corruption of intentions and inventions, during the Cold War and in our current global situation.  The threat and consequence of nuclear arms is also evident in Shattered Dreams, where the word ‘Chernobyl’ is blazoned on the left side next to what appears to be a child and a melting ice cream.

Other forlorn figures with unrealised ambitions include Alexander the Great, who created one of the largest empires spanning from Greece to the top of India, and who died at the age of 32 mid campaign.  Another much more contemporary figure is the legendary musician David Bowie on Keep your ‘lectric eye on me babe (2016) in his Ziggy Stardust persona and drawn from the lyrics of the 1971 song ‘Moonage Daydream’.  One of the rare images in this show not to have hollow eyes – his eyes were so distinctive – the galactic setting suggested in the lyrics of ‘Moonage Daydream’ perfuses the illustrations on the dome, and in fact several of the domes.  Boldly Go is coated in sci-fi references from R2-D2 to Alf to the Vulcan Salute.  Moreover, their globular shape contributes to this theme of deep space, and their installation at varying points on the walls has the appearance of planets in orbit.

There are a dizzying number of faces and an epic array of eyewear amongst the watercolours.  They are all young, and their hollow eyes create a sense of weariness and ambivalence.  Their faces and poses feel familiar, almost frustratingly so.  Along with the budgies, flowers, cassette tapes and what looked like a smiling cow cutting parts of its body off, there are layers upon layers of references to pop culture which could take hours or more to dissect.  Riveting and visually rich, the brightness of such imagery alludes to the optimism and flourishing of technology and pop culture during the mid-20th Century, yet lurking beneath are latent dreams and aspirations which Mitchell has bubbled to the surface.

Please see the Melanie Roger Gallery website and Artsdiary for images:

If you would like to learn more about Hedy Lamarr, I highly recommend this fabulous piece by Anne Helen Petersen.  Petersen did her PhD in celebrity gossip, and writes accessible academic critique on celebrity culture:

All her pieces are excellent and she’s even got a book!

And you can’t talk about Lamarr without mentioning the TV series Agent Carter (such a great show, why, why couldn’t they give us a season 3) as the character Whitney Frost is based upon her.

Sam Mitchell – Desires Postponed is on at the Melanie Roger Gallery, Herne Bay until Saturday 17th September 2016.  Not to be missed 🙂



Flight | Rumours

Hi there!

The recent group shows at Franklin Arts Centre have been outstanding and well worth the drive.  Ngaio Rue Blackwood, one of the artists from an exhibition earlier this year Made of Snow, was on view in the Community Gallery, alongside a group show titled Rumours which I was keen to check out 🙂

I managed to just catch Flight, which flitted onto the walls on Saturday 9th July before concluding on Friday 22nd.  And indeed, the ephemerality of nature is explored by Blackwood in this exhibition.  The emblematic bee makes its presence known throughout her works, such as Honey Sky (embroidery on linen, 22.9 x 17.8 cm) a personal fave.

By looking to the sky, weather and our environment, Blackwood examines these in numerous images of the ever-changing clouds to blooming flowers.  There is a sense of play and investigation, most notably seen in 30 paintings in 30 days (watercolour on paper, A7 size) where she paints her quintessential hexagon/honeycomb shape each day for a month.  Every day looks different, influenced by the artist’s state of mind and her external world.  Moreover, Blackwood has incorporated some geographical maps that are embroidered on cotton, which appear to trace the path of bees, and how what happens in one area can influence what happens in another – our environments, like communities, are co-dependent.

Blackwood utilises a multitude of mediums and often embraces alternative modes such as watercolour and embroidery, which are not regularly seen in galleries.  There is a sense of whimsy and delight to her painted and stitched lines, and throughout Flight there is a synergy, as each work inspires and motivates the creation of the next.  With a large body of work created over the past six months, I am curious to see what Blackwood does in the future.  A charming, thoughtful exhibition, I regret not being about to write about it earlier to allow you time to visit, and it was entirely my fault (and maybe a little bit of Pokémon Go’s…).  I am working on getting to them sooner!

Some images of Blackwood’s exhibition are on Franklin Art Centre’s Facebook page and on the artist’s website:

An interview with the artist and some info on the exhibition is below:

Curated by Kara Wallace, Rumours focusses on contemporary portraiture, and features artists Anne-Sophie Adelys, Henrietta Harris, Gavin Hurley, Sam Mitchell, Séraphine Pick and Wayne Youle.  These six artists investigate identity, memory, visibility and the self, each through their distinct styles; whilst collectively maintaining a fascination with blazing, bold coloration, and the signs and symbols of pop culture.  Also, what a great title!  I need to listen to that album again soon.

The first portrait you encounter is Big Saint Luke (2016) by Gavin Hurley.  A static figure with stylised features, specifically the nose and chin, Luke is placed against a landscape background in a collage-like manner but is actually oil painted on linen.  Mostly adopting middling blue and brown hues, pops of colour escape through his rather sensual lips, the rainbow to the left, and the sand coloured sun or halo (depending on your reading) that appears behind his head.  Saint Luke is the patron saint of artists, and the flatness of this image is evocative of the saints in medieval stained glass windows, but with Clark Gable hair 😛  Indeed, Hurley’s work is reminiscent of many things, such as the personal memory of making faces from felt in primary school art classes.  The palpable vintage vibe adds to that sense of familiarity, yet the passive immobility of his face draws the viewer in to ponder.

The next three portraits are by Anne-Sophie Adelys.  Each has a figure delineated by a swathe of flat, bold colour and sketchily outlined.  The background is loosely painted and gestural, and curiously the left arm of each figure is more developed and modelled.  The faces are left completely blank creating a sense of anonymity, yet the poses and situations depicted are familiar and intimate.  I almost felt as if I am intruding on a private moment of reflection.  The lack of facial features invites the viewer to project; rather than being a representation, it allows the viewer to embody the work with their own memories, and consider what can be seen in the absence of things.  Moreover, each painting has a witty title which I believe are drawn from quotes, for instance I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess (2016) is a declaration from biologist and feminist, Donna Haraway.

Henrietta Harris’ portraits are painted in an exacting, realistic style, highlighting a level of control and meticulous skill.  This is then interrupted by a gestural flourish; a sweep of thick, soft-hued pink paint that obscures the face in each image.  The portraits are of pensive young adults who seem somewhat uneasy or apprehensive, and who do not meet the viewer’s gaze; not that they can anyway 😀  I was fascinated by the juxtaposition between the imperceptible, immaculate brushwork of the fine strands of hair and the obvious, discernible lines in the brushy strokes.  It seems like an afterthought, though it is clearly not, and the titles Fixed it III – VI (2016) certainly play up that aspect.  It is as if some discord has occurred and there is a sense of frustration, a desire to forget or erase them from memory.  Yet the mind almost automatically attempts to reconcile what it’s seeing, to look beneath the brushstrokes and complete the faces like a jigsaw, emphasising the subject’s refusal to be effaced or ignored.

Garishly bright in lollipop shades with wide grins and hollow eyes, it took a moment to discern the subjects of Wayne Youle’s portraits.  Irreverent, convivial, and often addressing issues of race and identity, these particular images are highly topical.  Bad choices (2016) is an image of Margaret Thatcher, whose legacy polarises to this day, and whom the new British Prime Minister Theresa May is currently being compared with as she negotiates Brexit.  Bad manners (2016) is none other than Kanye West, another incredibly public and divisive figure, who is catching more of the spotlight with the recent Kardashian-West-Swift drama (you can catch up on it here,*sips tea*).  With areas of flat colour that make the figures resemble the icons we see on postage stamps or bank notes, Youle has altered the context we normally see them in.  By doing so, the feelings we have towards them (anger, admiration, disgust, the whole myriad) are suddenly jolted: they are made hilarious and absurd, and to an extent, so is their influence.

Along the left wall, the three images by Séraphine Pick resemble snapshots from a wild party, where comatose male revellers have had their faces doodled on or items balanced on their heads, such as a bottle.  Pick’s portraits have this bewitching haziness which her painterly style contributes to, and the loudness of the doodling is nearly silenced by the subject’s lifeless slumber.  It almost compels you to tiptoe past as to not rouse them.  Each is intimately focussed on their faces, and your imagination runs amok in envisioning what else happened.  Furthermore, you wonder if they will remember what has occurred, or confuse it with a disjointed dream.  These images also invite projection, to look introspectively and consider our own inebriated experiences.  Pick often draws inspiration from magazines and the internet, and there is an element of fantasy to these works which borders on predatory – questioning how we make ourselves, and such moments like these, public and available online.

Lastly, Sam Mitchell’s portraits take the form of two Perspex domes.  With gargantuan eyes and pillowy lips, they resemble balloons that have been decorated and then inflated.  Painted in reverse like much of Mitchell’s Perspex work, they have a deep space inspired background upon which a flurry of pop culture and retro imagery has been superimposed: pansies, the Taj Mahal, an old fashioned telephone, a canary, roses, guns, ‘60s damsels and more.  Wickedly playful, they extend and protrude into the viewer’s space.  There is a planetary feel to these large hemispherical shapes – the size is indicative of the wealth of memories and influences upon one’s sense of self.  What we see is simply the surface, we cannot glimpse behind it, and each symbol represents an arbitrary, or perhaps not so arbitrary, thought that pops into our head.  What is normally an invisible process is suddenly made very visible, and there is no hiding here.

Photos of Rumours can be found on Facebook:

A ruminative, enjoyable exhibition with lots to marvel and chuckle about, check out Rumours on until Saturday 20th August 2016, at the Franklin Art Centre, Pukekohe.

Phew, that was a long one!  Thanks for reading to the end 😀



Eventual Efflorescence – Kate van der Drift

Hello again,

I hope everyone is wrapped up warm this winter!  But if you are struggling, here is a recipe for Glögg (Swedish Mulled Wine) to help keep snug and toasty 😛  I know I’ve said it before, but I feel like the years are going by faster and faster.  It’s already June, which means that the Auckland Festival of Photography has rolled around!

Gracing Room 2 of Sanderson Contemporary in Newmarket is Eventual Efflorescence, the latest exhibition by photographer Kate van der Drift.  These new works depicts scenes of suburbia: front yards, stormwater drains, brick fences and more, and like previous images in her oeuvre, include vistas of water.  They express van der Drift’s ongoing investigation into place; how our surrounds undergo significant transformation due to human settlement, population growth, and industrial and technological advancements.

Eerily still and somewhat unsettling, her photographs are dichotomous in nature: mundane yet captivating, dreamlike yet real, they are images of nature that are unnaturally beautiful, and I found myself drawn in but equally detached.  The quietness of van der Drift’s works counter the fact that they are images of occupancy – they are about people and how we have modified our landscape to suit our way of living, but are void of a single person.  I found this particularly evident in Stormwater Reserve (2016, Giclée photograph on matte paper, 1350 mm x 915 mm) an elegant suburban panorama beside a mirroring body of water, emptied of people.  Furthermore, in Seychelles Drive (2016, Giclée photograph on matte paper, 850 mm x 850 mm) three perfectly manicured trees sit out front of a residence, an example of our fastidious shaping and control of our surroundings.  I think it is this containment and neatening of nature that lends a sense of artifice to what we are seeing, and makes one wonder what lies beneath.

When initially seeing these photographs, I was at a loss as to where they were taken.  With none of the usual clues (street signs, types of trees, licence plates) it was like a game of GeoGuessr.  The sublime palm in Sorrento Key (2016, Giclée photograph on matte paper, 1110 mm x 1110 mm) suggests somewhere balmy and tropical, like Florida or Vanuatu.  Thus I was surprised upon learning that these were photographs of Papamoa, the largest suburb in Tauranga, with a 16 km stretch of white beach.  It is currently an area of rapid growth and development, the land being irreversibly transformed to keep up with the demand for housing.  There is a universality to van der Drift’s images as they could be photographs of anywhere in the world.  By capturing the banal, she highlights what is missing – how places rich in history and memory are seemingly buried, and make way for new and differing needs and wants.  Her use of water as a motif for metamorphosis is fascinating, and the title of the exhibition points to the inevitability of such flowering and growth.  Though tinged with melancholia, water can also represent renewal and regeneration, and there is hope that the cultures and histories of such places are never really forgotten.

Hauntingly superb, Eventual Efflorescence by Kate van der Drift is at Sanderson Contemporary, Newmarket until 26th June 2016 and is part of the Auckland Festival of Photography.  There are a number of exceptional exhibitions to see, do check them out!

For images of van der Drift’s exhibition, please click on the links below:

And lastly, my blog stats say that I’ve hit 2,000 views – I just wanted to say a big thank you and acknowledge all the visitors.  When I started this blog about two years ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect but it’s been a fun and exciting journey 😀  Even if some of your visits have been accidental, I appreciate your taking the time to read, and I hope you have enjoyed it!

To more to come,


Musings on Art

Bright Lights, Big City

Whilst flicking through the newspaper the other day, my eyes were caught by the image that accompanied no. 6 of 9 Fun Things to Do This Weekend.  The blazing, bright LED signage was reminiscent of the neon drenched terrain of my beloved Tokyo, so I set out to find a Scotties Boutique to see the work of multimedia artist, Jade Townsend.

Situated on Lorne Street, Scotties stocks high end fashion designers such as Lanvin, Nina Ricci and Comme des Garçons, whom initially commissioned Townsend to create her LED artworks for their I.T Beijing Market store in 2014.  She was the first woman to exhibit at the concept store, and spent three months in Beijing exploring consumerism and retail trends.  Townsend is interested in why we buy new jeans that are made to look old,[1] and the peculiarity and irrationality of aesthetics in fashion.

Titled End – User (2016), Townsend includes some photographs of the recently closed Kirkcaldie and Stains department store in Wellington, but my interest here lies in her work with LEDs.  The artwork takes centre stage in the window display at Scotties, surrounded by almost equally luminous (and desirable) objects such as Bao Bao Issey Miyake bags.  The irradiant glow of these pieces can be seen from across the street, and I wish I had actually seen them at night.  Townsend is fascinated by the push and pull nature of these lit signs; in Beijing their lurid vividness is unmistakable through the haze and smog, seemingly glamorous and alluring, they draw you to places that perhaps aren’t the case.[2]  This disparity can be likened to when we buy things that we don’t necessarily need, such as luxury goods, and the cognitive dissonance that arises after purchase.  Cognitive dissonance is when a person has conflicting attitudes about a product or service, and tends to be greater when there are a number of attractive choices available and/or it requires a higher level of commitment of time or money.  Such dissatisfaction can be a reason why people return certain items.

A reflection of her time there and China’s role as super producers and consumers, Townsend’s two light works each spell out a word in English and in Chinese characters.  The English word is ‘Typical’, and a quick Google indicates that the characters 奢华 read ‘extravagant or luxurious’ (presuming Google Translate is correct).  Townsend states in the accompanying text that the Chinese characters are approximate translations of English concepts.  Hence, there is a play on language as the origins and meaning of words is muddied; China has become more synonymous with luxury brands than anywhere else in the world.  The juxtaposition of these two words is striking – has our desire for luxury goods become typical and commonplace?  Have we, the consumers, become so conditioned to want the items that celebrities tote in magazines and on Instagram, that we don’t stop to ask why we need it?  What is of further fascination is that the word ‘luxury’ is banned from billboard advertising in China, to remove the obviousness of the class divide and wealth gap in the country.[3]  In a way, the characters could soon be as foreign in China as they are here to non-Chinese speakers.

I found the placement of these artworks within a boutique to be greatly engaging, as it lures us in and celebrates our need to consume, whilst equally questioning it.  After a while, you think that we would become desensitised to the allure due to the sheer number of glistening signs, but I suspect their glare and gleam won’t ever quite die down 😀

Both links are about Townsend’s time in Beijing, the first is an interview on Radio New Zealand, and the second is an article from The Wireless:

And she also recently exhibited at Pataka Art + Museum, Porirua:

Jade Townsend is exhibiting works at both Scotties Boutiques, the one in Auckland CBD is located at 3 Lorne Street, and the other is at 2 Blake Street, Ponsonby.   Her artworks are on until Thursday 23rd June 2016.  Do check them out!

Thanks for stopping by 🙂


[1] Jade Townsend, ‘Standing Room Only: Jade Townsend’, radio interview with Lynn Freeman, Arts on Sunday, broadcast Sunday 15 February 2015,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.


Liberal Application: Claudia Jowitt

I was very excited to see that Claudia Jowitt was exhibiting this month.  Her latest (and only second solo) exhibition Liberal Application is at Bath Street Gallery; tucked down one of the meandering streets of Parnell and dangerously close to Vaniye, a French patisserie.

A substantial show with 26 impressive new works, Jowitt explores notions of potentiality and becoming in the painting process.  Jowitt has described how painting is an arena where each action can potentially bring about entire change, that there is life within the marks on canvas which turn it into a palpable story of its own creation.[1]  Essentially what we are shown are artworks that contain the vestiges of paint at play, an account of all the possible directions that emerge in their genesis.

Skilfully employing both acrylic and oil paints in subdued shades of white and other muted hues, it can be easy to glimpse past her work, especially when displayed against white walls.  However Jowitt’s paintings require being looked at; in fact, I found their unassuming monochromatic palette actually demanding attention.  The subtle modulations along the pastel coloured spectrum skirmish for recognition and regard.

Jowitt has applied paint with liberal generosity, and the paint itself has dispersed liberally across the canvas.  The vacillating brushwork made up of intensely thick, toothpaste-like impasto that squiggles and squirms, contrasts areas where an airy brush has scantily licked the surface.  She has applied paint past the edge of the canvas, all around the sides, giving the impression that these works extend and connect beyond the canvas or paper.  This is evident in a number of her paintings for instance, Legato I – II (both 2016, acrylic and oil on linen, 500 x 550 mm).

As you pause before the tactility of Jowitt’s art, expanses reveal and hide, tantalising the eye.  Ridges emerge casting penumbral veils over painted plains when the works are viewed at a distance.  On some of the artworks, such as Sway (2016, acrylic and oil on linen, 350 x 300 mm) the exposed linen canvas adds to the eye’s attempt to decipher, as it disrupts the daubs of white.  The longer you look at her paintings, the more your initial thoughts and interpretations shift.  In a way, the gratification received from Jowitt’s work is slow releasing.  I think if I were to visit this show again (which I likely will) I would see something different and new that I may have missed before.

An astounding exhibition with loads to see, Liberal Application is on at Bath Street Gallery, Parnell until Saturday 2nd April 2016.  As part of White Night, the gallery will be open from 5:30 – 10pm on Saturday 12th March with DJ Johnny Elbo from Yam Jams playing a live vinyl set 🙂

Jowitt was recently named the 2016 Tautai Pacific Artist in Residence at the Dunedin School of Art at Otago Polytechnic.  I can’t wait to see what she does next!

For info on the exhibition, please see Bath Street Gallery’s website:

Quite a good interview with Jowitt from 2014 can be found below:

Enjoy!  And don’t forget White Night is coming up very soon 😀


˟Update 08.03.16: Artsdiary have posted some photos of the opening, check them out here

˟Update 02.08.16: A great catalogue accompanied this exhibition, featuring the artist’s conversations with Amber Wilson, Kara Wallace and Lisa Rayner.  The section with Wilson, Feminine Painting/Painting Feminine, has been made accessible through the Melanie Roger Gallery website and Pantograph Punch

[1] ‘Claudia Jowitt Dunedin Air,’ Tautai Pacific Arts Trust, accessed March 6, 2016,


Made of Snow

Hello hello!

2 0 1 6.  When did this happen?  Time just flies by faster and faster; I blinked and it’s suddenly the end of January!  I hope everyone had a stunning sun-kissed summer (with the appropriate sun protection), and with a new year comes new adventures.

I recently headed south to visit the Franklin Art Centre in Pukekohe.  Currently exhibiting is Made of Snow, a group show featuring Liyen Chong, Jacquelyn Greenbank, Laura Marsh, Ani O’Neill and Ngaio Rue Blackwood.  Curated by Kara Wallace, these five female artists share an affinity in their praxes: each explore the handmade and crafts, oftentimes repurposing and recontextualising quotidian objects and materials.

Starting from the right, the first five works are by Jacquelyn Greenbank.  Depicting what I believe are landscapes, they are delicately embroidered on linen with varied long and short stitches making up the scenes.  They also apparently glow in the dark!  I unfortunately couldn’t find the light switch 😛  Greenbank explained in a radio interview, how every stitch is done by hand and this is important in creating an entry level to the world of art for the audience, in that everybody has an aunty that knits.[1]  And certainly the titles of these artworks appear the reference this, with traditional names such as Peg (Margaret), Alma and Mary (all 2015).  I think Greenbank emphasises the significance of such craft and skills, which are steadily disappearing.

Moving along the right wall, Ngaio Rue Blackwood has exquisitely stitched bees and honeycomb on circles of linen.  Blackwood is greatly interested in the handmade and creating lines freehand.  Furthermore, her fascination with the hexagonal shape, which proliferate her paintings and other works, lends itself effortlessly to this subject.  Drawing inspiration from her garden and the outdoors, I think the fragility and delicacy of Blackwood’s artworks reference the delicacy of our ecosystem, as we are dependent upon bees for pollination and seed production.  Sometimes it is easy to forget how vital these unassuming insects are, but Blackwood’s work asks us to focus on the small things.

Continuing with all things embroidered, Liyen Chong’s artworks are intricate and meticulously constructed – she has actually used hair as thread.  Chong’s practice often traverses Western and Eastern styles and concepts, and hair embroidery has a presence both in ancient Chinese culture as well as in the Victorian era.  I almost couldn’t believe these were constructed from hair, as such intense focus and precise attention would be required.  With Square Maze (2008) and Round Maze (2008), I found the use of hair particularly poignant.  The hair’s journey to construct such a labyrinthine pattern could be equated to the complexities of human life and all its twists and turns; sometimes life can be like a maze.

Laura Marsh’s three artworks are site specific installations that examine New Zealand’s colonised cultural landscape.  Transient and temporal, My Land (2016) is a particular favourite, and consists of 0.15 m2 of actual South Island soil contained in a wooden crate with a miniature tent pitched on it.  Originally from the South Island, Marsh has mimicked her migration by bringing a portion of ‘her land’ with her.  Whilst a personal expression of her individual journey, I felt it could also be quite political.  Whose land is it really?  By recontextualising something you are likely to see ‘everyday’ like grass and dirt, I think Marsh’s striking work brings to the fore the ongoing debate of land ownership in New Zealand.

Lastly, Ani O’Neill’s latest installation Space Craft (2016) looks like something that’s just crashed from outer space.  Displayed up high and clustered around some metal pipes, it consists of ocean blue donut pool floats, silver tinsel and hoops.  Casting larger than life and slightly eerie shadows on the wall, I’m not sure what to make of this work.  It’s indeed a contrast when compared to her earlier practice, which drew on the handcrafts of her Cook Island heritage to create works that examine our contemporary world.  I do wonder if O’Neill has selected these items from outlets or op shops, and by altering their context, she has generated a space for contemplation and questions… quite a few questions 🙂

A compelling and engaging exhibition, I did mull over the meaning of the title Made of Snow.  I surmise that as the gallery is a typical ‘white cube’ space, and as a number of the works (Greenbank, Blackwood and Chong’s) are of this wintery white hue, it was like searching for snowflakes against a blanket of snow.  You do need to get up close and intimate to examine them, and marvel at their intricacy and individuality – like how no two snowflakes are the same.  Similarly, the fleeting quality of Marsh and O’Neill’s works is analogous with the ephemeral nature of anything made of snow.

For info on current or upcoming exhibitions see Facebook:

And below are links to some of the artists’ pages:

Made of Snow is on until Saturday 5th March 2016 at the Franklin Art Centre, Pukekohe.  Not to be missed.


[1] Jacquelyn Greenbank, ‘Knitted and Knotted’, radio interview with Lynn Freeman, Arts on Sunday, broadcast Sunday 28 August 2011,



Pamela Wolfe | Savage Beauty

Spring time calls for spring flowers, and at Artis Gallery in Parnell, Pamela Wolfe presents her latest works in an exhibition titled Savage Beauty, as part of Artweek Auckland.

Wolfe’s paintings explore notions of transience and fleeting beauty through floral still lifes.  Exquisitely painted in splendid detail, all the flowers are brimming and abloom, suffused with striking, rich colour.  The floral arrangements have a staged quality as they are juxtaposed against stark black, grey or white backgrounds.  Furthermore the bouquets appear zoomed in, as some flowers are cut off by the edge of the canvas, and only the lips or tops of vases seen.  This contrasts 17th Century Dutch still lifes, which Wolfe clearly draws reference from, where usually the whole vase and table they sit upon are depicted.  With a magnified, close up setting, the flowers and all their headiness are almost within our grasp – I nearly expect their perfume to waft into our presence.

Highly photorealistic, certain flowers in the foreground are painted with crisp edges on petals and distinct stamens; Wolfe contrasts this sharpness with areas of haziness in other sections of the bouquet.  This adds to the illusion of depth in the shallow pictorial space.  It has been noted that Wolfe is influenced by German painter Gerhard Richter and his photopaintings, where he replicated a photographic image in paint, including the camera’s ‘blur’ effect.[1]  I find that my eye is easily drawn into her works by their photographic detail and clarity, and once there, it is captured by the luscious viscosity of paint, and the artist’s virtuosity in the medium. Wolfe’s paintings toy with what is real and illusory, raising questions of verisimilitude in art.

Each of the artworks in this exhibition have titles that relate to ‘savage beauty’: Reckless, Dishevelled, Rustic and so on.   Though I wouldn’t say that these images are particularly savage or unkempt, they are wildly abundant and bountiful floral arrangements, full of vigour and life.  Most of Wolfe’s oeuvre has consisted of large oil on canvas works, but here she has also included five new and smaller works, Spring in London I-V which are gouache on paper.  Inspired by her time in London earlier this year, these bouquets are more typical of an English garden, as there are notably no orchids or other exotic flora, that have appeared in the other artworks, in these arrangements.  Moreover, they are much finer and delicately painted images, yet still have her signature bold colour and sensuousness.

Displayed simply against white walls where Wolfe’s works can do the talking, personal favourites are Tangle (oil on canvas, 1500 x 1600 mm), Primeval (oil on canvas, 1150 x 1550 mm) and Spring in London IV (gouache on paper, 380 x 510 mm).  Sumptuous and magnificent, I like the sense of compositional balance in each of them.  This is especially seen in Primeval where the two halves of the painting almost mirror each other when divided down the middle.  Pamela Wolfe’s paintings are passionate celebrations of the beauty of flowers and nature.

Savage Beauty is on until Sunday 1st November 2015 at Artis Gallery, Parnell.

For more information on the exhibition, please follow the link:

Wolfe is also a successful book illustrator, and along with her husband Richard, published one of my favourite children’s books Midnight at the Museum (1997).  I think it’s now out of print, but you can still find it in the library 😀

I hope you had a chance to check out many of the other exhibitions and events during Artweek Auckland!

Until next time 🙂


[1] ‘Pamela Wolfe Nature Study,’ Artis Gallery,


Fatu Feu’u –The Village

What a gloriously sunny weekend we are having.  Summer is almost here!  I recently dropped into the first gallery I wrote about nearly two years ago when I started this blog, and I know I say it often but time really does fly by 🙂  As the art world is forever on the go, the Warwick Henderson Gallery has hopped over a neighbourhood and relocated to Newmarket.

Currently on display are paintings by the well-known and prominent contemporary artist, Fatu Feu’u.  This exhibition is called The Village, and each painting draws thematically on this, with titles such as Kumara Patch (2015) and Le Lagoon (2015).  Feu’u regularly journeys back to his village of Poutasi, Samoa, and he is regarded as a leader and elder in society.  These works emphasise the importance of family, community and culture, particularly in the wake of the 2009 tsunami.

Even with the knowledge that these were new works by Feu’u, I still found his paintings surprising and unexpected.  They were far more abstract than I anticipated; the motifs I most associate with Feu’u’s oeuvre, such as the frangipani and tribal mask, have been replaced with sketchy, energetic images drawn from ancient Lapita pottery and other prehistoric Pacific sources.

Incredibly gestural and intensely coloured with an earthy palette, the focus appears to be on mark making – the art of suggesting forms with a myriad of strokes and splashes from a paintbrush.  Somewhat resembling cave drawings as well as the paper cut out works by Henri Matisse, these paintings exhibit a sense of joie de vivre and togetherness, which is particularly demonstrated by the bopping figures in Lolita Come Play (2015) and Lolita Come Dance (2015).  The loose, almost instinctive brushwork adds to this impression of movement, as if they are abuzz with activity.

With the repetition of patterns throughout The Village, this series can be read in its entirety.  Each painting is like a cornerstone of a village, individually accentuating their significance to the community and culture as a whole.  That is at the heart of Feu’u’s paintings, and though some viewers may not find these as immediately iconic as his earlier works, the message is still essential and needing to be articulated.  Continuously evolving, I am excited to see where this direction will lead Fatu Feu’u next.

Fatu Feu’u –The Village is on until Sunday 11th October 2015 at Warwick Henderson Gallery, Newmarket.

For further info on the exhibition, please see the website:

And a great resource is Cultural Icons, where you can hear Fatu Feu’u discuss his life and work in episode #74:

Until next time!



Flock west by Niki Hastings-McFall


I hope you are all surviving winter – it’s been mighty chilly in Auckland these last few months, though definitely not as cold as other parts of the country 😛

It’s always exciting when you come across an installation where the respective pieces meld together synergistically, to create a remarkable and stimulating work.  Flock west by West Auckland artist and ornithophile Niki Hastings-McFall, is an enlivening exhibition.  When wandering through Gallery 1 at Corban Estate Arts Centre, Henderson, the sights and sounds could be mistaken for the glorious outdoors.

The installation features simplified birds made from radiantly coloured acrylic, which are suspended from the gallery ceiling at varying heights.  A little natural light streams in from the windows producing tinged shadows that play on the walls.  The effect resembles the canopy of a forest: this is further enhanced by a recording of bird sounds that echoes through the space, and by a fan which delicately generates a breeze causing the birds to twirl.  Together these elements create the sense of a living breathing forest, a beautifully animated environment.  There is something delightfully serene about Hastings-McFall’s work, and I feel like I can breathe easily as I soak it all in – not unlike a good trek outdoors through our enviable native bush.

The choice of birds is significant on both personal and broader levels, as Hastings-McFall is an avid bird rescuer, her home acts as an avian refuge, and they appear in almost all cultures, such as the piwakawaka (fantail) in Maori mythology or the phoenix in Chinese lore.  Hence, they are creatures that all New Zealanders can identify with, a commonality across the multitude of cultures that make up our great country.  When discussing her fascination with birds in an interview with the NZ Herald earlier this year, she stated that ‘birds are in every culture’s fables or vernacular sayings, they’re the connection between the earth-bound and the heavenly.’[1]

Drawing upon bird shaped amulets and carved forms within the Pacific collection at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and H.D. Skinner’s Journal of the Polynesian Society,[2] Hastings-McFall has looked to pre-colonial sources for inspiration, again examining her own Samoan and European heritage.  She often reflects on cross-cultural exchanges in the materials she utilises, and in this instance she has modelled traditional items with a modern synthetic polymer.  So much of our identity is bound up with materials and objects, and by altering the materials, Hastings-McFall brings the sense of self into question.

Furthermore, as much of who we are relates to where we are born and raised, Flock west is also a response to the rapidly changing landscape.  Auckland in particular, is experiencing housing problems and increasing traffic congestion, which may lead to a greater number of highrise apartments in the suburbs and less space for habitats.  Through using creatures such as birds which all New Zealanders can identify with, Hastings-McFall emphasises what can be lost.  Let’s hope the calls of our native birds never becomes a rarity.  A tranquil, insightful exhibition, not to be missed.

Flock west is exhibiting at Corban Estate Arts Centre, Henderson until Sunday 6th September 2015.  Public programmes include:

  • An artists’ floor talk on Saturday 29th August, 11am where Hastings-McFall will discuss her works along with fellow exhibitors Leon van de Eijkel and Jeff Thomson.
  • Saturday Gallery Club #7 (free for families with kids aged 4 +) on Saturday 8th August 10:30am-12pm, where they can make hand cut stickers of bird shapes out of reflective vinyl.

For more info on the exhibition and Hastings-McFall’s art, please click on the links to Corban Estate and Whitespace:

Some other great links are the Twelve Questions article in the NZ Herald and a Radio NZ clip from earlier this year:


[1] Ana Samways, ‘Twelve Questions: Niki Hastings-McFall,’ New Zealand Herald, January 29, 2015.

[2] Niki Hastings-McFall, Flock exhibition statement, Whitespace Contemporary Art, 2015, quoted in Kathryn Tsui, Flock west exhibition statement, Corban Estate Arts Centre, 2015.