Christine Hellyar - Artist & Naturalist

DVD Christine Hellyar - Artist & Naturalistdirected and produced by John and Karen BatesBates Production Ltd 2008 The passion and interest with which she pick up treasures from the beach had me spell bound from the moment the DVD started. Her understanding of where things have come from and have far they have travelled via the river  as she was collecting items from the beach which she could possibly cast into bronze. With this her observation of shapes that this travel has made on the pieces of wood, stones or ponga with such deep interest made me almost think that I was watching myself. There are many moments during this DVD that made me smile, and her describing something as cute, and then almost directly justifying this word as ‘cute is funny and readable and that it is not reallya word used in the art world’, but she likes it all the same. There are many inspiring and enlighten moments for me while I watched this DVD, such as;

  • Hellyar’s way of describing her work - “transforming what is generally not thought about or every day into something that is magical, beautiful, makes people think twice about the world around them - very much about the ‘domestication of the sublime’ “.
  • Her approach to some of her pieces and the thought processes behind them, eg ‘flight from the forrest ‘ - here she tries to show the evolution of plants how they change from ferns into palms. In the work she has used parts of these plants to make/create animals, as she feels NZ is short on animals, while we have lots of fauna. Using Nikau fibrous leaf base to create moth wings, because the moths come out at night to pollinate plants in her mind. So these leaf bases are presented open to you, just as you would see a moth/butterfly while it is sitting on the plants. They are cast from bronze with some sharp edges left on them to give a ‘spike in the tail’. (she loves the process of bronzing, it has mystic and is timeless. It reminds her of both soft and sharp/nasty - this duality is often present in her cast pieces)
  • The use of sexual expression in her work - she likes the way this makes things look alive. eg ‘country clothesline’ 1972. Clothing cast in latex. It is an expression about the landscape, about the attachment of the people to the landscape. The clothes had a voluminous look about them, as if the wind was blowing through them and as if some of the pants pockets had boobs with nipples.
  • Her many varied processes used in her practice - eg her drawing practice sh used during her residency at Mt Taranaki. Here she was interested in micro climates in different parts of the mountain, one of being totally surrounded by the bush, without any connection to the world. Charcoal, ink and dye were used for these drawings. she saw these drawings as a walk, as walking is an important part of being able to enjoy the mountain to its full extend. It also allows her to say something else with drawing that you cannot do in sculpture.
  • Her critiquing of museum practices and a lot of her inspiration are things from museums - eg ‘Memory boxes’. This is a pretend museum collection, gathered in glazed boxes, which reflects museum practice, by being in boxes none of the work is touchable, reflecting a museum.
  • Making art that relates to the culture of the landscape while having a strong link to 18th century history, in particular the relationship between the natives and sailors -  eg ‘Hodges waterfall’ at Corban’s Estate.Each fall is a reminder of a person and what was traded - such as A dressing gown, Omai mother’s dress, lots of handkerchiefs. The bundles the cloth were draped at the base just like the waterfall has more bulk at the moment that it touches the river below.
  • Hellyar likes to make her own path - she is not interested in what others have done. The element of giving people happiness and opening up their brains
  • Her simplistic description of why she loves making art -

As for her making art is a pleasurable activity, she loves:

  • the research
  • the thinking
  • the drawing
  • the making
  • the interaction with others
  • and the hearing their ideas of what she has done

  These websites are worth visiting to see more of Christine Hellyar’s work:

Posted by Kahu Anderson

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