Have visited 2 exhibitions in last few weeks -
Harbourview sculpture trail 2014 & Pah Homestead.
Both places had a variety of works on display or in the case of Pah Homestead, there were several exhibitions in the one place to view.
Harbourview sculpture trail is situated on the Te Atatu peninsula on the Orangihina walkway (Auckland) and has 60 works as part of the trail. The works range from complete public involvement, in the making of the work or being able to touch the work, to work that was floating/standing in water and could only be viewed from a distance.
There were a few works that really made me think or left me in simple awe:
- A Fine Line by A.D.Schierning was one that made me think. The simplicity of the work first struck me. It was placed half in the public space and half into the ‘paid’ space.
I think many people simply walked past this work, as it was so unobtrusive in its placement.
It was a single row of poroporo (Solanum aviculare) plants planted in the ground, with bark around the stems. The plants were about 1.8m tall and single stemmed and supported by sturdy wooden stakes.
As a landscapers I know that the berries of these plants are poisonous and many people see them as weeds, nothing interesting to plant or have int he garden.
The way the plants were arranged, the title of the work and the fact that there is a fine line between living or dying when eating this fruit made this work interesting. Also the fact that many people walked past it, further re-iterating this fine line.
From the artist statement this is reinforced “ this work references the importance of our knowledge of plants and suggests a fragility and teetering temperament of life, a struggle for balance and the acceptance of a large grey area between black & white”. (pg 10 of catalogue)
- Whoa! By Jonathan Browman is a fun sculpture, one that makes you smile and remember moments where you to have had an umbrella turn inside out and the struggle you have to save it , as saving means you can stay dry against the elements.
The great questions at the end are great ones to consider with this work; What are we really afraid of? Getting wet? Being literally blown off our feet or carried away by the wind? (pg 15 of catalogue)
Maybe we are afraid of these, but it maybe we are more afraid of something simpler, messing up our hair or our clothes? Because that would bring judgement from others about us. This work has both a physical struggle we can identify with and an emotional one.
- In Unity We Put Our Trust by Simon Payton. This was a large work and where it was placed, you walked into the ‘prow’ of this piece. It was not a ship, but more like a cross.
This piece has ‘at its core the concept about the connecting of two races, Maori and Pakeha in Aotearoa’. (pg 19 of catalogue). It is a very powerful piece, because the 2 prows are joined, suggesting that unity, the crossing over of the cultures.
This work has strong personal resonance, as my household is a Maori/Dutch blend. We are crossing culture while at the same time creating a new one, one that works for us as a family living in Aotearoa.
This work also has a strong tactile element to it, as the timber used to create the work has been planed smooth. Creating this wonderful smooth surface over which your hands could glide with ease. Maybe once we work together more, this ease will be reflected in our unity.
- Wind Drift by Jeff Thomson, was a piece that initially looked very insignificant. This bent piece of metal floating in the water on a platform. After reading the catalogue, this piece became much bigger than it looked. Inspired by a piece of paper Thomson found on the site, being blown around.
He created his own piece of paper form aluminium, but added to the surface screen prints or text and images that had relevance to the area. This relevance was historical, topographical, geographical and environmental.
This ‘piece of blown paper’ now was like the discarded knowledge of this site, torn up, thrown away and left to blow around.
- Feed the Kids by Donna Turtle Sarten, a work created using 83,000 plastic teaspoons, using volunteers.
This work was along the main road, by the entrance to the sculpture walk. So without having to go in, by passers could be enjoying a work of art.
We came across this work, as we had biked from Henderson to the sculpture trail. From a distance the white spoons looked like flowers, mass planted. For me it reminded me of the many planted verges in Holland, with it’s neat rows.
The work certainly was impressive, and it had a very message attached to it. Which created a discussion amongst us about the issue of poverty and what was genuine poverty and what was ‘create’ by societies other hidden problems (drinking, gambling). How hard it would be to distinguish between the two.
This work certainly created the most discussion, beyond the art work, amongst us.
There were many other fantastic works that I have not spoken about and if you have not been to it, it is still on till the 30th March 2014.
I went there to meet with an art friend, talk art, drink coffee and look at art works. Get ideas for installation, display, presentation, construction and simple get the creative juices flowing.
The exhibition we spent the most time in was UNDRESSING THE PACIFIC by Shigeyuki Kihara. This was a series of photographic imagers and several moving image works.
Much of Kihara’s work has references to identity & status, where the ‘dress’ plays a central role in this.
The photographic imagery of her dressed in a long black early century dress, standing in the many devastated, by Cyclone Evan, landmarks of Samoa were the ones we spend most time with. In these works Kihara is standing in a similar position, with her back to the camera, observing the devastation.
The conflict of knowing this devastation only happened a few years back with Kihara dressed in early century clothing has a double meaning for me. Because it made me question that the devastation already happened when the Europeans first came to the pacific, not just with the recent cyclone. It did on some level’s, as habits and belief systems were adapted from this invasion.
From the website it can be read that “the works in this show highlight the complex interplay of globalization, cultural identity and gender politics in contemporary postcolonial societies.”
As a dutch immigrant, living in NZ (now for 33 years) I understand some of this complexity. It is not something I consciously deal with every day, but I am certainly aware that it plays a role in how I view things. Adding to this, I married a NZ Maori, so our kids are a mix of this, or ‘Much’ (Maori & Dutch makes Much) as I call them.
Complexity can become a never ending maze if there is no acceptance of the culture you have stepped into as the immigrant, and it also starts to play a role if you ignore your own you brought with you. The need to give is greater if you are the stranger, as the work from Simon Payton (at the Harbourview sculpture trail) tried to portray.
This need for unity, to be able to move forward is just as important in my own household as it is in the broader Aotearoa, or the Pacific or anywhere else in this globally accessible world.
How do we address this? Through art works like this and others, which make us question who we are, how we behave.
Finally the presentation aspect of these work really struck me, as the simple presentation of these images not framed nor behind glass, made the works very accessible. There was no physical barrier between us the viewer and the image. A method
There were many other exhibitions on at Pah Homestead that day, but we simply glanced over them, as by then the coffee had run out and it was closing.