Elizabeth Thomson - my hi-fi my sci-fi

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Media Release: June, 2006. 

The biggest show of Winter Season of Wellington Art is my hi- fi my sci- fi, the largest ever retrospective of sculptor Elizabeth Thomson. Her work is described as ‘wonderful’ by eminent art critic Ian Wedde.

This exhibition highlights the perplexing, beautiful, sometimes disturbing, often dazzling work of one of Wellington’s leading contemporary artists. This retrospective, curated by City Gallery’s Gregory O’Brien, ranges from Thomson’s small, precious works to her audacious, dizzying wall-sized leaf-works.

Thomson and her team have custom-built Casa Pintoresca for the wall in the gallery foyer. With its intricately designed flower patterning, the foyer has never looked so elegant. Flight Test (2005-06), also created specifically for a wall at City Gallery, comprises 3000 precisely arranged zinc leaf-forms. Like Snake River, Flight Test is a visual feast of optical and intellectual pleasures. A must for fans of Bridget Riley. Like Riley, Thomson’s work is musical, it often evokes lightness, levity and flight. Investigating the long quarrel between order and adventure—the art is painstakingly precise, yet it is also marvellously, exuberantly free.

Thomson is fascinated with the formal qualities and imaginative potentials she finds in nature. The exhibition focuses on key works from the last twenty years, charting the movement or migration of forms and meanings through her work as a whole. Elizabeth Thomson is a difficult artist to pigeonhole; like other City Gallery favourites such as Rosalie Gascoigne, she’s fascinated with the formal and conceptual possibilities of working on the cusp of two and three dimensions. Whatever their associations with science and natural history, Thomson’s works are magnificent eruptions of the imagination.

The material she uses—blown glass, bronze, zinc, beading, fiberglass—draw us closer to the works, with their hard and soft surfaces, roughness and smoothness, opacity and transparency. Thomson’s paradoxical work inhabit both wall-and-air space. Balancing observation and imagination, organisation and invention, order and adventure, her art is an eloquent exploration of both a state of mind and the state of the natural world.

‘An artist is an artist only by dint of his exquisite sense of beauty,’ wrote literary critic Guy Davenport, who qualified that remark by saying that beauty required ‘an equally exquisite sense of deformity, of disproportion’. A comment that could apply to both Patricia Piccinini and Elizabeth Thomson.

Thomson’s works are also dotted around Wellington—including Big Wavy Gravy at the Matterhorn, Sonic Sisters at the National Library Foyer, Lepidoptera at Te Papa and Never so Far at the High Court Foyer. City Gallery Wellington Director Paula Savage says: ‘Elizabeth Thomson has lived in Wellington for more than a decade. Through presenting the exhibition my hi-fi, my sci-fi we are pleased to acknowledge her as one of the city’s most accomplished, innovative and exciting artists.’

Elizabeth Thomson

my hi- fi my sci- fi

City Gallery Wellington, 18 June – 24 September 2006

Free Entry

Biography: Born in Auckland in 1955, Elizabeth Thomson graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 1988. An upbringing steeped in New Zealand Gothic lead to a preoccupation with the distant and the remote. By the mid-1970s, Thomson sought out far flung locations, not only in New Zealand, travelling in Europe, North America, Mexico and the Pacific, seeking inspiration for her art. She moved to Wellington in 1991 and currently works in a studio in Newtown. She exhibits widely throughout New Zealand and her works are included in major public collections, including a recent acquisition by Wellington City Council.

Elizabeth Thomson - my hi-fi my sci-fi is generously supported by City Gallery Wellington Foundation Patrons.

Also coming up: Elizabeth Thomson: Mondo Tondo, Mark Hutchins Gallery, Tuesday 15th August to Saturday 9th September