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Media Release: March, 2003.

A Small Town at the Turn of the Century the first solo exhibition of Malaysian-born, Australian-based photographer Simryn Gill’s work in New Zealand, opens at City Gallery Wellington on 23 March. A series of 39 images, A Small Town at the Turn of the Century, sees Simryn Gill revisit her home town of Port Dickson in Malaysia and transform the familiar into the strange by way of humorous intervention.

In A Small Town at the Turn of the Century, each photo is a portrait of a local inhabitant, but with a twist – the face of each photographed person is covered by a headdress fashioned from fruit, vegetables or flowers. Although we are given clues to the photographed people, without faces we are barred from really knowing them as individuals or personalities. The absurdity of the scenario can be seen to refer to essentialist notions of Asia as a place which is exotic and romantic, yet often masked to the western world as outsiders. Though seen together the images create a picture of a particular community at a particular point in time.

The large cibachrome photographs in this series continue Simryn’s interest in exploring the contested relationship between nature and culture. Many of her works have used horticulture as a metaphor for the human situation, such as Self-seeds (1998) where Simryn added miniature wheels to pods and seeds collected in Australia, Finland and Malaysia, transforming them into tiny vehicles which referred to the global spread of technology and foodstuffs.

A Small Town at the Turn of the Century has toured to the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney in 2001. It was also included in the Sydney Biennale, 2002. Simryn Gill has had major solo shows throughout Australia, as well as in Europe and South East Asia.

Media Release: March, 2003. 

PRECIOUS, an exhibition showcasing the work of seven Wellington-based jewellers opens this Friday 7 March in the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery, City Gallery. Taking their inspiration from a variety of sources, the works by Peter Deckers, Léola Le Blanc, Steph Lusted, Craig McIntosh, Matthew McIntyre Wilson, Frances Stachl and Suzanne Tamaki cast off the traditional image of jewellery as cute little objects in cases and shows contemporary jewellery as an art form.

Exhibition curator Rebecca Wilson says, “Wellington boasts a healthy and largely emerging jewellery scene with a generation of practitioners fast establishing names for themselves, alongside jewellers such as Peter Deckers who is a well known nation-wide as a senior practitioner and jewellery teacher.”

“The work in PRECIOUS does not explore a common theme”, says Wilson, “but rather presents a body of work from each artist that shows a consistent treatment of materials and exploration of ideas.”

Senior jeweller Peter Deckers’ work for PRECIOUS entitled The Reproduction Guild comprises of a series of brooches and rings accompanied by the interweaving of a sound component, that represents the ‘digital, manual, manufactured, processed’ divisions of reproduction. The ‘processed’ series of works looks at issues of cloning and genetic engineering, and ‘manufactured’ represents the apparent stability of the Twin Towers. Peter Deckers has exhibited widely and had been represented at the last three New Zealand Jewellery Biennales, now teaches in the new Jewellery Diploma at Whitireia Polytechnic and has taught several of the younger jewellers in the exhibition.

The work of French Canadian and Native American jeweller Léola Le Blanc reflects her varied background and interests, which include anthropology and archaeology. Her work for PRECIOUS is a series of brooches made in part from antler bone and porcupine quills that draws on symbols from the Catholic Church, such as the cross and the sacred heart, to investigate the religious origin of native Canadian people’s swear words.

Young jeweller Steph Lusted, whose striking work – which includes a series of ‘badges of honour’ and butterfly wings and insects imbedded in resin – has already garnered much interest. She had been involved in a number of group and solo exhibitions and last year was interviewed for the Big Art Trip for 2002 and received a Creative New Zealand grant. She recently won a Goethe Institut Scholarship for a four week German language course in Germany for later this year. For PRECIOUS Lusted has crafted a series of brooches replicating early medical implements such as scissors, saw and syringe.

Since graduating with a Diploma in Visual Arts in 2002, Craig McIntosh has worked in “Netsuke’ a form of Japanese adornment carving and has exhibited several times in Tokyo. His work was recently included in the Dowse’s Thrift to Fantasy show with carved jewellery representing sweets. Craig’s work for PRECIOUS explores the irony of turning refuse into objects of interest and fantasy, by crafting brooches and necklaces made from recycled beach detritus.

Matthew McIntyre Wilson pieces for PRECIOUS continue his work in bonded copper and silver with a series of objects (pins intentionally left off what would otherwise be brooches) and chains, exploring formal patterning that also resembles a kind of weaving with metals.

Frances Stachl has studied painting at Wanganui Polytechnic and jewellery at Whitireia, and has been exhibiting and selling her work at Avid Gallery since 2000. For PRECIOUS she has created a very long sterling silver chain that can be seen as resembling a feather boa.

Traditional and contemporary Maori and Polynesian materials and ideas provide the inspiration for the works of wearable art and adornment that Suzanne Tamaki crafts. Her garments created from blankets are part of Te Papa’s collection, and she has mounted several high energy multimedia fashion shows including Tribal Borders in this year’s Fringe Festival. Suzanne’s work for PRECIOUS includes a neckpiece, bikini and g-string made from rooster feathers, beads and courie shells.

As part of the public events programme at City Gallery, on Tuesday 25 March at 6pm renowned visiting German jeweller Otto Künzli will give a free public floortalk in City Gallery Cinema.

Otto Künzli (born 1948) is a Swiss-trained goldsmith and a professor at the Munich Academy of Fine Art. He has built up a remarkable reputation and gained international acclaim as an artist, jeweller, curator and academic. Künzli's jewellery is noted for its meticulous craftsmanship and attention to materials. His work is held in private and public museums throughout the world. In this public lecture Otto Künzli will discuss his philosophy and creative approach to jewellery design and making. Otto Künzli’s visit to New Zealand is supported by Whitireia Community Polytechnic, School of Arts and the Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes New Zealand.

PRECIOUS - 7 Wellington Jewellers is presented within the 360 programme – a full perspective on Wellington Art, which is generously sponsored by Designworks and supported by Montana Wines Ltd

Media Release: January, 2003. 

Concrete tumblers, an ash tray, steel tubing, Lion Brown beer bottles, a filing cabinet, a toothbrush holder. These are some of the everyday objects Wellington-based artist Andy Irving has used to construct the works in Nothing Less, now on at the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery.

The exhibition, Irving’s first solo exhibition at a public gallery, can be described as expressing an ‘urban vernacular’ – or how common-place, found or ‘scavenged’ materials, assembled in relatively straight forward ways can demonstrate a merging between art and design, function and dysfunction, the home and the office.

In Nothing Less Irving challenges viewers to see how his works are constructed and how he has recycled them to achieve a kind of functionality or usefulness. “I am fascinated by the way that things are thrown up in a basic, raw and tactile way,” Irving says.

Trained as an interior designer and having worked for several years on design and building projects for domestic, retail, office and exhibition spaces Irving is also interested in the mechanics of the way in which we inhabit urban spaces and the way materials lend themselves to this. “I want to make desirable objects out of everyday objects”, says Irving, “pieces that you would want in your home, not just in a gallery.”

Andy Irving will discuss his installation and give a talk on the influences in his work on Thursday 13 February at 6pm, in the City Cinema, City Gallery Wellington.

31 January - 2 March 2003

Michael Hirschfeld Gallery

City Gallery Wellington

Andy Irving – Nothing Less is presented within the 360 programme – a full perspective on Wellington Art, which is generously sponsored by Designworks. Generously supported by Montana Wines Ltd. 

Media Release: December, 2002. 

MAJOR McCAHON SHOW RETURNS HOME FROM EUROPE

8 December 2002 – 9 March 2003

Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith, the major survey exhibition which has seen our leading artist described controversially as the ‘Van Gogh of Australasia’, opens at City Gallery Wellington on Sunday 8 December. Wellingtonians and visitors to the capital will be the first to see this exhibition, which is the largest touring exhibition ever of McCahon’s work.

A Question of Faith arrives in Wellington direct from the prestigious Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, where large audiences experienced the New Zealand artist’s work, often for the first time. “We are very proud that City Gallery Wellington is the first venue on the exhibition’s Australasian tour,” says Paula Savage, Director of the Gallery. “The Stedelijk Museum presented Colin McCahon as a major 20th century painter on the international scene. He was compared in Europe to visionary artists such as Jackson Pollock and Edvard Munch.” The principal sponsor of the New Zealand presentation of Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith is Ernst & Young.

Ms Savage describes the exhibition as the most important visual arts event of the summer, and a drawcard for visitors from throughout New Zealand. “There will only be one other chance to see A Question of Faith in New Zealand at Auckland Art Gallery from 29 March to 15 June 2003 before it is toured to Australia. Colin McCahon was born in Timaru, and visitors from the South Island will see the influence of the land and colours of this region in his work.”

“Although most New Zealanders have heard of Colin McCahon, many are not really familiar with his work,” she says. “This exhibition, which spans four decades of his work, is therefore an ideal opportunity to understand why he is now considered such an important artist, not just in New Zealand but internationally.”

The exhibition, which is free to the public, features 77 works from throughout Colin McCahon’s (1919-1987) career. It was curated and organised by the Stedelijk Museum with the organisational support of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki. Set out chronologically, it enables visitors to follow McCahon’s development from the early figurative styles of the 1940s to the later abstract works. Works have been drawn from public and private collections in Europe and Australasia. A number have particular resonance for New Zealand audiences, for example, the imposing Victory over Death 2 (1970), which was gifted to the Australian government, and Storm Warning (1980-1981), which was originally part of Victoria University of Wellington’s collection. Other major works include Here I give thanks to Mondrian (1961); Numerals (1965); The Lark’s Song (a poem by Matire Kereama) (1969); Necessary Protection (1972); and significant series such as Elias, Gate and Scared.

Curated by Marja Bloem, Senior Curator at the Stedelijk Museum, the exhibition focuses on a central aspect of McCahon’s practice, the artist's spiritual quest, demonstrating how he explored questions of faith, doubt, hope and eventually despair. In this way Ms Bloem has brought a fresh new dimension to the understanding of the artist’s work.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 270 page publication of the same name, the first major book about McCahon published for many years. Described by Parson’s Bookshop in Auckland as “the most important New Zealand art book for over 12 years”, it contains essays by writers and experts on McCahon, including his son William. Also featured are colour plates of all the paintings in the exhibition, along with many other photographs and paintings of his life and career, some never before published.

Writing in Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith, Stedelijk Museum Director Rudi Fuchs says: “McCahon was the artist who gave New Zealand a powerful visual identity and for that he is revered in his homeland. That he went further, to explore and communicate through the medium of painting the universal questions and concerns of humanity, is why we, in other parts of the world, must recognise him as a great modern master.”

Touring dates: Auckland Art Gallery (29 March – 15 June 2003); National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (June/July – August 2003) and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (15 November 2003 – 16 January 2004).

Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith is curated and organised by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (SMA) with the organisational support of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, New Zealand (AAG). The principal sponsor in New Zealand is Ernst & Young. The exhibition is generously supported by Creative New Zealand and private patrons in New Zealand and Australia. Indemnified by the New Zealand Government. Its presentation in Wellington is generously supported by Totally Wellington.

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