title Traditional, contemporary mix in Pacific exploration
publication The Nelson Mail
description Review by Paula Cunniffe
date 11:11:2004

"Anna Leary's evolvement from 2D canvas captures worthy attention."

The Pacific Ocean - Te Moananui A Kiwa, Catchment Gallery.

The exhibition brief required a personal response to the theme of Nelson's identity as a Pacific Rim port. Maori & Pacific Island artists, as well as those who work in close proximity to the sea have workedwith both traditional and contemporary methods.

Jane Blackmore's studio views prompted a luscious interpretations of the Pacific's moodiness on canvas while Anna Leary's evolvement from 2D canvas captures worthy attention.

Tongan Women's Craft Coop members have put together a tapa wall-hanging alongside Fatu Feu'u's woodcut print.

Patterns and colours we have come to know as typical of Pacific art are considered part of everyday life in the Islands, yet here in New Zealand, they are raised to high status in the contemporary art scene. Dagmar Vaikalafi Dyck's tapa renditions on canvas and in screenprint are appropriated from her mixed cultural heritage. She creates symbols and colour variants for form her own language in true post-modern style.

John Crawford's totem-like ceramic figures powerfully command attention, and Christine Boswijk's vessels brim with deposits reminiscent of marks left by night and day tides.

The jewellery cabinet displays treasures in the form of mother of pearl, pounamu, cast bronze and sterling silver by artists Frank Wells, Alan Preston and Wallace Sutherland. Sutherland also shows diversity of his genre with the inclusion of his bronze and gold leaf sculpture Te Moana.

Brett Graham's large cast bronze is a multi-layered ode to traditional carving, aluding to the shape of a spaceship in The Empire Strikes Back. I thought of it as looking to the future through the past by guidance of the ancestors, or navigation across the Pacific using the stars.

Personal highlights are Vessel, among Grant Scott's stone and steel works, and Alexis Neal's The Flight of Birds. Scott's fragile fishing trap in delicate black steel is interspersed with heavy-duty textured plate seen in slippery foot-traffic areas. The tread pattern is a serendipitous replica of that found on traditional tapa cloths.

Neal uses a private language connecting her past with her future, her screenprints resembling the botanical studies of Cook's artists. Some symbolic images include the codependent existance between male and female of the extinct huia, and the status of their tail feathers in Maori lore. The relationship between mixed materials, symbols and their associated meaning makes interpreting works like these exciting and educational.

Loaded with metaphor and personal meaning, the works are only done justice with the viewer's physical presence. A full appreciation happens when the viewer establishes an intellectual rapport with each artist's work, and returns to see those artists mature in subsequent exhibitions.