I've stopped off at Auckland before I hit Christchurch for the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEFW) and I'm chilling in Otahuhu with the cousins. So being the artistic lover that I am, I've asked my cousin to show me artsy Auckland and he delivered. Thank you Po and Jamal.
Love at first sight
Have you ever stopped in awe when you saw something for the first time. That was me when I saw the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki on a cold, grey Sunday.
"Melbourne architects John H Grainger and Charles A D’Ebro designed the oldest part of the building in French Château style. One of Auckland’s first civic buildings, this Category 1 historic place is loved for its timeless beauty. After opening in 1887 as Auckland City’s Free Public Library and Municipal Offices, part of the building was devoted to the Gallery. Their doors officially opened on 17 February 1888".
- Auckland Art Gallery website
How's that for rich history? The wooden inverted pyramids are a thing of beauty, gleaming wood complimented by tall glass windows to let natural light flow in. Sigh, if I was a millionaire, I'd design my house like this on a tiny house scale.
I spent four hours wondering the halls of the gallery and each exhibition had me giddy like a teenager going to her first dance, my first big art gallery and the same for my cousin and he lives in the city.....tsk...tsk. What really stood out for me was the Pacific Art by Pacific Artists. The Pacific diaspora community in New Zealand is the backbone of the economy, specifically the Polynesian nations like Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau who have free association with 'the land of the long white cloud'.
The whole building is breathing an aura of artistic energy that I soaked up for four hours (ask my hubby, I never walk anywhere, let alone for four hours) Too many pieces to name but here's my list of pieces that spoke to me.
Change/Exchange by Christine Hellyar
There is something about shadow boxes that hold trinkets from the past, it's a sublime capsule of history. Seeing a whole wall of capsules with Pacific currency from an old era was ingenious.
My take,the colonization of the Pacific is a very checkered one, sometimes we feel like we've been whitewashed. The red tones of frames is like an alarm of the bad tidings that the white men brought to the Pacific. The white is what Pacific Islanders are trying to keep close to their home/heart, culture, heritage and identity
“My readings of the diaries of that time show that textiles, feathers and cordage were very desirable. Tapa and feathers were traded between island groups so they are included.There is a very physical quality to the work even though it is behind glass. In some examples it shows how European goods were re-used in a new way; they were not just acquired for their own sake. The format is like that of a European museum and the wording is European. There is often an Oceanic context, and an Oceanic aesthetic.” - Christine Hellyar
Judy Darragh: Limbo
"Referencing Judy Darragh's interest in science-fiction and domestic life – and how the two interact – Limbo's metal foil construction suggests every-day kitchen tin foil, while its shapes represent the early days of space exploration. Through this work Judy Darragh shows us how what's familiar and commonplace can shift into the unknown, far-reaching zones of the universe." - Auckland Art Gallery website
The pictures don't do it justice but in the North atrium hanging from the kauri canopy is the magical collection by Judy Darragh called 'Limbo'. Because of the natural light streaming through hitting hundreds of diamontes on the meteors creating twinkling lights, magical for the kids passing through the atrium.
There is something whimsical about the collection that makes me miss Serah. I sit on the benches watching kids giggling and I think of my daughter what her reaction would be to this hanging delight.
Judy Millar: Rock Drop
This is such a mind trip. From every angle it morphs into something different, that art work from this angle reminds me of fruit roll ups, I wanted one when I took this picture.
"Playing with the complexity of this vibrant junction between the Victorian, neo-Classical and 21st century architecture of the building, Millar’s towering painterly installation responds to the dynamics of the space and appears to change and morph from different perspectives, provoking new and exciting experiences for Gallery visitors." - Auckland Art Gallery website
John Vea: Import/Export
I saved my favorite for last. John Vea's import export piece is a snapshot of the diaspora Pacific community from the 60's and what they contributed to the economy.
His take on the Seasonal Workers scheme specifically Pacific Islanders are the backbone of that program working for minimum wage. He calls the plaster cones inside the crate his 'urban taros' they're shaped from road cones also alluding to the contribution of Pacific Islanders to the construction and agriculture industry of NZ and the overlooked yet significant contribution to the NZ economy.
The crates holding the urban taro has a sense of the Pacific community being caged in a modern setting, my 2 cents worth.