Wellington Scoop

Elizabeth Thomson exhibition at Aratoi

Press Release – Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History
Aratoi Museum is pleased to present:
9 December 2017 – 2 April 2018
Curated by Gregory O’Brien

OPENING RECEPTION – 8 December 2017 at 6pm
ARTIST AND CURATOR TALK – 9 December at 11am
Elizabeth Thomson ‘Cellular memory’
Gregory O’Brien

The atmosphere of the planet viewed from space. The inside of a plant cell. The surface of a human body. Ocean water at various depths, sunlight radiating through it. These kinds of territories, most often associated with science, lie at the heart of Elizabeth Thomson’s art. In her works, the natural world become a site of meditation, reverie and a very personal kind of poetry.

‘Cellular Memory’ speaks of three decades spent in the studio experimenting with different media and processes, and pursuing an ever-expanding concept of what art might be. The works in the exhibition are also shaped by extensive travels in Europe and the Americas, as well as through the Pacific and New Zealand. Observation and direct experience of the physical world, and the making of a photographic or memory record of it, are her starting point. It would be accurate to say that the outside world is also her studio.

Thomson’s works can soothe and seduce at the same time as they disarm and unsettle. They also play upon remembered sensations: her moth works hark back to a childhood experience of such nocturnal fliers in her Titirangi home. Her oceanic works will strike a chord with anyone who has ever leapt into the ocean, or voyaged beyond sight of dry land.

These works are audacious and powerful and at the same time meticulously planned and executed. Incorporating glass beading, zinc, bronze, fibreglass and wood panelling, and a variety of photographic and image-making sources, Thomson’s works are finely tuned and modulated. They offer a view of the world which is at once molecular and planetary. In these works, we experience both beauty and strangeness, knowing and not knowing, remembering and forgetting; life and art in accord, talking to each other and to us.

• ‘Cellular Memory’ at Aratoi Museum surveys Elizabeth Thomson’s career from the late 1980s until the present. It includes art commissioned for the exhibition, work created after her involvement in the 2011 ‘Kermadec’ art project, The Fearless Five Hundred — a school of 500 bronze wall-mounted fish — which has never been shown before in a public art space, and the room-sized installation Waking Up Slowly, revised for this exhibition, which has only been exhibited once before, at Auckland Art Gallery, in 1996.
An illustrated publication will accompany the exhibition, to be launched in March 2018 as part of New Zealand Festival’s Writers and Readers, in Wellington, with contributions from Jenny Bornholdt, Lloyd Jones and Gregory O’Brien.
Thomson also exhibited at Aratoi in 2016 as one of nine artists in the ‘Kermadec – Lines in the Ocean’; Aratoi Museum was the final venue for the international exhibition.
Aratoi, 12 Bruce Street, Masterton, Wairarapa, is open daily 10am – 4:30pm, entry by donation.

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