Wellington Scoop

Aratoi Museum’s 10th ‘Wairarapa Art Review’ biennale

Press Release – Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History
Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History in Masterton opened its 10th Wairarapa Art Review to the public tonight – a crowd of nearly 200 people filled the Museum.

The selected exhibition, held every two years since 1999, is open to all artists living in the Wairarapa region, and highlights the variety and high standard of work being produced. For the 2017 Review, 86 entries were received, and 57 works selected; the selector was Mark Amery.

Art critic, writer and curator, Mark Amery has served as Director of Playmarket and was part of the curatorial team at City Gallery Wellington. His art reviews have been published through the Dominion Post, Eyecontactsite, and The Big Idea. Amery has been active in Masterton in 2016-17 through the Our Future Masterton / Urban Dream Brokerage, which is part of the public art programme Letting Space, which he co-curates. Selectors for the Wairarapa Art Review in previous years include Alison Bartley, Luit Bieringa, Paul Downer, Helen Kedgely, Cam McCracken, Penney Moir, Simon Morris, Jenny Neligan and Tim Walker.

Mark Amery said the Wairarapa biennale exhibition is “testament to the diversity and distinctive character of Wairarapa. I wanted to show that range. I think it speaks to something of the determined character, influence of the environment, and the care of the people. You’ll also see no lack of quirks and interest in surrealist bents and a down to earth sense of humour.”

Aratoi Museum Director Susanna Shadbolt said: “The diversity of work entered this year speaks of the skills of the artists in the Wairarapa, and Aratoi is pleased to be able to exhibit such a fine selection.” Materials/media in the 86 entries include ceramics, damar resin, encaustic beeswax, etching, flax, gold, ink, kimono silk, kwila, LED, lightbox, pastel, pen, photography, porcelain, raku, silver, watercolour, wire, wood turning, and oil/acrylic on aluminium, board, canvas, linen, paper, and wood.

Five awards are offered in the biennale. Four awards were announced tonight: Rosewood Premier Award ($2000); The Whole Nine Yards Highly Commended Award ($1000); New Zealand Pacific Studio Emerging Artist Award (1-week residency); and Jan Hyder Portrait Award ($500). The Frank Minehan People’s Choice Award ($500) is announced on 18 February, the closing day of the exhibition at Aratoi.

Rosewood Premier Award: SAM LUDDEN “Cumec Unit”/ Mark Amery’s comments: “A whirl of tūna, a wheel of eels! The work has such muscular energy, a collective weave, which feels emblematic of the Wairarapa. Our need to care for our rivers, our environment and each other. It’s fierce too, it has an aggressive almost industrial churning energy that asks for change. Ludden has become known for his tūna sculpture but here collectively in this thrashing turning basket of whipping heads and tails, they have become something sculpturally powerful.” Sam Ludden will have a solo exhibition at Aratoi in mid-2018.

The Whole Nine Yards Highly Commended Award: SAM DUCKOR-JONES “Could it be true / that music from the oily racer scum across the street / is really the sound of a heart / finally pumping up in my ear” / Mark Amery’s comments: “Full of the humour and frailty of being human, Duckor-Jones’ figure steps out of art’s abstract shadow, pink both to express a sense of difference from the ordinary masculine stereotypes, and pink in newness and embarrassment. I love how this figure feels of the rural landscape, as if stepping off the farm, yet is an uncertain everyman – this is very much a man, but one stepping out of frames of masculine expectation, asserting individuality in all its naked uncertainty. I’m reminded in its humanity of the cartoons of Michael Leunig and the sculpture of Giacometti, but here figuratively something fresh and new, art stepping out to touch us.” Sam Duckor-Jones recently exhibited his work at Aratoi.

New Zealand Pacific Studio Emerging Artist Award: AUDREY HALL “Theseus and the Minotaur” / Mark Amery’s comments: “This category isn’t restricted by age or artistic media, and this work is an example of some of the distinctive very individual object making happening, and testament to the magic that happens at King Street Artworks. Audrey Hall’s remarkable ‘Theseus and the Minotaur’ is a book come to life between the pages, full of these muscular animations, the mythic given very real human struggle and such humour. Grand old narratives are given new stop motion animation, complete with dragon.” Audrey Hall regularly exhibits at Aratoi through the King Street Artworks annual exhibition, but this is her first entry into the Wairarapa Art Review, which was a condition for the Emerging Artist Award.

Jan Hyder Portrait Award: STEPHEN LAWRIE “P.R.” / Mark Amery’s comments: “Could there be more of a cliché choice of portrait in New Zealand than the sun-beaten wisened face of the experienced male farmer? What is so great about Stephen Lawrie’s P.R. is how startling he transcends that. What initially strikes you as photo-realism gives way to the richness and accomplishment of the painting, the weathered surface working with acrylic. It may be an expected image of the Wairarapa and a familiar style, but it is so beautifully painted. There’s a strong spirit within this portrait – looking forward – as a deep part of this place – at least to these outsider’s eyes.”

Mark Amery concluded: “It also brings to attention what surprised me about what I selected for this year’s Wairarapa Arts Review – a surprisingly bloke selection.”

The Friends of Aratoi, a 450-strong membership organisation that supports the Museum, makes a major contribution to the Review, finding sponsors, liaising with the contributing artists, and assisting with all the work behind the scenes. One example is that, upon learning that one of the selected artists is deaf, as is her partner, the Friends arranged for a sign language interpreter to be available at the public opening to ensure inclusiveness.

The 2017 Wairarapa Art Review exhibition continues at Aratoi until 18 February after which the five award-winning pieces will be exhibited at Ventana Creative Collective in Martinborough, from 23 February to 11 March. Ventana Director Auriga Martin commented that she is “looking forward to showcasing the winning pieces from the Review next year. It’s great to connect with our local art network and co-host an event with Aratoi.”

Also at Aratoi: Elizabeth Thomson – Cellular Memory, Survey Exhibition 1989 – 2017 and Stephen Allwood – Darkness and Delight, an exhibition of paintings. ARATOI, 12 Bruce Street, Masterton, open daily 10am – 4:30pm, entry by donation, Tel 06 370 0001, www.aratoi.co.nz

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