Posts Tagged ‘Dowse’

Land of Opportunity

When I was in Wellington recently, I started to wonder if my children were getting the opportunities and experiences in their little provincial town that a child of urban Wellington would get. Then I realised it’s about creating opportunities and providing experiences and sometimes stumbling across them.

I grew up in Invercargill and was recently reminded of my “wow it’s a big world out there moment”. When I was maybe 11 or 12, my older brother played me a “Walk on the Wild Side”, insisting on me wearing headphones to fully appreciate the backing vocals. I was instantly enamoured, but it was the lyrics that were the revelation…”shaved her legs then he was a she”….WHAT? Thanks Lou, you brought New York to suburban girl living at the end of the world.


I drag my kids around art galleries, museums, on road trips, to historic sites, bush walks, sports games, swimming lessons, play them Mum music (Iggy Pop). We talk about things in the micro and the macro. I try to bring the world into our home. For example, my 6-year-old loves Antiques Roadshow and Time Team, (my influence of course), but it has been suggested that the “nana gene” is strong in this one. One night recently she started talking to me about the patterns and glazes of medieval floor tiles and how you could date them…she obviously has had the opportunity to learn about this (and now I have found this [.pdf] for her on the web) I am happy to run with that.

Yes the internet (and it was also the hope once held for television) can open our eyes and educate but it also very easy to go down a particular rabbit hole in the internet universe. We can surround ourselves with agreeable people on social media creating a bubble that doesn’t challenge us, we can search out only games or pron or whatever. Like eating only the foods that we know and like, it is often not good for us to have a narrow diet.

We also need to recognise that for many children (and adults) opportunities just aren’t there, or people just don’t know how to use or recognise them. School of course is a great environment for when the opportunities and experiences aren’t available in the home and school trips can provide those ‘eyes wide open’ moments. It is sad when I find that some schools can’t provide such opportunities as all resources must go into the core curriculum. Our own schools ensure no one misses out, however this is just not an option in some areas.

This is why I was very happy to contribute to this initiative from the Dowse who are a LEOTC provider.

And yeah I suppose I could give money more locally or perhaps wider (eg UNICEF) but I just hope one kid gets to stand in front of some art and gasp or cry or be affected and have their world widened by this scheme.

Tusiata Buchanan-Falema’a with a work by Reuben Patterson she chose for Pic ‘n Mix, at the Dowse.

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Looking for…

browndesignI have been trying to track down an artist from Wanganui called Russell Brown (NOT the media commentator). I am being awful and have scanned in the image of this little bookmark of his*. You may be surprsied to know that I do usually try to get an artists permission before doing this.

I saw his work in Ora Design Store at the Dowse. Its mainly hand numbered prints using a special transfer technique but they are wonderful. Its all “kiwi icon” stuff but to me, the execution elevates it above the usual kitsch.

I particularly fell for a series of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, but the set is not in the forecast for me right now. *sigh*.

Anyway, I understand Brown used to be a design tutor at UCOL and exhibited in a 2008 Whanganui Artists Open Studio event. I am planning a trip up the Whanagnui way (and maybe to Mangamahu) just after Christmas, so would like to get in touch with him.

And now for something completely different. I just love these two recent pieces of stencil art as seen on The Wooster Collective; Pablo and Store Trek.


*And I’ll happily remove it if he requests me to do so.

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I had time yesterday to have another quick spin around The New Dowse. Points of note:

Part of A Generous Eye. Works from the Wallace Arts Trust Collection was an interesting selection of figure studies by Toss Woollaston who I normally associate with landscapes.

My House Surrounded By a Thousand Suns showcases art works from “individuals formerly know as ‘outsider artists‘”. This was interesting to me, due to meeting Wellington curator, artist and academic Stuart Shepherd recently, who is a specialist in New Zealand self taught and contemporary folk art and is hosting a New Zealand booth at the New York Outsider Art Fair in January 2009. Work by Amy Szostak, subject of Shepherds 2007 television documentary “Amy goes to Sydney” is included in this show and is also currently featured in the Without Borders exhibition in Sydney. More about her can also be seen in a story on TV3’s 60 Minutes on Monday 8 September. I have to say outsider art isn’t my thing but it’s a very interesting subject area.

Wedding of June and Bjorn– Amy Szostak

The sublime Sinfonia Antarctica remains on until 28 September and it was maybe even more wonderful on a second viewing (see here for original comments).

A new addition to the gallery is Ora Contemporary New Zealand Design Store. The words “design store” make me squirm but there were a few interesting things. I really liked the NZ icons squares and badges by artist Russell Brown. I have tried to google his name but just end up with the media commentator – so if anyone has any more info I’d be pleased to get it. I ended up in an internal conflict over buying some cards with Banksy images on them -somehow it just seemed wrong even though I love the work. I ended up with a compromise (but not much of one) by buying one attributed to Scroobius Pip of doves coming out of the flash of a sniper’s gun. I still felt guilty for buying into it all though. Still, it did introduce me to a fantastic piece of music/poetry by Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip “Thou Shalt Always Kill” which starts:

“Thou shalt not steal if there is a direct victim;
Thou shalt not worship pop idols or follow lost prophets;
Thou shalt not take the names of Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer, Johnny Hartman, Desmond Dekker, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix or Syd Barrat in vain;”

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I had a little spare time today so I stopped by The Dowse in the Hutt Valley to see ‘Sinfonia Antartica’. I haven’t been to the “New Dowse” (since the upgrade) and I am sorry to say I’m not overly impressed. Firstly I hate the pink and really what’s with the entrance way – that isn’t? You have to check out what Over the Net had to say about it starting with “someone once said that the sign of a great building was a lack of signs”  Well the Dowse is not only over-run with signs but I still had to ask someone where Sinfonia Antartcia was AND I had a floor plan as well. Maybe I have limited spacial abilities or was still trying to get my bearings relative to how the gallery USED to be. Oh and the Dowse is NOT the really the place for the gallerina attitude ok (or whatever the male version is).

The Old Dowse

The New Dowse (ok it IS more stylish)

Enough grumbling – after I found it, I was very impressed with the exhibition. “Sprinkled with snippets of poetry, hung with gargantuan prints of ice caps and filled with an atmospheric soundtrack, Sinfonia Antarctica, showcases this great white continent as seen through the eyes of painters Dick Frizzell, Nigel Brown and Grahame Sydney, ceramist Raewyn Atkinson, writers Bill Manhire and Chris Orsman, jeweller Kirsten Haydon, textile artist Clare Plug and photographers Anne Noble, Andris Apse and Joyce Campbell”

I have to say firstly that I am a bit of a Nigel Brown ‘fan’ so I enjoyed his paintings, special because he tried to actually paint ‘on the ice’ and has stories to tell about that! I was particularly impressed with a textile work by Clare Plug, a medium that you might not think lends itself to the subject but it was great. Apse’s photograhs were quite amazing and caught an unexpected granduer but Joyce Campbell’s long prints of the Barne Glacier were quite amazing. The photos of white ice on the white gallery really worked better than you’d think and they were so cleverly hung. “Her intention in full scale exhibition display is to induce a sense of human insignificance”.  It was not over-curated either but to the point when I asked for accompanying literature – there wasn’t any (‘well not that we can just hand out”). When I got home I had a good look on the web and found that this exhibition is part of the NZSO ‘Exploring Antartica’ programme and there are a whole lot of related events, artists talks etc and further information at that site, including the Artists to Antarctica scheme

At the Dowse they were selling the book I am reading “The Wide White Page” in association with the exhibition, but here’s a tip – I got mine for $5 at a remainder sale at Whitcoulls.

However the highlight of the trip was “Assume Nothing‘portrait photographs by Rebecca Swan, and award-winning documentary footage by Kirsty McDonald, reveals both the extraordinary, and often very ordinary worlds of New Zealand’s transgender community.‘ I was stunned by the photos – not because of the content (in fact I know more than one of the subjects personally) but because of the essence Swan has managed to capture on film.

Merge – Rebecca Swan

I wish I’d had more time to look about. Definitely worth going to see and there are a lot of events on related to both these exhibitions.

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Further to that story…

Dog – Found! 
“Thank you for your enquiry re the large dog that used to sit outside the Dowse. The Large White Dog is made by Barry Lett  in 1990 and is currently in the collections store at TheNewDowse. Due to fragility it cannot be sitting outside exposed to elements. ”

I had totally not picked this for Barry Lett because it was made of river stones not scoria and I’d only seen those skinny red dogs (lesson – listen to your “art elders”). It looked more like a Keith Haring dog. Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me. I wonder why is sat outside for what I recall as “years” and now is too fragile.  I wonder if its in pieces? At least now I don’t have to offer a reward to locate it.

The McCahon (online) Database “contains some 1600 works, including paintings and drawings“. It does not have a subject index but you can search it. I searched for iron and cross and looked under religious so I am fairly confident his iron cross sculpture is not there – maybe it isn’t meant to be (because its just paintings and drawings)?

EDIT: – see comments. This IS in the database and I am an idiot :-) I do worry about a database that didn’t find it when the term sculpture was put in the search field though. Who would think I used to design and develop databases for a living huh? I do admit to searching on “iron cross” when its not made from iron. I am sure I entered cross but I was having a “mummy” day at the time.

I tried to watch the Kurt Cobain movie “About a Son” on Saturday night. I had heard good things about it and it was quite different for a doco. Interesting cinematography and choice of imagery with audio edited from interviews with KC about his life. Unfortunately I was also baking a bright pink Barbie layer cake at the same time and the two activities were not mutally conducive. I think the cake won out.

Also I just got my hands on a copy of JK Baxter’s kids book “The Seagull”. It would be somewhat romantic to hope that it will be the first book my daughter reads by herself but I can try…


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