Pohutakawa bursting into bloom at Mount Maunganui
I first heard about the Kermadec artists' voyage on the radio just after the artists returned from their trip. My ears pricked up because I've been thinking for a while of making the Kermadec Trench out of blankets. The nine artists who participated included one of my favourites, Robin White, which made it even more special. Throughout the year I've been looking forward to their show.
The project involved a week's sea voyage in May across one of the least travelled bits of ocean on the planet. The work the artists have made since their voyage is now on exhibition in the beautiful Tauranga Art Gallery and I went to see it on Sunday.
Because I don't have my own car getting to Tauranga is tricky, so I formulated a cunning plan. To celebrate my birthday this week I didn't have a party or a dinner, instead I invited some friends on a day trip to the seaside with some art thrown in. Five girlfriends joined my little expedition and car pooled over the Kaimais to Tauranga. We all loved the exhibition, and went round the show several times, including after a break for lunch.
Robin White produced three enormous tapa cloths (I would guess at least 5m square) that hang in the main foyer of the gallery, filling the two story high walls. My jaw literally dropped when I saw them so big and so beautiful. Two of the tapas marked with Robin's characteristic precise and insightful drawings made using traditional techniques and the involvement of a village craft group in the Islands. They are gorgeous and perfectly sufficient on their own, but my favourite was the tapa with just two blocks of colour, ash black and ochre red, no images at all. In its simplicity, the work's strength is quietly insistent.
The other eight artist's included a couple who's work I'm familiar with and others I haven't come across before. The works by two of the other women on the trip resonated with me the most: Elizabeth Thompson and her extraordinary undulating deeply coloured pieces, very sensual and evocative of Kermadec's environments. Fiona Hall's sculptures and installations were stunning. I particularly liked the tiny screen (iphone?) playing inside a sardine can framed by a perfect tin fish. And her sculptures of bird beaks like icebergs of course.
The exhibition is on until February 2012, so if your NZ summer holiday itinerary includes the Bay of Plenty I strongly recommend going along to the Tauranga Art Gallery to see it.
After we had filled up on art and lunch our little party drove on to Mt Maunganui, where the sea was wild and the air stormy. Dozens of black-wetsuited surfers bobbed off shore and beyond them a flotilla of small yachts raced. It was too windy to sit on the beach and we walked around the base of the Mount, following the track I used to find traces of oil spill in October. There is still some oil on the rocks and evidence that the clean up operation is by no means complete. Next day I found out that the storm had caused the wrecked Rena to spill more oil into the sea, which has probably washed ashore by now.
The rain mostly held off for our walk, but started in earnest as we approached the hot pools. A consensus decision decided we should go for a soak, a truly blissful way to end a wonderful excursion.
Windblown and exhilarated, Stephanie, Meliors, Rachelle, Robin and Anna resting on our walk around the base of Mount Maunganui