Monday, December 21, 2009

Glass Arts

Merryn Jones. Loss and Acquisition, 2008.
Wall installation, 62 cast lead crystal key tags, each on a stainless steel hook. 2.5 x 1.5m overall.
Photo: Milford Galleries, Queenstown; Courtesy Sarjeant Gallery
When I wrote about a new glass art exhibition on my other blog the other day – “Looking Glass: reflecting ideas” at Wanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery – I asked them if any of the 21 participating artists were Maori. I’ve never come across a Maori glass artist and I thought it would be terrific to feature one here. Great news! There are two Maori artists in this exhibition Merryn Jones (Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Rakaipaaka); and Raewyn Roberts (Ngati Kikopiri o Kapiti, Ngati Kea o Te Arawa, Ngati Whatua o Orakei).
Merryn Jones. Book, Nga Moteatea, lent courtesy Wanganui District Library.
Photo: Merryn Jones. Courtesy Sarjeant Gallery.
I’ve seen Merryn Jones’s Ginkgo leaves before – and loved them. I adore ginkgo trees and have written several short stories based around them and their dried leaves; so I was always going to relate well to her fallen leaves laid out on a book…. in this case, ‘Nga Moteatea,' compiled by Sir Apirana Ngata in 1929, which includes Nga Moteatea 134 (Psalm 134) from the Ngati Porou region. Entitled ‘Journeys: life and loss, her three works reflect her consistent themes of life and loss. “Having nursed for nearly three decades I have seen a lot of life and death,” she says in her artist statement. “The leaves in the installation Tears: He puna wai e utuhia, are an analogy for loss and represent issues of grief, death and decay.”
Merryn Jones. Tears, He puna wai e utuhia, 2009.
Wall installation, appx 100 Ginkgo leaves, cast lead cyrstal, each suspended on spring stainless steel wire. 3 x 2m variable. Photo: Merryn Jones. Courtesy Sarjeant Gallery
Her other work, Loss and Acquisition (top image), examines a life lived through the keys in one’s possession. “Keys reveal all sorts of information about their owners – places one has lived, assets and interests….what one values….they may even disclose unwelcome secrets” she says. While Jones enjoys making larger vessels, she enjoys open casting small units, which can be displayed on walls in multiple groupings, often suspended away from the wall, which encourages an interplay of shadows.

Raewyn Roberts. Synergy, Aspects of Dislocation series, 2004
Gaffer crystal glass, lost wax cast, sandblasted, polished.
2 pieces, each 300 x110 x 120mm. Private Collection.
Photo: Leigh Mitchell-Anyon. Courtesy Sarjeant Gallery.
Raewyn Roberts’s work, ‘Dual Identity in a Changing World: Te Ao Hurihuri,’ is wonderfully bold and vibrant. Roberts believes strongly that art has the potential to be the best mediator between Maori and Pakeha and between the multi-cultural dimensions of contemporary Aotearoa/New Zealand society in the 21st century. Of mixed descent (Scots and English as well as Maori), she talks of returning to her grandmother’s marae in 1990 for the nationwide 150th anniversary celebration of the Treaty of Waitangi – “a hostile rather than an embracing experience for me,” she says. “Looking like the ‘other’, the dominant culture, as one no longer visibly Maori, it was apparent to me that a shift in consciousness would be essential for any personal resolution of issues about my dual identity.”
Raewyn Roberts. Reconciliation, 2008-2009. Gaffer crystal glass, lost wax cast, sandblasted, acid-etched, polished. 3 pieces, each appx 220 x 300 x 60mm. Photo Leigh Mitchell-Anyon. Courtesy Sarjeant Gallery.
Raewyn Roberts. Points of Different, Point series, 2007.
Gaffer crystal glass, los wax cast, sandblasted, acid-etched, polished.
5 pieces, each aapx 180 x 100 x 30mm. Photo: Leigh Mitchell-Anyon.
Courtesy Sarjeant Gallery.
Roberts says she has been “developing personally relevant and appropriate ways” within her glass practice, “of portraying these issues working towards a culture of change.” Synergy, 2004 is part of her first series, ‘Aspects of Dislocation’ and uses the symbols of three tines, which traditionally represent birth, life and death “and specifically here, my Maori heritage juxtaposed against the shining, highly polished European piece.” Roberts says her post-graduate studies led her to question the relevance of constructing an identity based on the concept of biculturalism. “We are all of us here and we are not going home. Assimilation has blurred the boundaries in contemporary society: how brown-skinned and culturally-connected does one have to be? Under the white exterior beats many a brown heart,” she concludes. Looking Glass: reflecting ideas continues at Sarjeant Gallery until March 14, 2010.

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