The space above the local information centre acts as an extension of the public art gallery, currently located across the road while earthquake-strengthening work is carried out on the original building, constructed in 1919 (earthquake strengthening is a national obsession at the moment due to the devastating effects of two severe earthquakes in the last six years. The local museum is also closed, and the local opera house reopened last year after it was strengthened. But I digress).
Currently on display is a selection of ceramic work by Maori artists. Pottery and ceramics were introduced to New Zealand by European settlers in the 1800s, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that they really caught on among Maori artists, but as this exhibition shows the results have been marvellous.
I have a soft spot for pottery, due to its practical roots and connection to geographic locality. The raw material has to be dug up from somewhere, and Hana Rakena in particular brought this out in her work, which displays the grainy texture of the South Island clay from which it was worked. Aaron Scythe’s work, meantime, showed the influence of years spent living and working in Japan, which also has a tradition of ceramic-work stretching back centuries.
It’s probably just as well that all the works on display were encased behind glass, because given my tactile nature I would have struggled to resist the urge to touch them otherwise. The whole display made for a pleasant half-hour’s viewing, and I’ll be watching the space to see what comes next when this exhibition moves on in August.