Wow fantastic to see this generous four-page spread in the Jan/Feb 2016 New Zealand Artist Magazine on our billboard project that we did in September last year for the Nelson Arts Festival – very good memories.
Five of us artists each painted huge 1.2 x 2.4 metre artworks on the windy, gorgeous banks of the Maitai River in Nelson.
The New Zealand Artist Magazine, pg 28-31, Issue No. 14, January/February 2016
Article by Charlie Unwin.
The Billboard Project came about both from a need to bring the Arts Festival back into the CBD and have more presence, as well as a need to not just be a performing arts festival, but incorporate the visual arts as well. The Festival of Colour in Wanaka first tinkered with the billboard idea a few festivals ago, and I thought it could be something that Nelsonians would embrace. Six artists were chosen to be part of the inaugural project; four local and two out of towners’. One of the non-locals was Richard Adams, an artist who had been part of the Wanaka project who brought both experience and continuity to the project. I chose the theme of Aromahana (Spring/Warmth) because that is something the festival is well known for heralding the beginning of Spring in the region.
I have worked for 20 years in the professional performing arts, surrounded by actors, dancers, musicians, etc. so it was very interesting for me to work alongside visual artists in the same way. It was different and at the same time, not different, if that makes sense. Working with the artists was very much like working with a cast of actors in a play – everyone is different, and everyone brings something unique to the table. However it was different in regards to a performance show, where the show is at a certain inflexible time on the night. With the visual artists, the deadline was a little more relaxed and therefore they were able to work at their own pace. They were a lot more unhurried than the performers.
The Nelson public really took to the project, engaging with both the works and the artists. The greatest indication of the public enthusiasm was that when the artists were not there due to the wind or some other circumstances, the local SITE was inundated with people wanting to know where they were, and why they weren’t painting.
Having Jasco come onboard was imperative in making the project a success. It meant we were able to secure artists of the calibre of Sofia and Richard. Also the products on offer and the gift bag they received excited the artists and made them fully enthused about the project. One even remarked, “BEST GIFT EVER from the Liquitex sponsors! Absolute joy opening up the gift box so please pass on my thanks!”
All of the works were exhibited at Red Gallery following the project and were put up for auction on TradeMe. They all had interest and bids, and whilst only one was successful in selling online, the others all have started dialogue with interested parties.
I think that the project was successful and I’d like to see it return and grow. The artists involved have also seen the opportunity for the event to involve artists who work in different mediums (sculptors, urban artists, etc). The location needs a rethink though, because as nice as the banks of the Maitai is, it can get rather windy and that makes painting prohibitive.
All works are 2400 x 1200mm.
“This was the longest public art project I have participated in. We worked over a week on our paintings on the Maitai riverbank. Spray painting outside is great in terms of ventilation, however gusty winds made the use of paper stencils very challenging and I probably said some bad words when I was trying to hold my work down for fear of it flying away in the wind.
The best part about participating in the Billboards Project was watching other people work. Other artist processes of making fascinate me. The people passing by were also fascinated, and we had long conversations about art and about different sorts of studio processes. I was reminded of how mysterious many people find the whole idea of art, which felt really refreshing somehow. As artists we often work long hours obsessively honing our techniques and it becomes easy to take these skills for granted, experiencing other people’s interest and enquiries was something of a shot in the arm. I was reminded of the particular nature of my art practice and how intrinsic it is to me.
I think the timing for this project was really great for me too. I had been working hard in my studio during the winter, which was isolating. Reclusiveness comes easily to me, so it is very good for me to get out of my studio and work with other artists. So I felt the project got me out of my studio space and out of my comfort zone. It also extended me in terms of working with a larger scale than normal and with more layered stencils. So overall I thought the project was really successful. I would like to express my gratitude to The Nelson Arts Festival for hosting the project and for inviting me to participate in it. It really was a blast and I hope the event becomes a regular part of the arts festival program. It’s cool to have artists working out in the Nelson community and I really think it adds to the arty vibe of Nelson city.
Sofia Minson was invited to paint this large-scale artwork as a live art demonstration on the banks of the Maitai River in Nelson for the 2015 Nelson Arts Festival Billboard Project, alongside fellow New Zealand artists Geoff Noble, Miriam Hansen, Olivia Hall, Smeagol and Richard Adams. Entitled “Grey Ghost”, this piece is inspired by the taonga (treasure) that are New Zealand’s people, land, forests and birds.
The body of the kokako, which is usually grey, is instead painted here with watery washes of the blues and greens of New Zealand’s forests and waterways.
Peeking through shadow is a stylised korowai (feather cloak) as if worn by the bird itself.
Intricate patterns painted in thin white ink that reference M?ori kowhaiwhai designs, tukutuku panels and ancient hindu sacred geometry, drip down the torso. Sofia uses multi-cultural, multifaith elements in celebration of her own mixed M?ori, Swedish and Irish heritage, as well as her experiences growing up in NZ and overseas in Samoa, Sri Lanka and China due to her father’s engineering work.
The creative process for this painting took place in Nelson and therefore the triangular patterns on top of the bird’s head could be seen as a map of the top of the south and bottom of the north island. The final detail painted was the orange wattle, proudly showcasing a Moko Kauae or chin tattoo, traditionally worn by M?ori women to signify mana and status. This touch of human marking brings this image of a bird into the realm of dignified portraiture and reminded the artist of a watchful, ancestral presence.
It’s been a busy four weeks and we are finally done. A huge thanks to The New Zealand Artist Magazine and Liquitex for sponsoring this project and the Nelson City Council for putting it on.
The two weeks went great. We had a lot of public interacting with us while we worked and the quality of the work was top notch. The product (Liquitex) was epic to work with and I can’t wait to get to work with it in my studio. This was a very positive project for both the public and the artists as we spend a lot of time in our studios by ourselves, so working in a group was awesome.
The public loved watching the works evolve and were ‘stoked’ to be able to ask questions and share experiences with us artists. The paintings were on display in the RED Art Gallery and were auctioned on TradeMe.
I first became part of this project as a result of being one the artists invited to the Festival of Colour Pouwhenua in Wanaka a couple of years ago. Working outside in natural light is something I love to do in my own practise and in fact I have an area at my studio in Auckland which is set aside for this very process. Allowing the public to watch your creative thinking is something I’ve always enjoyed. It has for me a sense of theatre about it which as a musician and performer of many years I love to combine. The two go hand in hand – one sets the other on fire.
So many artists work in isolation and this process allows you to breakdown that structure and throw a little caution to the wind to make marks on a less formal level in front of an audience. It really is a lot of fun engaging with the public and as an painter you may surprise yourself with what comes out in the end result. Thank you Liquitex and The New Zealand Artist Magazine, Charlie Unwin and my fellow painters for a very special event at the 21st Nelson Arts Festival. I look forward to next the next one!
Sincere thanks to Trish Curry, Andrew Parker, Diana Rees, Geoff Noble and Charlie Unwin for their hard work in bringing this project to fruition. A resounding success by all accounts. Roll on next year.
- Megan Lavin Publisher/Editor The New Zealand Artist Magazine.
Olivia Hall with Visual Arts Students
Olivia Hall and her NMIT students created intricately detailed work on clear perspex. Painted in white, the contrast is striking. The wind was a bit of a challenge, but the finished work is beautiful.
Posted by artist Sofia Minson from NewZealandArtwork.com
New Zealand Maori portrait and landscape oil painting