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Lowdown: Big Names, Record Turn Outs & Plenty Of Pride

23 Nov 2023

Major announcements and much-loved local events dominate the week's arts and culture news, with plenty to look forward to for the creative community.

Great gets on the Gulf

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Chris Booth. Photo: Supplied.

A star-studded lineup has been announced for next year's Sculpture on the Gulf (SOTG) - the always popular outdoor exhibition showcasing art and sculpture on Waiheke Island (24 February-24 March).

In what will be the 20th anniversary of the biennial outdoor event, two of the creative community's most admired names have collaborated as curators - Robert Leonard and Brett Graham. 

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Lonnie Hutchinson. Photo: Supplied.

“We've gathered diverse works, each bringing something unique to the sculpture trail. There’s a dinosaur skull dangling from a crane, a shrouded-scaffolding ruin, a dystopian cinematic water feature, a shade structure for dreamers, ikebana in scrupulously fake tyres, an abstracted prison watchtower, an outdoor shower, poetic displaced signage, a pluralist-populist parade, a heart monitor for a tree and swimming lessons. We called it Anything Could Happen to prompt people to park their preconceptions on the ferry.”

Arts Laureate Graham himself is one of the 19 artists confirmed in next year's line-up, including headliners like NZ Venice Biennale representative Dane Mitchell, 2024 Walters Prize nominee Ana Iti, Simon Ingram and Turumeke Harrington. 

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Simon Ingram. Photo: Tobias Kraus.

Also featured are veterans like Chris Booth and Denis O’Connor through to relative newcomers such as last year's Arts Foundation Springboard artist Chevron Hassett - along with nationally and internationally appreciated talents Oliver Stretton-Pow (a Waiheke local and Toipoto alumni), Steve Carr, Seung Yul Oh, Isabella Loudon, Eddie Clemens, Natalie Guy, Lonnie Hutchinson, Zac Langdon Pole, Marie Shannon and the sole international artist, American Nicholas Galanin.

Director of SOTG, Fiona Blanchard enthuses “We’re excited to present a fresh, thoughtfully curated exhibition of site-responsive installations against a backdrop of the beautiful landscapes of Waiheke Island. Each artist has a unique perspective that comes through in a range of approaches, and we know this will be a truly immersive experience for visitors, who arrive with a curious mind and leave with a fresh perspective."

With the artist line-up done and dusted, Blanchard and her team now ramp up the planning to turn Matiatia Bay into an art lover's dream.

“These are complex works, exposed to the elements of mother nature, publicly accessible 24/7 and exhibited on an island,” Blanchard says. “People marvel at just how we manage to place the artworks where we do, so close to the event opening – rest assured 2024 will be no exception.”

 

Record-setting success

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Crowds enjoying Jeff Thompson's Kauri, Kowhai, Matai, Pohutukawa, Puriri, Tawa. Photo: Supplied.

February can't come soon enough for sculpture lovers, it would seem - after they turned out in their droves to this month's NZ Sculpture OnShore in Takapuna.  

A record number of 21,000 people visited what organisers tout as the country’s largest outdoor art event - back after a five-year COVID-induced five-year hiatus.

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Lang Ea, POP BANG BOOM! Photo: Supplied.

Another new and impressive benchmark was set - with 39% of its 130 artworks being sold, the most ever in the biennial event's 27-year history. 

NZ Sculpture OnShore chair Sally Dewar paid tribute to all involved - particularly the skill of the 100 artists exhibiting works.

“In addition to a small event team, there were 387 volunteers who undertook a myriad of tasks. Students from 16 Auckland schools contributed artworks - and more than 1,500 students visited as part of the Schools’ Tour programme. Visitors came from all over New Zealand to view the exhibition. Our much-valued patrons and sponsors support the event year after year.

Everyone involved contributed toward the significant donation we will be providing to Women's Refuge NZ (all proceeds from tickets and art sales go to the charity). The figure will be known in the New Year, when final artworks have been sold and shipped.”

While Women's Refuge was absolutely the winner out of the event - over $2 million has been raised by the event since its inception - there was also one prize handed out.

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Jamie Thomas, Rock and a Hard Place. Photo: Supplied.

Artist Jamie Thomas won the People’s Choice Award for his two-metre-high corten steel work Rock and A Hard Place - designed to raise awareness around domestic violence and give the audience a better understanding of what some women are going through.

Thomas told The Lowdown "I feel honoured to be part of such an incredible event, let alone win the hearts of the audience! 

"My sculpture and the meaning behind it hits pretty close to home for me and building this piece pushed me to my limits, both physically and mentally. To come away with the People's Choice award is an indescribable feeling and makes the 900-odd hours of blood sweat and tears all worth it. 

"The prize money will be donated to the very worthy cause - women's refuge."

Thomas was also eager to tautoko Dewar's tribute to the volunteers who made the event possible - "In such a busy world, to give up your time is truly amazing. The world needs more people like you." 
 

Hit the trail in art's Wild West

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Artist Liz Smith's work. Photo: Supplied.

Auckland Arts lovers looking for their next fix don't have to wait long - with the Muriwai Arts Open Studios and Art Trail starting on Saturday (25-26 November). 

23 artists - most of them locals - will be showing and discussing a range of creative practices including painting, photography, textiles, jewellery, ceramics, sculpture and Sand Art experiences for the kids. It also coincides with the Kumeu Arts Awards Show, making Auckland's West the city's creative hotspot for the weekend. 

Toipoto artist Liz Smith is taking part and told The Lowdown "This is a rare opportunity to interact directly with members of the public to share my work, stories, inspiration and talk about some of the processes and techniques, as well as gather feedback about my work. It creates an awareness of myself as an artist and my work. It can be the start of a narrative sharing the stories that inspire my work."

Fellow Toipoto alumni Tanya Blong agrees. "Every year when we have Open Studios - it is a great opportunity for many artists to reconnect and bring our ideas together. I believe artists are stronger together, being part of a collective share's knowledge, experience and audience. The comradery and collective thinking in what is normally such a solo pursuit is very uplifting.

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Artist Tanya Blong's work. Photo: Supplied.

"As a creative, opening your studio doors invites direct conversations, insight and understanding about your work and how art is perceived in general. The public enjoys seeing 'the why' behind your work, your influences and process, with deeper discussions, stronger connections to an artist's work are made."

The Auckland floods earlier this year had - and continue to have - a big impact on the Muriwai community, with many artists affected.

"Muriwai is changed forever," Smith notes. 

"It has had a devastating impact in every way, physically and mentally since the event, and for the future of our community and environment. I feel helpless, and after 9 months since the event, those affected are still in a state of limbo and uncertainty.

"Muriwai is a precious community and I hope the arts can help to provide support in a unique way. Despite the emotional and physical scarring, the arts trail brings us together to rejoice in a place that continues to be magical and beautiful. 

"I also hope those from the wider Auckland area will come to the Muriwai Arts Trail where they will see the physical scarring on the cliffs, to make them stop and think about how has affected peoples’ well-being and to help us restore Muriwai."

Critics love NZ film to the moon and back

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Loren Taylor with cinematographer Adam Luxton on location for The Moon is Upside Down. Photo: Rebecca McMillan.


A great moment for Loren Taylor’s darkly comic debut feature The Moon is Upside Down - awarded Best First Feature at the closing ceremony of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia.

The judging panel described the film as “a bittersweet, multi-layered combination of three stories intervening in a perfect way about people who try to find their place in the world.”

Taylor, who co-wrote and starred in Eagle vs Shark and co-directed this year's NZ International Film Festival Best Short Film Hey Brainy Man,  is understandably over the said upside-down moon.

“I had a quiet hope that there would be an audience who would connect to the film and it feels sort of miraculous, and beautiful that it has happened. To be in the company of excellent films from all over the globe at PÖFF and to receive this award is a huge honour, we're overjoyed.” 

Taylor stars in the film along with a who's who of Kiwi acting talent including Rachel House, Robbie Magasiva, Robyn Malcolm, Jemaine Clement and Elizabeth Hawthorne.

A Major archive

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Dame Malvina Major back in 1964. Photo: Waikato Times.

Dame Malvina Major's career is one of legend in Aotearoa.

Now the opportunity to discover the inside story is on display and in safe hands long term.

The iconic opera soprano has gifted her personal archives to the University of Waikato, providing a cache of her entire career from her early training in Ngāruawāhia to the establishment of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation. Some of the archives are on display at the University in an exhibition entitled I Did It My Way (until 8 March 2024).  

She hopes the archive - which includes adjudicator notes from singing exams and competitions in her early days to correspondence about performances, invitations, photography, video and audio and notes from well-wishers around the world - serves as an inspiration for others to show what can be achieved over the course of a career.

“For future generations who may never know, I started as a country and western singer - it’s all there in the archives. In fact, I think it was my country and western and yodelling foundation that developed my voice.

“I look back and think, why was I the person to do all that? I understood my ability to perform and communicate with people, but I never understood my inability to accept that I’m great. I was, and I guess am always striving for better,”

Pride announcement

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The Bloom will feature in Auckland Pride 2024. Photo: Supplied. 

New Auckland Pride Co-Director Julia Croft has revealed the first wave line-up for her debut festival in February 2024.

More than 20 works from over 60 artists have been released  -which includes major events such as Loud & Proud and the Pride Party and key works as part of the Te Tīmatanga, and the Pride Elevates curated arts program.

Croft states “This festival is a love letter to the Queer Māma’s that have come before us. This year we have been inspired to create spaces for collective dreaming, healing and nourishment. 

"The 2024 festival is shaped by the theme of Ki Tua/Beyond Paradise, inviting us into spaces where we can dream of what has come chronologically before, and what lies metaphysically beyond. 

"We hope these events offer us all space to come together and imagine new and better worlds, and new ways of being together, whether on a dance floor, in a march, on the stage or in a gallery. Let’s do this together.”

Pride will open with Te Tīmatanga at the Civic Wintergarden. A burlesque-inspired evening of performance featuring Rosana Raymond and The Pacific Sisters, Kiriana Sheree (2023 Pride Artist in Residence), Pounamu Rurawhe (2024 Pride Artist in Residence) and live music by the award-winning South Auckland-based rock & hip hop group, Valkyrie.

Loud and Proud will showcase a hand-picked selection of our some of our best experimental, underground, and “out-there” LGBTQIA musicians and sound artists, across the spectrums of gender, sexuality, and genre, under the sun and the moon, in locations along Karangahape Road (Pitt Street Church, The Audio Foundation and Whammy Bar).

In 2024, the Pride Party heads to Takutai Square at Britomart where there’s a space for everyone, hosted by Brady Peeti alongside Takatuwops, Petmal Lam Petelo and Spencer Papali’i. Some of Tāmaki’s favourite DJs performing include DJ Brown Boy Magik, DJ Vercetti & DJ Blush.mp3 and headlined by one of Auckland's most exciting emerging performers, PATI AF joined by a full band.

Also confirmed, First Trimester from the UK which explores human connection, parenthood and redefining what it means to create a family as a transgender person.  Deepen* is a new curatorial programme that centres queer, disabled artists and their artistry, award-winning playwright Sam Brooks's new rom-com The Perfect Image and The Bloom is an innovative new dance work by Jessie McCall in collaboration with multi-media company Ready Steady which leans into the generative glitches of queer propagation and motherhood. 

Outstanding in her Burne-Field

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Shelley Burne-Field. Photo: William Field.

Award-winning kaituhituhi Shelley Burne-Field (Sāmoa, Ngati Mutunga, Ngati Rārua, Pākehā) has been appointed as the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) Emerging Māori Writer in Residence for 2024.

Burne-Field responds, “Ka rawe! This residency is a life-changing gift. Imagine a safe space in which to thrive and explore with kupu and ideas. To be surrounded by people who have said 'please come, nau mai haere mai, we see you, we want to awhi you, to help you write and create!' 

"It’s a dream come true. He mihi tino nui kia koutou katoa.”

From the Hawke's Bay, Burne-Field writes fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. She claimed the Surrey Hotel residency and was the only New Zealand finalist in the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Her poem Another Brown Face won the Poetry in English category of the 2023 Pikihuia Awards. 

During her three-month residency at IIML at Victoria University of Wellington starting in March, Burne-Field will work on a novel set in a future Aotearoa, on an estate built on confiscated land, where the rise of Artificial General Intelligence is reshaping the lives of tangata whenua, Pasifika, and settler communities.