Upcoming festivals to reveal city’s cultural depth

Last night Hastings City Art Gallery opened a spectacular new exhibition titled The Cubic Structural Evolution Project which I can highly recommend visiting. It’s a fun and interactive display where the visitor gets to be part of making the work – imagining, designing and creating a future cityscape. Having dragged my two reluctant teenage sons along, I can say first-hand that the exhibition grabbed their attention and fired their imaginations. And I too had fun contributing my bit to the city-scape. This is a work that engages young and old and I believe it’s a must to experience while here in Hawke’s Bay.

We continue to collaborate closely with Toni McKinnon, Director Hastings City Art Gallery, and her team to find ways we can share, build on each other’s offerings, and develop joint programmes or events. This week we’ve been discussing the upcoming Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival in October and looking at what we can do together to participate in this event. We’ve come up with some fun ideas to get involved and will share those with you once we get nearer to the date and our ideas are fully formed.

This month, around the 13th of June, Auckland Museum’s Cenotaph digitisation unit will be coming to MTG. The Cenotaph is Auckland Museums’ online database that serves as a living memorial to military personnel who served New Zealand during times of international conflict. It covers international wars up to Afghanistan. People are welcome to come in and search the database and also to add new records and information. There is a scanner to create digital records of photographs or objects which are then added to the ever growing database online.

Of course Winter Deco Weekend is edging closer and we’re pleased to have Jessica Mio, our Curator – Art, presenting at the Brunch With MTG Hawke’s Bay At The Masonic event. Jessica will take the audience through Rene Lalique’s journey from pre-eminent Art Nouveau jeweller to international master of Art Deco glass. Having heard Jessica’s thoughts and ideas on this subject before, I can certainly say that she’ll provide interesting background information and insights on the subject.

With Te Matatini (New Zealand’s national kapa haka competition) less than a year away, there’s much going on and coming up to get engaged in. For those who haven’t experienced Te Matatini before the number of attendees is similar to Art Deco Festival numbers. In 2017 Art Deco and Te Matatini happen one after the other, Art Deco 16-19 Feb and Te Matatini 22-26 Feb, so our region will be bustling. Our team are working away on plans for displays which showcase the rich and varied artistic talent of Māori musicians, performers and artists within this region.

There’s much that goes on in Hawke’s Bay within the arts and culture space that deserves to be embraced and celebrated by the community. And there are many talented and passionate people who give so much of their time, energy and talent to projects within the region. Whether you personally engage in arts and culture or not, this is the element of any city that adds life, personality and vibrancy to the community landscape.

The Cubic Structural Evolution Project finishes at Hastings City Art Gallery on 28 August so do make sure you get the chance to engage with this before it closes.

Olafur Eliasson The cubic structural evolution project (installation view) 2010. Purchased 2005. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Olafur Eliasson. The cubic structural evolution project (installation view) 2010. Purchased 2005. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 4 June 2016

  • Artist’s floortalk for new exhibition Bodytok Quintet 11 June 10:00am, free with museum entry
  • Avalanche City, family music event 11 June 7:30pm, tickets available through Ticketek

Bowring paintings on display at museum

Last night, Laura and I attended the opening of ‘W A Bowring: a true colonial artist’ at the Hawke’s Bay Club – just across the road from the museum. This is an exhibition of all the Walter Bowring paintings in the Club’s collection, most of which are portraits or caricatures from the early 1900s that depict Club members of that time.

The Club approached us late last year with the suggestion that we hold a concurrent display of Bowring’s works at the Museum, and we’re pleased to have been able to do so. Six works by Bowring from our collection are now on display in the Octagon of the museum. Meanwhile, the Club’s exhibition will be open to the public, with free entry, each Saturday morning in June from 9am-12pm.

Bowring was described in a newspaper article of 1902 as a “true colonial artist, since he was born and bred, trained and educated in the colony.” This was true; however as a ‘first-generation’ New Zealander with European parents and art teachers, his work has much in common with many other Pākehā artists of his time who had immigrated from Britain or continental Europe.

As such, Bowring’s paintings in the Octagon fit well alongside the late 19th century landscapes in the adjacent ‘Gifts of Nature’ exhibition. Like the landscape painters (and many other colonial painters in New Zealand), Bowring‘s paintings depict local subjects in a manner that was closely bound to European conventions, yet isolated from the latest developments there.

An example is his 1912 work ‘Storm Breaking over Sea Wall Below Bluff Hill, Napier, which depicts a local scene in a style strongly reminiscent of JMW Turner, the renowned English master of landscape – who had died half a century before this work. The Impressionists had since come and gone, followed by Vincent van Gogh and the Post-Impressionists, and Cubism was in full swing. Colonial New Zealand was further removed from these revolutionary ideas due to its cultural allegiance to Britain rather than France, with modern art taking longer to catch on amongst the British artists and public.

In fact, Bowring made his position on modernism clear after travelling to London to study the work of both the Old Masters and his European contemporaries, writing that “for so called modern art in its more extreme form, I have no sympathy at all.” He spent a year studying with prominent English painters Augustus John and William Orpen, and was inspired by their command of portraiture. He returned home and began a prolific career as a portrait painter, proving talented at capturing an accurate likeness.

His skill in that field brought him numerous commissions, while his background as a newspaper cartoonist furthered his popularity, as he could accompany a traditional portrait with a witty caricature of the same person. He was commissioned to paint numerous wealthy and prominent Pākehā men in all areas of power: central and local government, commerce, clergy, military and so on. Included in our display is his grand portrait of Sir Douglas McLean, along with both a portrait in oils and a light-hearted watercolour caricature of Maurice Bower, town clerk of Napier for 37 years.

Storm Breaking Over Sea Wall Below Bluff Hill, Napier, c. 1915

Storm Breaking Over Sea Wall Below Bluff Hill, Napier, c. 1915


Jess Mio – Art Curator, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 28 May 2016