It’s not that easy to catch our favourite movies

Art installations can be tricky things to get right, but, like cooking from a complex recipe, very rewarding when it all comes together well. The food analogy is particularly fitting for two of the three installation artworks currently on display at the museum, one of which features a floor covered in rice (‘Indra’s Bow’ by Tiffany Singh and Jo Blogg) and the other, chocolate fish on the wall that visitors are welcome to take and eat (‘Koha to Hōhā’ by Israel Tangaroa Birch).

The third artwork was the most recent to be installed, as hundreds of ribbons were hung from the pillars of the museum forecourt ahead of the exhibition opening last week. Like the other two installations inside the museum, ‘The Colours of Light’ was challenging to install and needed some tweaking to get it right. But all three works are more than worth the effort.

‘The Colours of Light’ is refreshing in many different ways, most noticeably by bringing vibrant colour and movement to the front of the museum. Artist Tiffany Singh also tied over a thousand handmade bells to the ribbons that give wonderfully warm rich tones, a welcome contrast to the usual noise of the roundabout nearby.

But beyond that, it’s refreshing in its genuine approach to art that can be appreciated by all. Much of today’s art is alienated from the general public, which I think is primarily because in our consumerist society, most artworks function as luxury commodities; unfortunately creating the illusion that fine art is the domain of the wealthy few.

Then there is the focus in modern times on the conceptual side of art, which often forgets to allow for an intuitive or emotional response. Artworks are regularly accompanied by text that can give great insight into the intellectual element, but can also give the false impression that art has one true ‘meaning’ that a viewer needs to understand before they can appreciate the artwork.

Singh takes all of that baggage and throws it away. Her artworks are not fixed objects to be bought and sold for mainly private collections, instead she recreates them again and again in different public contexts around New Zealand and internationally for everyone to enjoy. She has a particular talent for creating work that gives a rich sensory experience, expressing joy, peace or a sense of the sacred (or all three) without any need for the viewer to know about the artist or her work – or any other art, for that matter.

And yet, if it does intrigue you and you want to know more, Singh’s artworks will reward your curiosity. In ‘The Colours of Light’ for example, there are meanings to be found in the colours of the ribbons, the inclusion of the bells, and the significance of placing the artwork outside an entranceway.

Many art students embrace installation and other ephemeral art forms while studying, when their creativity is free to some extent from the pressures of commercialism. Then they leave and find that platforms in which to present their performance, new media, or installation art are rare, and in a culture fixated on the production of things, they must either turn to creating sellable art objects or find work in some other field.

I find this a terrible shame, as ephemeral art is a wonderfully free-spirited mode of expression, unconcerned with commercial appeal or suitability for display in a domestic context. It’s great that museums and galleries are places that support these forms of art in accordance with our role as public cultural institutions. It was a privilege to work with Singh, we’ve been pleased by the positive response to her art, and we look forward to presenting the work of more artists like her in future.

Art for all: temporary artwork by Tiffany Singh

Art for all: temporary artwork by Tiffany Singh

Jessica Mio – Art Curator, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 5 November 2016

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This week has been an interesting learning curve for me, on how films are selected for the New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) here at MTG Hawke’s Bay. Having yesterday gone through the trailers and descriptions of films we were given to choose from, I thought that was the selection done. I’d even started writing this column about the films that were coming but it turns out it’s not as simple as that.

I’d never truly understood why we couldn’t simply get the films we wanted and, while my understanding of the whole system is still a bit shaky, I now have a better picture of the process and complexities. A number of films come in with a limited license to screen i.e. can only be shown a certain number of times, and these end up in the larger cities where they have longer festivals, more screenings and more film-goers. Some films may be too close to general release or there may be arrangements with venues to show all of a certain genre, for example the Len Lye Centre tends to get a lot of the art films. The organisers then create a list of 40 or so films that they think will do well in the regions and we’re sent this list to make a selection. That’s where yesterday came in and I got very excited and wanted to tell you about the films coming here.

So, what have I learnt since then? Well there are other venues across the country running the film festival at the same time and there will be competing demands. The films can’t just be sent electronically to all the venues at the same time. They are sent as a physical copy and often require a code to unlock them (provided close to the time of screening). So the organisers have to juggle what everyone wanted against the availability of the films and transportation arrangements. We wait with baited breath to see which films we’ll get!

And of course it’s all a matter of taste – we can try to select what we think looks interesting and will appeal to a wide group but ultimately we can’t be sure. There are films we’d like because they are relevant – museum films, arts and culture subjects, regionally or nationally relevant topics – but we cannot predict what you, the viewing public, will choose to come and see. Rest assured we do campaign for the films we would really like to see here but we just have to wait and see.

In the meantime I can say there will be a range of films covering adventure, comedy, drama/suspense, children’s films and (hopefully) some arts and culture. We think the film festival works fabulously well in the beautiful Century Theatre and want to keep running it here. There are still too many people who are surprised when I tell them we run the NZIFF every year so can I please ask you all to help spread the word about the festival which starts this year on 7 September and runs through until the 24.

NZIFF at Century Theatre, MTG, 7 Sept – 24 Sept 2017

NZIFF at Century Theatre, MTG, 7 Sept – 24 Sept 2017

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 22 July 2017

School’s out so get youngsters into museum

It’s hard to believe we’re back into school holidays again. And, being in the throes of winter weather, we hope the museum might be an enticing place to bring children over this period.

If you have art lovers among your children or mokopuna then ‘Freedom & Structure: Cubism and New Zealand Art 1930-1960’ is not to be missed. Cubism was a radical new form of European art, moving away from replicating scenes to challenging conventional viewpoints, angles and indeed the very nature of art. It’s not often that you get to see a series of Colin McCahon artworks in one place and I was certainly surprised by the style of his works during this period. Another artist, Louise Henderson, has emerged as one of the standouts in this exhibition for me, with an incredibly fresh and vibrant style – utilising a colour palette that looks contemporary even today.

For music lovers ‘He Manu Tioriori: 100 years of Ngati Kahungunu music’ takes you on a journey through the amazing talent that has emerged within this region. From WWI waiata, through brass bands, jazz age, rock and roll, classical and contemporary music, to Matatini (the national kapa haka festival) held in Hastings earlier this year, this exhibition covers a vast array of styles and talents. Children especially enjoy interacting with the touch-activated instruments, creating their own jazz music – and there’s space to enjoy a bit of dancing as well. And if they haven’t tried it yet there’s also the chance to mix sounds of taonga puoro (Maori instruments) in Tenei Tonu.

If your child’s interest is history and stories of individual people, I cannot recommend the Earthquake Survivors Stories film highly enough – these are extraordinary first-hand stories told by survivors of the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake. They are moving, surprising, poignant and occasionally funny but all very honest and raw memories of the greatest natural disaster in New Zealand’s history. We’re currently working on adding subtitles to this film so that it can be more accessible to a wider audience (sadly not in time for these holidays though).

And of course our drop-in zone will be open throughout the school holidays with books and craft activities to enjoy (and some seating for the adults to take a break). Outside the drop-in zone we have our Matariki inspired colouring wall and there’s always the activity trail, which you can pick up from our lovely customer services team in the front foyer. This way children have something to do throughout the galleries while, hopefully, adults get enough time to enjoy the exhibitions on the way.

Whatever you choose to do over the holidays I hope you’ll manage to get some fun time in with your children and, if you’re like me, find ways to ensure they don’t sit in front of a screen the entire day!

Children making jazz music

Children making jazz music in He Manu Tioriori exhibition

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 8 July 2017