Group show, Nga Tohu o Uenuku - Mangere Arts Centre
Artists: Sanjay Theodore, Fe’ena Syme-Buchanan, Vivien Atkinson, Elliot Collins, Lonnie Hutchinson
This exhibition grew from one artist’s observation of the almost-universal blue tarpaulin phenomenon. The Blue Tarp is so often used that is has become an architectural motif, spotted from Mumbai to Manurewa. Blue Tarps are used as temporary shelters, as waterproof walls on porches, to seal broken windows, as a joining roof between two structures. They can be a tell-tale sign of housing in a state of transition. The exhibition title alludes to Maslow’s well-known hierarchy of needs (which includes at its most basic, shelter, air, water, food). What we have come to expect from shelter has changed radically, particularly in the wake of diverging social inequality.
The artists here have been brought together because of a shared interest in the insecurity around housing. For Syme-Buchanan, this interest is triggered by the depopulation that many nations in the Pacific region are facing. Her photographic project Secluded Splendour documents life on Mangaia through a suite of 27 images as well as daily-life documentary video. She suggests that “in 1985 there were around 1,500 people on Mangaia, and today, there are about 490 – that’s a big outward movement from one island.” The causes of de-population are complex and, like the housing shortage in Auckland, there is not one trigger but many.
Wellington Jeweller Vivien Atkinson presents house-shaped brooches, a piece of adornment made from construction industry by-products. Her works hints at the tension between homelessness and houses that are fitted out by choice in an affluent consumer culture. At the point of sale, her works trigger a donation to a charity that provides emergency housing for those that have very few choices.
Local Māngere Bridge artist, Sanjay Theodore creates temporary tent like structures from foil emergency shelters. His tents allude to a life sourced economically from found materials on the street. His poetic project is not without comfort nor compassion, as he has also sourced found paintings to decorate, second-hand.
The choice of materials is also a stand out feature in Lonnie Hutchinson’s cut-out structure. Using black building insulation paper, Hutchinson has been creating delicate silhouettes for many years. The structure in this exhibition A prototype for a dream casts delicate shadows as a pavilion rather than a permanent home, a place of temporary respite.
Elliot Collins painting Wharemoe is literally “The Sleeping House”. He says, the works are “a memorial to temporary things” for many, just like notion of housing security. His painting sits alongside a series of painted oyster shells. The shells are solid structures, built up layer on layer by a living organism. They are homes too, for bivalve molluscs, but they are re-purposed by Collins with a plaintive, lyrical question.