4-30 June 2016
paint and clay artworks by Fiona Stirling and Marion Familton
Rangi & Papa: Fiona Stirling
These paintings of lovers were inspired by the carving in the Otago Museum’s Tāngata Whenua Gallery, of an ancestor and ancestress embracing. The carving is a poutokomanawa -a support post to the ridge pole from a whare at Taupō. It refers to the Māori creation story of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, the sky father and the earth mother.
The lovers are carved from one trunk of wood, without compromising its strength. The one-ness of the two carved figures reminded me of Constantin Brancusi’s singular block of stone, The Kiss.
Brancusi’s lovers, from 1916, have their eyes wide open and noses eliminated to press the lovers even closer. The poutokomanawa has the primal lovers embracing in procreation. Papa’s face is turned, Rangi’s face is in profile, allowing for noses. Their eyes appear closed.
When drawing at the museum the attendant told me this carving is the most drawn subject there.
I also drew the Wahine Ariki poutokomanawa. There is a dramatic photograph of this carving in Art of the Pacific (Brian Brake, James McNeish, David Simmons). I was surprised to read that this carving is in the Otago Museum. I had not noticed it before. I searched and discovered it dimly lit in the display with cloaks. My paintings of this Wahine Ariki are influenced by the close-up view and strong lighting of Brian Brake’s photograph.
I trust my paintings are seen as a respectful and loving (albeit Pākehā) response to the beauty and spirit of these carved poutokomanawa.
Earth & Sky: Marion Familton
All ceramic objects fundamentally come from the earth. To push the earthiness of the half pod pieces, I used methods that have been fundamental to ceramic art since the Neolithic. The pressed moulded objects were carved, scored then burnished when they were leatherhard, rendering them more wood or stonelike than the sky pots. In keeping with firing techniques from before the iron age, the pots were buried in a fire (in this case using sawdust) and left to smolder for a day to allow the carbon to be trapped in the surface of the pods. By the time these pieces were disinterred from their smouldering burial they had been transformed from rich terracotta to a burnished charcoal black.
Skies are not always blue, especially when you live in Dunedin. The wheel thrown and press moulded pieces elevate their earthy origins with a surface that brings to mind the many clouds that adorn our sky: imbued with the idea of cool easterly sea breezes, lenticular clouds preceding the northwest wind, harbour fog or grey/white southerly snow clouds. The effects created ranging from solid puffs of grey/white to shimmering and insubstantial veils and whorls.