small holes in the silence

There are very few things I can say about my work that are better than saying nothing.
– Ralph Hotere

I was still very young and totally naive about “art” when I first met Ralph Hotere’s work head on. Looking back, I can’t help but marvel at that encounter. It shifted my brain. It was when I first understood that art had little to do with the materials used (in this case, weathered corrugated roofing iron) and recognisable forms of the portrait or landscape variety. What a shock, a revelation and a liberation in the same instant! My own art education, and the opportunity to visit major art galleries in New Zealand, Australia and further afield would unfold much later. So it was entirely by some intuitive capacity that I understood what the revelation meant – at least to me.

Hone Papita Raukura (Ralph) Hotere and I lived in the same small New Zealand city – Dunedin. He was well known and turned up at functions both formal and informal. I was always a little in awe of him because as yet I had no language with which to enter into a conversation about his creative life. These days it would be different, but were he still alive he’d probably be as reluctant to talk about his work as he always had been.

The revelation Hotere unveiled for me was a shift from thinking that art is about materials and techniques and objects that can be placed in historical/conceptual categories, to understanding that it is, rather, an immaterial communication, a relationship in which the viewer needs no explanation to deeply feel the artist’s intent.

Like another well known New Zealand artist, Colin McCahon, Hotere had a powerful way of including text in his work, a way that transcends the trap of the illustrative or decorative. His words are pictorial elements in their own right, not mere memes. During the late 1960s he struck up a relationship with the New Zealand literary world which would come to full fruition in subsequent years in collaborative works with New Zealand poets including Cilla McQueen, Bill Manhire, Hone Tuwhare and Ian Wedde. In 1979, he used his friend Hone Tuwhare‘s well-known poem Rain to produce Three Banners with Poem, for the Hocken Library at the University of Otago in Dunedin.

 

Ralph Hotere, Rain, 1979

Rain, 1979. Oil and enamel on unstretched canvas, 2440 x 985 mm.
Collection of A. and J. Smith, Auckland.

 

RAIN

I can hear you
making small holes
in the silence
rain

If I were deaf
the pores of my skin
would open to you
and shut

And I
should know you
by the lick of you
if I were blind

the something
special smell of you
when the sun cakes
the ground

the steady
drum-roll sound
you make
when the wind drops

But if I
should not hear
smell or feel or see
you

you would still
define me
disperse me
wash over me
rain

 

– Hone Tuwhare


These links open in new tabs:

Ralph Hotere
Hone Tuwhare
Hocken Library
Hotere: Out the Black Window: Ralph Hotere’s Work with New Zealand Poets, by Gregory O’Brien


all finite things reveal infinitude

 

All finite things reveal infinitude:

the mountain with its singular bright shade

like the blue shine on the freshly frozen snow,

the after-light upon ice-burdened pines;

odor of basswood upon a mountain slope,

a scene beloved of bees; silence of water…

– Theodore Roethke

 

Imagine my surprise to discover that artist, writer and poet Claire Beynon now lives in my hometown – Dunedin, Aotearoa New Zealand – the very city I could not, as a teenager, wait to escape – lured by the attractions of life and culture in North America and Europe. She moved there from Cape Town – living and working nowadays in a gracious old villa overlooking the Otago harbour. What a wonderful addition she is to the cultural fabric of this nowly buzzing city.

Claire’s blog . . . all finite things reveal infinitude . . . is one of my cherished oases of nourishment. I go there for sublime poetry – her own as well as others’, for insightful new thoughts on old topics and artists’ work, for sneak previews of her own works-in-progress, and for an ever-reliable, refreshing, immersion in wonderment.

 

Painting by Claire Beynon
The Stilled Thread of Flight
Oil & steel strings on canvas

Making art is a way for me to connect the physical and spiritual worlds. It is also a means of establishing connections between people and place.

The foundation of it all is not having to know where I am going. I have to trust that there is something out there and in here that will connect. This trust leads my hand to make visible what is invisible. I start out with nothing. The process itself leads me and at some point along the way, I almost always look back and say “ah”.

… when I work, the work takes me to the necessary place of stillness and calm that is essential to my overall wellbeing. Whilst there, trust is like a fountain that energizes me and fills me up. I find I often create visual compositions that counter the outer chaos. Curiously, the more chaos and busyness there is in my outer world, the quieter and more balanced things seem to become in my internal worlds and the steadier and clearer my work becomes. TS Eliot wrote: “At the still point of the turning world is the dance…”  I reflect on these words often.

Excerpts from a conversation with Lawson Bracewell

www.clairebeynon.co.nz
 

Claire Beynon's blog: . . . all finite things reveal infinitude . . .

 


ema for aotearoa

textile | transformation

 

Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons - Ema for Aotearoa

 

Painting on silk, laminating, collage, assemblage
Silk Habotai, canvas, card, fishing net, fiber-reactive dyes
305 x 610


An ema is a votive or prayer tablet commonly found hanging at monasteries and temples in Japan.

The central motif was inspired by an exhibition of Maori cloaks, or kahu; the cowries and fishing net speak of the sea and its generosity. The fiery background refers to the volcanic undercurrents that create such havoc in these ‘shaky isles’.

This is a simple prayer for protection from nature’s excesses.


misfits & memories


aroha awaroa aotearoa

 

Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons - Aroha Awaroa Aotearoa

aroha awaroa aotearoa
Nelson, Aotearoa-New Zealand
1000 x 900

painting and dyeing on silk, laminating,
shirring, hand and machine stitching
silk Habotai, card, recycled cardboard,
laminated papers, sea shells, acrylic paints,
fiber-reactive dyes

England was home-base for the 90’s – a wonderful period of educational work and travel.  There were several visits back to New Zealand to visit my family, but only one that was long enough to complete a work.  The long grayness of the English winter had deepened my appreciation of one of my favorite places in New Zealand – Awaroa Inlet on Golden Bay. When I returned to the area to spend some months in Nelson, a profusion of joyful memories of sun-drenched childhood holidays spent beach-combing in my shirred ‘cozzie’ all came together in this piece.