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Artwork redefines notion of students on seats

21 May 2004

Media Release

Artwork redefines notion of students on seats

A sofa sculpted in smashed tiles is the latest artwork commissioned by Auckland College of Education for an outdoor courtyard at its Epsom campus.

It is the biggest mosaic tile project yet for West Auckland artist, Rowena Rooney, an ex-student and former art lecturer at the college, and her cousin Norbryn Eyre. Working every weekend since January, the artists created the structure of steel rods, wire mesh and concrete ‘in situ’ in the college grounds, and then covered it with the mosaic tile design.

The bright yellow and red sofa portrays symbols of hibiscus, palm trees and tivaevae cushions in tune with the Pasifika theme requested by the college.

“It’s certainly impressive,” says Chair of the college Arts Committee, Richard Thompson. “The work has great aesthetic appeal and is also a functional piece that people can actually sit on, with a comfy lived-in look.”

He says the college’s purpose in purchasing artworks is to reflect the institution’s cultural diversity, support the careers of former students and represent the multi-faceted dimensions of art media. Driving the project was Lola MacKinnon, head of the college’s Centre for Arts, and staff of the centre.

Rooney and Eyre are both of Fijian descent. “Because art is our passion and because of our Fijian heritage we took a lot of pride in making the sofa and promoting our culture. It was a privilege to make a sculpture destined to have a Pacific theme,” says Rooney.

Rooney was first inspired to create large size mosaics when, as a tribute to her grandmother who raised her, she created a mosaic gravestone covering that she took to Fiji from New Zealand to put on her grandmother’s grave.

Rooney’s other projects have included a mosaic turtle in the village green on Te Atatu Peninsula with other artists, and a sculpted mosaic surfboard for the Piha West Coast gallery with Eyre. In 2002 the two artists won the Auckland Portage mug awards at Lopdell House, Titirangi in West Auckland.

Past art purchases by the college have included a Jeff Thomson sculpture “Downpipes”, and works by painter Reuben Patterson and sculptor Warren Viscoe. The college collection includes work by noted artists Don Binney, Louise Henderson, Stanley Palmer, Ralph Hotere and Len Castle.

The sofa will be unveiled and blessed in a ceremony at Auckland College of Education on Sunday 23 May at 3pm. Photos available from Monday 24 May.


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