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Decorative Arts Go Dark in New Exhibition

23 April 2008

A Stitch in Time
Decorative Arts Go Dark in New Exhibition at Michael Hirschfeld Gallery

Etiquette for the Homesick is an exhibition by Wellington artists Genevieve Packer and Caroline McQuarrie that puts the domestic arts in a new light. It opens at City Gallery Wellington’s Michael Hirschfeld Gallery on 2nd May and runs until 8th June.

Both Packer and McQuarrie work with ideas of domestic craft and home life, invoking a darker side to the decorative arts and the creation of personal and collective stories. In Packer’s work, this takes the form of souvenir or nostalgic motifs which become objects to be worn or displayed. In McQuarrie’s, images of family or familiar objects are physically ‘crafted’, suggesting intimacy, but also the artificiality inherent in these art forms.

The idea of the “etiquette” of the decorative arts is often aligned with an expectation of good or appropriate behaviour. Works which appear to belong in the home tend to be valued for their outward appearance or usefulness alone. Etiquette for the Homesick suggests that design-based art and craft in fact has a darker face, and invokes a rebellion against the confinement of the domestic realm. Objects are investigated as carriers of personal significance, and for their ability to console, make sinister, or exploit common sentiments.

Packer’s exquisite green Etiquette jugs and the Aerial Antics lamp lend themselves to a domestic environment; they simultaneously evoke nostalgia and a sense of belonging. Classic motifs associated with national identity and pride, are scaled down and given a personal tone. Caroline’s work, A Singularity (2007) allowed her to have some mischievous fun with her own family portraits. She worked directly onto the photographs, embroidering over the cosy family scene and re-creating it in tapestry wool.

By literally sewing her family together, she attempts to highlight the artificial, constructed nature of this type of image. Her works comment on the misleading representation of idealised family life that these types of photographs engender.

Genevieve Packer, daughter of writer Ann Packer (Stitch: Contemporary New Zealand Textile Artists), and Caroline McQuarrie are graduates of Massey University School of Creative Arts. Caroline completed a BFA (Photography) at Canterbury University in 1997, before gaining a Masters (Fine Arts) in Wellington, where she currently tutors in photography. Genevieve completed her Masters (Design) at Massey in 2007. She is a Wellington-based textile designer, craft enthusiast and tutor in textiles at Massey University. In 2007, Genevieve exhibited at the Doreen Blumhardt Gallery for the opening of the New Dowse and was the recipient of a Wellington City Council Award for Innovation and Creativity.

Genevieve Packer & Caroline McQuarrie: Etiquette for the Homesick
2 May – 8 June 2008
Michael Hirschfeld Gallery, City Gallery Wellington
Admission: FREE,


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