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Full Drop - Open Now!!

Thistle Hall is a vibrant community centre in the heart of New Zealand's cultural capital. We provide a community hall, meeting room and Wellington's only community gallery showcasing a range of artists and crafts people, from the established to the emerging. Thistle Hall is located one the corner of Cuba and Arthur streets. The shows on at Thistle Hall Community Gallery are run by the artists who hire it.

On Now
14 - 20 JULY 2008

New work by Massey University textile design undergraduate students

Open daily from 10.00am – 6.00pm 14 - 20 July.

The exhibition combines hand painted and digital wallpaper designs on paper, together with large fabric lengths, hand screen printed on fabric.

All the work has been created with contemporary marketplace in mind. The wallpaper designs are a combination of commercially viable projects, developed with the help and guidance of Dave Abbots (Pacific/Vision Wall Coverings), complimented by a collection of modern designs, using the new Chews Lane Apartments, in Wellington’s CBD, as its primary focus.

Designed for interior applications and apparel, the fabric lengths combine texture, colour, pattern and imagery inspired by areas of interest in Wellington. These diverse sites, which the students have chosen include the workman’s porter cabin at Newtown Hospital, and the monument commemorating Hiroshima in the Botanical Gardens, which have been used to inspire and drive the development of their final pieces.

The featured projects showcase the student’s skill and understanding of complex systems within textile design, including colour, form, and the production of repeat patterns.

Visitors to Full Drop can expect to see creative and dynamic work, from a new generation of New Zealand textile designers, which illustrates how cutting edge design can be inspired by the most unusual, seemingly banal subject matter.

Images by Chris Jackson, copyright Massey University 2008.

Up Next
21 - 27 JULY 2008

Prints by Manu Berry

Opening 5.00pm Tuesday 22 July, then open daily 9.00am - 6.00pm.

You are literally looking at a dream. Literally?

Or try this. You are on a bus or a train and, sitting in the same right-aisle seat for the entire journey, you scan the profiles of those opposite you. They come, they go... present, close and familiar as fellow humans. One or two elements of their phsyiognomy, and a ripple of their personality stay with you. Outside, the landscape lopes, sometimes gallops, sometimes flickers past.

You are taking this journey sideways.

Literally speaking, this series of prints is a dream walking alongside the artist, and now, the rest of us. Manu Berry dreamed about an unknown gallery in a mysterious location, lit up at night. Approaching, and peering in the window, he saw a series of portraits running the perimeter of the gallery, with all the subjects drawn from the same angle; following one another, around and around...

The famous story goes that Samuel Taylor Coleridge once dreamt an epic poem starting "In Xanadu, did Kubla Khan..."; and, upon being detained for 15 minutes on some other business, his train of thought derailed, and he abandoned the poem at less than half its projected length.

With typical tenacity, Berry woke and set about the task of bringing his dream into The Other World. The portraits here are of his mother, father, brothers, partner, neighbours, friends, acquaintances, and people whom he had never met before the sitting. I, and no doubt others, were asked to "put out the call" for potential subjects, so that he could complete the work as swiftly as possible. I seem to remember the working drawing for my portrait took some 15 or 20 minutes - while 4 or 5 of my flatmates lined up to wait their turn.

The completed prints were done in two stages. The busts were cut in lino, while the background landscapes were etched positively into large mylar-plastic sheets with a icepick-like needle. They were then cut to fit around their human hosts.

These backgrounds are a marvel of atmosphere. Berry deliberately, messily scuds the mylar with random ink, creating breathtaking effects; the fervid, gaseous swell of the earth, and the hum in the eye of a bird's lucid determination. He avows that Chinese landscape painting of the dynastic era was the prime referent of his approach - but see how he blurs direct formal quotations from that tradition into an unmistakably Aotearoan idiom. Those crags are of the Maniototo, not Manchuria; and those wind-hunched clumps of foliage are, must be, Manuka...

And that is definitely a Kakapo.

It's interesting to note that the handful of birds depicted are somehow more approachably portrayed than their human adjuncts. See the quirkiness of the afore-mentioned parrot, as he hovers beside the blazing fierceness of Katrina. But then, these people are ALL depicted as if only seen once, for a short span. In which case, it's quite amazing how he manages to dissemble the things he knows about those closest to him. Pauline, the artist's mother, is no more meaningfully wrought than Rachael, a relative stranger. Berry says that the works he saw in his dream had this quality (as well as the Emil Nolde-ish severity of some of the cutting), but there is something of an afterthought in this as well, a sense of Berry trying to see all of these people as opposite-aisle travellers on the same bus.

I remember once seeing a supermodel-esque woman on a plane, whose frame was so weirdly tall, thin and elastic that I was instantly reminded of the 1960's clay-mation character Gumby. For the rest of the 45 minute flight, I kept looking around, expecting her to be green. It's this kind of first-thought detail that Berry brings to the characterisation of his sitters (although his apprehensions are considerably less cartoonish than mine). The cutting is quite blunt, but often as not shows a rugged thoughtfulness about the exterior glimmers of that persons' psyche. The effects are simple but deeply resonant, a testament to his lithe skill and experience. Queer chiselled lines appear in some of the faces, like flaws in marble; watery swirls possess the hair of others; and so on.

It certainly isn't an exercise in sitter-flattery, to put it one way...

But what of the crossover between dream and waking? It's typical, and necessary, that something so closely aligned to Morpheous should skip out of the reach of reasoning in a pixie's wing-beat. Yet Berry quite ably sits on the fence between logic and the languid, perhaps as a result of his determination to bring this particular night-vision into our shared realm in as un-marred a state as possible. The joke - not lost on Berry - is that such a venture is, of course, completely doomed (at least without the help of certain African and Amazonian tinctures). So, to logic and lanquidity, add ludic. Transit lounge is a wonderful play between worlds, disguised as a series of portraits of folks all facing the same way.

Except one - the portrait of the artist, staring right back at himself; and us.

Jim Currin
July '08

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