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Art Sparks Interest for City’s Substations

Art Sparks Interest for City’s Substations

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Art Sparks Interest for City’s Substations

A passion for the uninhabited space and beauty of Christchurch’s substations is explored in artist, writer and local identity Hilaire Campbell’s exhibition Sparking Your Interest at Our City O-Tautahi.

Sixteen stunning watercolour, pen and pencil works draw attention to the timeless integrity of the these often overlooked buildings. Our City O-Tautahi Exhibitions Coordinator Fiona Clayton said the exhibition invited people to explore the status of the substations as part of the visual landscape of Christchurch’s built heritage.

“Hilaire’s work expresses the dichotomy that exists with these buildings – on the one hand her attention to architectural detail captures their solid physical presence, their temple-like design paying homage to electricity ‘s status in the early 20th century. Yet, her palette selection speaks to the ethereal existence – neither in the past or present, they are in limbo.”

Ms Campbell said she hoped that her works would raise some questions about how residents consider the substations – their past and present use, and potential creative reuse.

“ They’re in your back yard and my back yard; they are these monumental blocks of fancy concrete, tacked with old trellis. I think of them as Gothic beasts and beauties doing double time as holding tanks for weeds. With their double doors and windows, they look like houses, but until recently, nobody lived in them, loved them, or wanted them.

“This story, told through my paintings is, obviously, about the buildings themselves, honouring them in their corsets of iron. People will find over a decade of my passion for substations in the gallery – as well as the paintings there is a selection of developmental sketches they can view.”

Many of Christchurch’s electricity substations were designed and built in the first half of the twentieth century, and were erected among the suburban homes and gardens they serviced. Some were designed by trained and qualified architects, while many originated from the draughting offices of the Municipal Electricity Depart (MED).

The buildings reflect the philosophy of decorative style which remained dominant in New Zealand until the 1950s, importing elements referencing classical temples, Gothic Cathedrals or Venetian palazzo.

Sparking Your Interest continues at Our City O-Tautahi, corner of Oxford Terrace and Worcester Boulevard until Saturday 13 September. Displays open Monday – Saturday 10am – 4pm. Free Admission


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