Tatjana Panyoczki

Frequenters of contemporary art galleries in Auckland will be familiar with Tatjana Panyoczki’s work. She’s been a full-time jeweller for two decades, with work in five galleries nationally and in Melbourne, too. Her deeply crafted pieces blur the lines between jewellery and sculpture. “I think of them really as objects that can be worn on the body,” she says.

We meet in the home she shares with artist Peter Panyoczki and their son Janos in Kaiwaka. It’s a modest, barn-like building externally, but the interior possesses the kind of effortless European style one would expect from a Swiss/Hungarian couple who have spent their lives dedicated to the arts. 

Tatjana is dressed in jeans and a plain grey t-shirt, with no makeup and her curly hair tied back: she is wholesome, practical, contained. She makes tea and shows me what she’s putting together – a retrospective display of her work in media ranging from silver to Perspex, wood, wax and wool. “These represent my last 20 years – or maybe my first?” she says quizzically.


She and Peter are finally exhibiting their work together at their local gallery. “Mangawhai Artists Incorporated have asked us a few times, but there was always something going on,” she ruefully admits. Now, from February 22, the Moir Street gallery in Mangawhai will be filled with the couples’ internationally-renowned art. 

Some of the first work Tatjana did when she left her four-year Unitec course in 1998 has been her most enduring and continues to enjoys a brisk turnover. It’s her ‘Wrapped’ series: each ‘bead’ is crafted from multiple layers of metals rolled to 0.3mm thick. The top layer is usually textured and must be the right length to wrap the shape so the ends meet exactly. “My maths is quite good now,” she says, wryly. Finally, the inner rims are painted using a technique perfected by long experience. 

Other boards show bracelets from 2006 of silver and brightly-coloured Perspex, domestically inspired by preserving seals; silver box necklaces from 2007; colourful woollen pompoms dipped in wax from 2009. And rings of all metals, shapes and sizes. Tatjana receives regular commissions to make wedding rings, including those for what she believes was the first gay marriage in the country. 

Her ‘In the Picture’ series features thin cross-sections of elaborate picture frames crafted into extravagant neckpieces. One was a finalist in the 2017 Contemporary Wearables Biennial Jewellery Award at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery and has now been acquired for the gallery’s permanent collection. 

But some of Tatjana’s most recent work is inspired by tragedy – a house fire at her parents’ home in Northland. Luckily, no-one was harmed, but sifting through the ashes she became fascinated by the effect of the extreme heat on various metals.

‘Vestige’ was the title of the first exhibition of this work at Avid in Wellington in November last year: melted, blackened, twisted and flattened, it’s different to anything she’s done before. “This process is organic, random – almost biomorphic,” she says. “So not me!” But a range of single earrings (“it’s hopeless trying to make a pair,”) fashioned from these found materials have flown out the door. 

2018 holds potential new directions for the Panyoczkis. Peter has been awarded a 3-month James Wallace residency in Vladivostok, Russia, and Tatjana is going with him (Janos, too, for a month). It’s a vibrant city of 600,000 on the Pacific coast, 100km from the North Korean border. “Who knows what will come of it?” she says. “I’m just going to keep my mind open and soak it all up.” We’re sure there’ll be plenty of inspiration to kick-start the next 20 years of creative excellence. 

Exhibition: 22 February - 7 March
Mangawhai Artists Inc, 45 Moir Street, Mangawhai