The Sawmill Brewery beer and Huia wine were flowing, Mr and Mrs Nathan Haines were generating some exceptional beats and the crowd of around 250 was heaving. The opening of the Fiona Pardington and Vicki Fanning exhibition at the Vivian Gallery in late July was an experiment in getting the punters in – and they loved it. “This is the best thing I’ve been to for ages!” a visitor from Auckland was heard to shout.
Director Scott Lawrie was busy but happy. “So many people outside of Matakana don’t even know this gallery exists,” he said. “We really need to share what we’ve got here.” So he chartered a free return bus from Auckland to the Vivian – it was fully booked in three days.
As well as the usual generous sponsorship from the Sawmill Brewery, Matakana Oysters came to the party and so did the Rusty Pelican, delivering 30 pizzas. “This is what it’s all about for me,” Scott enthused. “This amazing community coming together to put Matakana out there – punching above our weight as always!” Did his investment pay off? “Can’t say, but I’m smiling!”
The Fiona Pardington show is a collaboration, relatively rare in the art world, between the Vivian and Fiona’s gallery, Starkwhite. “It’s win-win for everyone when smaller galleries can work together with the big players like this. We were incredibly lucky the Starkwhite directors were up for it,” says Scott.
Pardington’s work combines old monochrome press photographs with found chunks of agate glass (dug up at a century-old factory site in Ohio) to unsettling effect. The bright, striated pieces of glass against the old-fashioned photos are like weird manifestations from a parallel universe, surreal and haunting.
In a side gallery, Matakana’s Vicki Fanning has crafted three luminous, glamorous pieces. Her recent ceramic torsos have morphed into silicone shapes with her trademark borosilicate glass wicks creeping over them. The third iteration of her ‘User Generated Content’ series, they complete the transformation from ‘human’ clay to ‘virtual’ glass. The beautifully clever plinths represent digital test-screens and extend the media metaphor.
Be quick to see this show; the next Vivian opening is Saturday 8 September, at 4pm. It celebrates the life and work of Ant Morris, founder of Morris & James, and unbelievably, will be his first solo show in a major gallery. Now in his 80th year, Ant is slowing down a little, but still working in his own studio.
The exhibition promises a retrospective of his pottery, cast glass and recent paintings of both landscape and contemporary portraiture. It’s an homage to the man who put Matakana on the map as a creative destination and who vowed never to be called an artist, but with fierce humility, a simple ‘artisan’. Essential viewing.
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