Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Worth the trip - Celebrating Wood

Every year, the Auckland Festival of Photography presents fantastic exhibitions that showcase thought-provoking and inspiring work by New Zealand photographers. This year, one exhibition in particular resonated with us at Pauanesia, and we think you should definitely put it on your list of exhibitions to see during the festival. 

The Gus Fisher Gallery presents Celebrating Wood: Back to the Future, photographs by renowned New Zealand photographer Laurence Aberhart. The 42 works shown in Celebrating Wood, taken from a 42 year period (1970 to 2012), present an overview of Aberhart’s subject areas and showcase Aberhart’s interest in, and New Zealand’s rich history with, wood as a material. 

 Wood was a defining feature of nineteenth and twentieth century building and is still a familiar sight as one travels throughout rural New Zealand. Aberhart’s photographs celebrate and record the way wood has been used in building, framing, architecture and carving across the country. His photographed interiors of churches, lodges, and meeting houses capture the detail and texture of wood, and the way it has been crafted with the human touch. Although people are rare in the photographs shown in this exhibition, each photograph captures a human presence: Aberhart showcases how wood is entwined with our daily rituals, culture, history, life and death in New Zealand. 

Aberhart’s images show how wood is entrenched in our culture, history, and experience with this land. He employs a technology that reflects the timelessness of his subjects: the black and white palette, 8 by 10 inch format, and long-exposure photographs capture a by-gone era and imbue the entire exhibition with a sense of nostalgia and reflection. 

Aberhart’s photographs are accompanied by university and museum collection items, displayed in a way akin to scientific exhibits; these enhance the exploration into and history behind wood in Aotearoa. In particular, Celebrating Wood discusses the significance of kauri, and urges us to be more aware of kauri dieback

Kauri is an integral aspect of Aotearoa’s unique ecology, a remnant of Gondwana. Kauri was favoured for carving and waka: huge native trees such as kauri and totara were recognised as representatives of Tāne, the god of the forest, who separated the Sky-father and Earth-mother by standing on his head and pushing them apart. When incorporated into a dwelling or carving, the wood continued to form this link between earth and sky. With the arrival of European settlers, kauri was a prime choice for naval masts and housing. The felling of kauri for its timber and gum, for building and exporting, as well as the clearing of native forest for settlement and farm land, heavily depleted the kauri population. Today, kauri is under threat from pests, climate change, and kauri dieback – a soil-borne pathogen that was introduced in the 1950s and is slowly killing kauri across the country. 

The depletion of kauri has a huge biological and cultural cost, and the inclusion of the kauri story in Celebrating Wood serves as a sober reminder of what has already been lost. As a call to action for more widespread education and conservation to take place, in order to protect and ensure the future of this taonga tree, free Kauri Project posters are available for gallery visitors to take home. The Kauri Project was initiated in 2014, and includes Northland-based artists who have created images in response to the unique tree, its history, and the plight of the kauri dieback disease. The Kauri Project recognises and reflects on the link between kauri and ecology, science, art, culture, and mātauranga maori, and their message resonates throughout Celebrating Wood. Follow the project on facebook here.

Celebrating Wood engages with your senses, emotions, and memory: this is enhanced with the addition of Phil Dadson’s video work Kauri Rites, the soundtrack of which adds to the ambience of the gallery. This work documents an eco-performance by the Kauri Choir in two kauri forest locations. Concerned with kauri dieback and reflecting on the significance of kauri for our unique culture and heritage, Kauri Rites ties the exhibition together. 

Celebrating Wood is on until the 2nd of July. Put it on your must-see list for this weekend! 

The Gus Fisher Gallery, 74 Shortland St, Auckland city. Gallery hours: Tuesday - Friday 10am - 5pm, Saturday 12pm - 4pm. 

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