Transformations

In October 2006 I embarked on a project to walk, all day every day, in the Queens Gardens adjacent to Nelson’s  Suter Art Gallery.  My intention was to experience the spirit of the place and to photograph what I observed.  In my lunch breaks I researched the environmental and human history of the site.

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The resulting exhibition at The Suter Gallery was  intended to bring to light some of the stories related to the transformation of the site from a wilderness forest to the formal “Queen’s Gardens”, a place reminiscent of Victorian England.

 

Transformations. Suter Art Gallery 2007. Dappled light passing through the plasma-cut tools is reminiscent of the original forest.

 

The area was a Mahinga Kai (food gathering place) for local Māori.  It was a rich source of  tuna (eels), manu (birds), harakeke (flax) and other plant materials. The forest consisted of many tall trees, including totara, rimu, kahikatea, southern rata, miro and matai (which adorns the floor of the gallery). It was logged, using double ended pit-saws, and burnt by early European settlers to make way for a new vision.

 

Cross-cut or pit-saws. Heights variable 1600mm – 2100mm.

 

Tools symbolising those used in the transformation of the site have been collected and imprinted with patterns from the indigenous plants of the area.  I imagine that they hold a ’tissue memory’ of the trees they have been in contact with.

 

Circular saw incised with leaf skeleton patterns.

 

Nelson is a place where the indigenous lowland forest ecology and Māori history are largely invisible.  These tools, rendered ‘useless’, become symbolic artefacts of a contemporary era of reforestation and repair.

 

Old shovels incised with indigenous plant leaf skeleton patterns. Light above the work casts shadows down through the plasma-cut patterns. The handles are embedded with rose thorns.

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