Meretoto: Transit

250 years of shared histories - the artists' perspective

Mary McFarlane, Areta Wilkinson, Mark Adams, Wayne Seyb, Nigel Brown
25 August - 21 September 2019

Preview: 25 August 4pm

From the dramatic to the mysterious, the second of our Meretoto/Ship Cove exhibitions presents unique, and differing artistic perspectives on 250 years of shared histories. Since early 2017, we've been hosting artists in Picton and taking them out to this place of the most sustained contact between Māori and Captain James Cook, as it became his favoured anchorage.

But the project is not Cook-centric - it is about shared histories and viewpoints, and the brief to the 16 artists we've taken there was entirely open, while coinciding with 250 years since first encounters with Cook in New Zealand.

See below for details on the individual works by these five distinctive artists.

This exhibition includes mysterious mirror works by Mary McFarlane – shifting from her familiar Moon series to focus on Venus, whose transit brought Cook to the South Pacific, and guided other explorers. The orb seems to push out of the frame, with a halo of soft blue which becomes dazzling in the smaller work. Squall, Meretoto takes a more direct approach – the patterning the result of placing the treated mirror out in a fierce rainstorm for a short time, capturing the natural pounding of nature within the silvering.

Master of expressive landscape, Wayne Seyb, captures the energy of place, with immediacy, and supplements the oils with smaller abstract watercolours, painted en route and en plein air at Meretoto, based on journals and encounters as well as landforms; these are inscribed by hand with extracts copied from Cook’s journals, snatches of text which speak of the mystery of place and time.

Areta Wilkinson (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Irakehu, Ngāti Wheke), known for striking contemporary art jewellery, joins forces with renowned photographer and Cook expert Mark Adams to produce distinctive collaborative works – unique, intriguing photograms of the hei tiki collected by Johann Reinhold Forster and/or George Forster  the 1773 voyage with Cook, an artefact now held in the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford in England.

New paintings from Nigel Brown lay down a challenge on myth vs truth in the telling of our histories; and in particular in how we view history through the perspective of our own outlook, teaching and upbringing, ‘seeing others through ourselves’. Regarded as NZ’s leading narrative painter, he has been exploring questions of identity and aspects of history surrounding Cook, since the early 1990s, often referencing early painters who travelled with Cook, such as here, John Webber RA, but overlaid with questions of the viewpoint put forward through art and writings.