From Dark to Light: Beyond Geyserland


ARTbop contributor Lee Switzer visited the pre and post opening of the latest Tauranga Art Gallery exhibition – Beyond Geyserland.

The November 2016 Kaikoura earthquake measured 7.9. Its’ fractures stretched over 700 km, reaching deep into central North Island. The Rotorua Museums’ main building was cracked and the entire structure has been closed. No timeline on when it will reopen.

Since then, art and museum pieces have been left in the dark. Until now. Tauranga Art Gallery Director Karl Chitham, formerly the Curator of Art at Rotorua Museum, has selected and “borrowed” some of the major art works owned by the museum.

He has brought paintings, ceramics, drawings, sculptures and photographs to Tauranga. The exhibition is called Beyond Geyserland. A fitting title for the expanse of expressive images. Yes, there are references to Rotorua. But the greater art and societal history of New Zealand, is reflected in the five themes and 80+ ingredients Chatham has developed.

To indicate the transition from one subject art concept to another in the gallery, walls are painted various colours with a diagonal line demarcating a change. The next section may be new artistic styles showing visual and conscious awareness of old treaties or new conflicts and ideals. Or Oceanic and European diaspora with consequential results.

In short explanatory signs for each section and for each artist, the person and place in community congregations is succinctly examined.

Artists include Darcy Nicholas, Paratene Matchitt, Neil Pardington, Mark Adams, Sandy Adsett, Garth Tapper, Tony Fomison, Don Driver, Colin McCahon and many more.

 Often, Friends of the Art Gallery are given a preview of the gallery while art works are still in the process of being displayed. Chatham discusses decisions that have to be made when such a diverse collection will be together at the same time in the gallery spaceTools used during preparation. Paintings resting on support blocks.

Foreground: this wooden selection is by Matt Pine, Construction II 1977. Chitham is still not quite sure how the parts fit together. (Later you’ll see the completed structure.)

Photographs offer an important part in documenting people and structures. Here a wharenui is highlighted.

Plans are carefully prepared and copied to ensure all the staff know exactly where each piece of the exhibition will be located.

After the exhibition opened, artist Barry Dabb, provided entertaining insight to many of the works on display.

Barry Dabb on Charles Goldie (1870-1947): not really a great portrait painter. The Maori are poised; don’t look out at the viewer. The clothes are from Goldies’ stock of cloaks, dresses, wraps, etc.

Where as Robley was an inveterate artist making legitimate, authentic portraits. [Horatio Gordon Robley (1840-1930), was a Lieutenant with the 68th Durham Light Infantry,1864/65, Tauranga, at the time of these drawings]

The audience is rapt with Dabb’s knowledgeable and enthusiastic interpretations of various components in each image. [Background painting: Too Late (in respect for the Tangata Whenua who died and lost their land in the Tarawera eruption), 1986, by Tony Fomison (1939-1990) [Tarawera eruption 10 June 1886]Don Binney (1934-2013) Vanishing Sign II, 1975. He is noted for birds in his paintings. For some reason, his style fell out of favour with the media. And then along comes this commission by Helen Marcroft in memory of Lyndon Harrison Marcroft. A new style emerged that reinvigorated the public’s appreciation, and Binney’s imaginative life. [Helen Marcrofts’ daughter is Jenny Marcroft, a NZ First list MP. Her maiden speech can be heard here – includes whakapapa.] Theodoras (Theo) Johannes Schoon (1915-1985) Relief Printing Block c1964.Barry Dabb covered many more of the art works in this exhibition. In conclusion he offers a smile and asks for questions. Thank you. In the background is a very small portion of a wooden constructed artefact measuring about 50cm by 3m. Paratene Matchitt (1933- ) Homage to Rua Kenana, 1985. Design and layout of the assembled art pieces are configured so that the pieces complement their neighbours with a continuous flow movement, yet encourages time to stop and study, visually inspect the layers and intersecting lines – how was it painted or made, what media, is there a deeper meaning, if so, what? Another part of the exhibition.

Construction II 1977  by Matt Pine (1941- ) The boys read out loud the descriptive sign, occasionally stumbling over a word. Mel Dwane pronounces the word and tells them the meaning.  The group has been discovering the gallery with The Super Tag Art Hunt ‘search and identify’ to answer questions. You can see the question sheet on the clipboard Mel is holding. The boys seemed to be more interested in this Construction II 1977, than other works in the gallery. (L to R) Lachie Ferguson, Toren Ferguson, Kayden Ripo, Brodie Ripo and Mel Dwane.

Life is learning. Learning is life. Unexpected intersections can lead to vicarious, serendipitous discoveries that make experiences fresh and interesting.

Beyond Geyserland is a short, thorough immersion in art and New Zealand history. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience a visual presentation of social evolution. It may be your last time before the works go back into hibernation.

NOTE:  Two photographs in the exhibition are by Ans Westra. They are of girls and boys sitting near the Rotorua Museum in 1963. Not identified at the time, but in August 2018, the museum sent out a query. Do you know who these teenagers are? Several replies seem to identify the teenagers. For the answers go here. This will take you to a Rotorua Museum Facebook page. It is not necessary to login to Facebook to see the images. Once at the page, click on the photo for more information and comments. You should be able to find the two photos that are currently on display in the Tauranga Art Gallery.

Beyond Geyserland  at the Tauranga Art Gallery, Downtown Tauranga is showing in the upstairs gallery until 18 November 2018.

Lee Switzer  Text and images by Lee Switzer who is a regular contributor to ARTbop. You can find examples of Lee’s photography and images, poetry, short stories, event and exhibition reviews and book reviews in the ARTbop archives. Lee is also a long-time contributor to the archives of the  Tauranga kete managed by the Tauranga City Library.   Lee Switzer photographs and articles


Tauranga Art Gallery Homepage

Friends of the Tauranga Art Gallery Homepage

Barry Dabb Homepage

Rotorua Museum Homepage

ARTbop promotes

(or we think you should check this out!)

ARTbop is promoting poetry in the Western Bay of Plenty




Join us every second Thursday of the month

                                                           (next Thursday 8th November 2018)

6.00pm to 8.30pm

Read your own poems or poems by your favourite poet.   Enjoy the power of the spoken word!

Phone:   07 571 8722   021 145 5810


One of the beautiful publications of contemporary New Zealand poetry shared on October 11th at the Black Sheep by Marcus Hobson ARTbop’s Literary Editor

Coming soon…

Stepping Out  – 23 November to 8 December 2018 (Comedy)

By Richard Harris

Directed by Merv Beets

Synopsis – This is a rollicking comedy about the attempts of some working class amateurs to overcome their inhibitions and left feet in a low-rent dance studio in North London. Mavis, a former professional chorus girl tries her hardest to teach the bumbling amateurs some terpsichorean skills for an upcoming recital. But before the dancing begins Mavis must mediate the minor dramas that erupt among this motley but loveable crew on their way to triumph at their recital.  

Tickets are available on the website:     




The next Affordable Art & Artisan Fair will be on the last Sunday of November -25th November 2018).   The Fairs are held within the Black Sheep Cafe & Restaurant complex on the last Sunday of every month 11am to 3pm.  There is heaps of parking, clean toilets and wonderful food and coffee.  There’s live music. There’s an event prize you can win.   If you would like to join us as an exhibitor/retailer of your original creativity or artisan products you can contact us at

We are sign posted along SH2 with signage to the turnoff of SH2 and Plummer’s Point Road.  You won’t be able to miss us! We’re indoors over winter months and outside in the Summer.







                                                                                                                                                                               And take a look at the monthly conversations video journalist and artist Birgitt Shannon produces following each AAAFair. In September Birgitt was the latest victim of the really bad cold that has been circulating and this time you can meet one of the AAAFair’s other media stars – Nathalie Foster who is also a talented creative.


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