Molly Morpeth Canaday 2015 Art Award


The iconic Whakatane based art competition was judged this year by Matthew Browne and “attracted 224 entrants from throughout New Zealand”

The Whakatane Art Gallery is one component of a complex housing a museum, public library and art gallery: Te Koputu a te Whanga a toi Whakatane Library & Exhibition Centre You enter the gallery space through the museum. To the left of the door is a tiny gift shop with a variety of beautiful objects for sale. This time I’m entranced by brooches created from old New Zealand stamps. It’s hot outside and in the Library but as I walk over the shiny resin floor panel representing the canoe Mataatua I’m in cool, filtered light and birdsong.

The gallery is a simple one-level space with two separate exhibition/gallery areas. The walls are full of shape and colour. The wasp-coloured catalogue contains colour images of the award winners and a list of those works selected for exhibition and an artist’s statement for judge Matthew Browne. I always wonder what the “submitted but not selected” works look like and would love to see an accompanying exhibition.

I’d picked up artist James Stanbridge’s card from Creative Tauranga’s information section in the morning. And there he is with “A Test of Patience”; in that weirdo yankovich, black and white I’d loved the first time I saw his work exhibited in the Community Gallery of Creative Tauranga. A complete contrast was Dunedin artist Emma Chalmers “Climbing the Ladder”; bright colours and detail. What can you say about a large red work on paper created by ballpoint pen. It’s amazing because it’s odd. It looks like teased out poly fibre cushion stuffing; it’s dense and soft. In the evening the red tinged clouds moving over the Whakamarama hills look the same.

Megan Collier has created a resin-shiny image of flowers and beehives, it almost smells of summer; “ And whistling in silver light.” There’s a brightly coloured panorama of swirls, squiggles and swishes by Grace Wright “Raspberry lemonade spilled over a glass.” I think I saw Grace’s work in Jasmax Tauranga, prior to Christmas.

I want the satirical Debbie Tipuna work “The British are Coming”. I love Debbie’s intricate works with their clever, nasty reality portrayed in such a precise and painterly way. Martin Ball’s shades of grey and white in “Taped memoir” is a graphite (pencil) drawing of 3 sheets of paper taped up in a pattern. It’s detailed and delicate. You could just keep looking into the folds and colour variations.

I love Reme Barkema’s “A study in shape and form” it’s a blue-grey composition of a paintbrush and containers. Simone Goldsmith’s triptych “Untitled” in shades of dry gold and brown looks just like the rows of maize stubble soon to be left on the flats under the coastal hills. It reminds me of the ploughed and furrowed fields of my former home. I get the same response from “Ethnic fence, Kaiaua” with it’s early morning light backlighting a fence. The catalogue statement says “At first glance, Ethnic fence, Kaiaua by Watene Akuhata, provocatively suggests both tribal and cultural divisions. In a dramatically lit landscape, we are presented with a fence: noble and upstanding, like a forest of kauri trees it stands at one with the land. It neither threatens nor precludes us from entering but beckons us to its feet in silent prayer and homage” If I was to have taken any sociopolitical message from this work, which I didn’t, it would be a comment on the foreshore and seabed conundrum.

I did however immediately take a political statement from “Pathway to Prosperity” by Lisa Chandler of Richmond. I saw the reality of migration, education, exploitation and environmental damage. It’s even more impressive as a statement when you stand at a distance to look at it.

Whether it’s because in recent months I’ve become the servant of an older cat or it was the family familiar look on the child’s face I was delighted by the technique-different “My kid and his cat” by Bryce Rhodes. Bryce creates his work by burning the surface of plywood. (I saw another of Bryce’s works in the Te Puke Library on my way down to Whakatane). The subtle shades of brown and the detailed realism reminded me of an old Andrew Wyeth print hanging on my sitting room. Nothing could be more different from Judy Bagust’s “Sublimate – transform” It’s ink on paper and there’s the same sense of light and movement I get when looking at the white Japanese anemones outside my kitchen window Light waves, music – love it.

I wouldn’t want either Elisabeth Vullings “The forgotten drawer” a large collage in an old window frame or the “Tous les jours “ matchbox creation of Nicola Foreman in my house but I want to mention them as I thought they were so interesting and decoratively clever. I thought a decorator would snap up “All of the lights” by Jessica Pearless. It’s randomly placed squares some metallic shiny on a sage green background, but it’s not for me.

Yukari Kaihori of Wellington has “ Let’s talk about what we have VI” it’s a backyard and shed. It’s a contemporary New Zealand image. I associate it with the now old pastel I have of the backyard view of the houses of a Dutch village. Yes I would want it. As I would

Kathryn Carter’s “The edge of the sea” A solid cliff of greens above a lilac toned sea and a clear bright sky. In the middle of winter this would make my heart sing for a Coromandel summer.

I found the Craig Freeborn portrait “A steady relationship” disturbing. The technique and the detail was superb, I could almost feel the skin on the woman’s hand. But the dead, sad look in the man’s eyes chilled me more than the air conditioning of the gallery. The Jac Trolove “There was a sunrise inside her” It’s a portrait of a women and it glows. I love the chipped irregular teeth and the salmon pink face. There is a something about it.

On my second time around I find a young man photographing the Sam Dollimore red ballpoint work. He’s emailing to his friend. He’s a Dutch tourist. I give one of my little ARTbop flyers and wish him a happy holiday.

What do I think about this year’s Molly Morpeth Canaday competition exhibition. It was worth the trip to Whakatane; it was diverse and interesting work. The works were beautifully presented in a lovely gallery space. Yes, some I would want and some I wouldn’t. The exhibition gave me the opportunity to see art works out of my particular comfort zone. Make the effort to get on down to Whakatane. As well as the exhibition Whakatane is a great day out with its river/sea site, shopping, cafes and the cultural opportunity of Mataatua – the house that came home. There’s public art out on the street and on the walls. The exhibition is on until the 22nd March 2015.

The gallery also has a programme of floor talks and discussions. Sunday 8th February 2015, 11am Hamish Pettengell; Sunday 22nd February 2015, 11am Mandy Hague; Sunday 8th March 2015 11am Heather Hourigan. There’s also Te Koputu Summer Series talks:- Sunday 15 February 11am “Ben Pearce winner of the 2014 Molly Morpeth Canaday 3D Sculpture Award talks about his arts practice and his day-job working with furniture designer David Trubridge”; Sunday 1st March at 11am John Gow Director of Gow Langsford Gallery and John Leech Gallery, Auckland; and the Skyped presentation by New Zealand artist Matthew Couper on Sunday 15th March at 11am.

To learn more about the original Molly Morpeth Canaday go to

Rosemary Balu


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