TE KOPUTU A TE WHANGA A TOI : Whakatane Library & Exhibition Centre

Peter Miller - Fun Ho!  Winner of the 2014 Molly Morpeth Canaday Major Award $10,000

Peter Miller – Fun Ho! Winner of the 2014 Molly Morpeth Canaday Major Award $10,000. PHOTO/SUPPLIED BY MOLLY MORPETH CANADAY

It’s apparently the former home of a hardware or building supply company transformed into the most perfect combination of Public Library, meeting rooms, Art Gallery and Museum.   When I asked a local for directions they said “round the back by New World”.  And there it is in the heart of the Whakatane Shopping Centre.   When I’m there the town is ticking.  All sorts of people are sitting outside the complex on the hardwood benches which form part of the architectural design and embellishment of the building.  There are old people recovering from the exertion of grocery shopping. Men just sitting talking. A girl leaning against the wall, feet up on the bench reading her ipad.  People moving in and around.

The Library is not particularly big but there are at least two banks of computer stations – they are full and in use.  What I notice is how engaged and helpful the Library staff are.  You go through into the Museum and Gallery past a tiny retail gallery and shop area.  As you enter the Museum bird songs start and you stand under carvings; you’re  instantly in another world.   The Museum space itself is utterly amazing.  I couldn’t believe how much of a story is told in such a small space and how much of the local flavour of Whakatane and its history and people could be presented in that space.  The Museum experience is leveraged by the use of technology.  You stand still in front of  a relatively compact static display and a audio programme is triggered enhancing photographs, artefacts, clothing. The displays are all behind glass – in exhibition glass casing giving you the maximum view.  The Museum succeeds because it is local. I  asked a visitor from Auckland what she thought “it’s parochial – but then that is why it succeeds – it’s local”. I think if they haven’t already been to have a look, all the Tauranga City Councillors and all of those who keep writing to Tauranga local newspapers should get on down to Whakatane and look at what they have achieved in their Museum for the local community and it’s visitors.

Now the Art Gallery/ Exhibition Centre  it’s surprisingly big. “The space is made up of three galleries. The Opus Gallery, The Whakatane Community Board Gallery and the Sheaff Family Gallery.  The Atrium and Activity rooms in the same complex provide areas for dance, music and art appreciation talks”.  I’m in here to take a look at the 2014 Molly Morpeth Canaday Art competition entries.  I check the MMC Trust website.  The award is really a love story, “Molly was passionate about painting and Frank (Canaday) was passionate about Molly, it’s a good love story” says Brian Morpeth.   “This is one of the few remaining trusts established by Frank Canaday to assist the arts in New Zealand by the establishment of a series of funds. The Molly Morpeth Canaday Trust in Whakatane is one of the few remaining”.

Craigs Investment Partners Award - $2,500.  Leslie Falls - The Wonders of Modern Medicine  PHOTO/SUPPLIED MOLLY MORPETH CANADAY

Leslie Falls – The Wonders of Modern Medicine. Craigs Investment Partners Award – $2,500. Sponsor – Craigs Investment Partners PHOTO/SUPPLIED MOLLY MORPETH CANADAY

Rather than tell you who won the awards I thought I’d tell you what I liked.  Number One favourite was by Corey Tammy Whitley of Whakatane, “Traume” which looked to me like the merging of sand, sea and sky.  I stood at different distances from this painting until I found my perfect image. Another absolute favourite was Hamilton’s Bruce McLachlan “The Artist “ – penetrating stare.  Of course I thought Leslie Falls of Hastings embroidered message on a vintage wool blanket was award worthy “ My husband said I was a wet blanket -The Wonders of Modern Medicine”   The black on pink embroidery should have been an indictment of times past – it isn’t – it’s still a contemporary comment.   There was something totally appealing about the landscaped nude “Virginia” by Denise Durkin – the body as hollows, valleys, shade and the colour of hills .  Zena Elliott of Te Teko won  Merit Award for “Neon Voice” a hei tiki image in hard colour reminiscent of Whopper – again not Maori art, but contemporary art.  I could not walk past Paul Kim of Whangarei “Whangarei in my Memory”.

It was a traditionally detailed “asian-styled” landscape.  There was a tiny little work “Summer Sky Song” by Jill Tricker all merged blue and white sky and clouds.  I related to Tauranga’s Jacquelyn Greenbank’s watercolour “ Goodbye Stephanie 2013” a daughter leaving home.   I admired the painterly technique of Peter Miller of Auckland’s “Fun Ho” the totally touchable paint flaking metal truck of my childhood – but I wouldn’t want to look at it every day in the way I would the Whitley work.  “Young Toby”  the fierce use of brush strokes and materials to create this guitar player.  And even though I’ve mentioned it last, I loved Deborah Forkert of Tauranga’s “The Picnic” a lino print and mixed media on recycled teabags and its tapa cloth and polynesian overtones.

Brendon McGorry - Auckland - This is not a Starry Night.  Merit Award - $500 Sponsor - Frames By Daniel PHOTO/SUPPLIED MOLLY MORPETH CANADAY

Kathryn Tulloch – Auckland Going in and out, Grey and Yellow Merit Award – $500
Sponsor – Pullar Family Trust

It was worth the trip to see the Exhibition Centre, the Molly Morpeth Canaday exhibition and the Te Manuka Tutahi Marae and Mataatua Wharenui.

To view all of the competition winners rom the 2014 Molly Morpeth Canaday competition CLICK HERE

Entry details for the Molly Morpeth Canaday Ward opening opening on Friday 23rd January 2015 will be posted on the Molly Morpeth Canaday Art Award website during the month of August 2014


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