Noa Noa Von Bassewitz at Imprint Gallery


Q&A with printmaker Noa Noa Von Bassewitz who will be showing her work at the Imprint Gallery, The Historic Village Tauranga from 13th July 2021

1.Who are you?          I am Noa Noa Von Bassewitz a contemporary artist, with Maori and German roots. I am a Wellington based print maker, working primarily on paper, but not exclusively. I am mother to four boys, my eldest is 21 and my youngest is 8. By training I am an anthropologist and teacher. Humanity fascinates me, our cultures and value systems, symbols and practices, that which makes us tick as human-beings. My art is a conduit for my creativity, and working helps ground me in the real world.

2.What is your field of creative endeavour?            My medium of choice is wood block prints. My printmaker journey began with intaglio, however I transitioned to wood, being attracted to its raw, textural aesthetic. I enjoy the sensation of carving out my work, it is a long process that can become meditative and exhilarating in equal measure. I love the ‘big reveal’ when I spend the day in the print room pulling prints through the press. The interplay between positive and negative space and its reversal is endlessly intriguing.

3. Where is your studio/where are you based?              I live and work in Wellington. I gave up my studio in Roseneath during lock down and since then I have been working in my sunny living room, overlooking the harbour. My days are spent working on boards, making mess, cleaning up, moving boards and paper and frames around the house. My art has essentially taken over!

I need to be in a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing environment to feel creative, although this is not a perfect solution I am close to the coffee machine which is a definite bonus. My dog Mischka is my constant companion. If you find a stray black hair in a framed work, it will be schipperke dog.

I am exceedingly fortunate to be able to use the print room at Inverlochy Art school. Inverlochy is a Wellington treasure, it is an art school based in a huge old beautiful villa and they have the most amazingly well set up print room. They also run classes in a wide variety of artistic fields and have studio spaces for hire. I hire the print room regularly to experiment with new prints and to print my series, they have beautiful presses, and drying racks and everything I need to complete my work, including free parking!

I also enjoy working on boards outside in summer. Next year I will commandeer our garden ‘bunker’ as my studio.

4.What do you want the community to know?          I enjoy a fluid relationship with my multicultural heritage, which includes Maori, German, Austrian and American branches. I was brought up bilingually speaking German at home. My work draws on my Maori and German ancestry in different ways. I love pacific pattern making and use this symbolism along with pagan inspired motifs in my art. I am a contemporary abstract artist which means that at core my symbols and characters although evocative of my Maori roots are self created, not prescribed from a traditional source.

5. Where can more information about this be found?        I have a website that my technically gifted husband updates for me, this gives a succinct summary of my art practice, and my current bodies of work.

I regularly use instagram as it allows me to put small pieces of my art making process out there into the world, little offerings.

I have had the honour of being written up in Takahe magazine in 2013 as well as Art Asia magazine. These are longer and more in-depth interview style pieces about my work as an artist.

6.   My creative background.            Art and writing and performing were the daily soup of my formative years. I am the daughter of an art teacher/poet and writer/translator. I studied printmaking at Elam with my idol Jenny Dolozel before being seduced into studying anthropology and design at Victoria, Otago and finally Auckland universities. I started creating new human beings in my 20’s and my artistic endeavours took a back seat as my eldest son’s father honed his artistic skills in the area of Whakairo.

In 2009 I rediscovered print making, and fell in love with woodblock in particular, the aesthetic and the process allowed for a beautiful blend of slowness and raw edges that got under my impatient skin and made it zing.

I have been creating new work and exhibiting regularly again since 2010.

7.  My creative achievements.              I still probably rank my ‘finalist’ status in the Wellington phone book art competition as a highlight. Also meeting David Lange at an awards ceremony for a piece I created called “going to the circus’, it was at parliament and that always struck me as terribly cool.

I am tempted to list a CV of sorts here, but my understanding of “achievements’ is about an internal feeling. The sensation of talking to people about my art at an opening and having them see something in it that speaks to them is immensely gratifying. Knowing my art hangs on peoples walls is humbling. My works have found homes in the US, Austria, France, England and all around NZ.

I have had the beautiful experience of working with families to create ‘family crests’, a modern rethinking of the traditional crest which uses current and relevant symbolism to denote ‘family’. It is very special and personal being invited to create a work for a particular family.

Being featured on the cover of Takahe is a stand-out moment, the full colour spread of my ‘Rona and the Moon’ series is a great snapshot of my earlier style.

8. My future creative plans.           My current focus is getting my latest series “Spirit Animals” ready to exhibit at Imprint Gallery in Tauranga. This is an an exciting and busy time, getting work framed and ready for the show and trying to make connections with the local art community.

The creation of Spirit Animals has spanned 2020 and 2021. It speaks indirectly to the lessons about love and humanity that I learned during lockdown. The prints are allegorical vignettes, exploring both the Jungian concepts of Anima and Animus and our essential wairua.

I have been invited to be a contributing artist for two art Auctions in Wellington in August and September. I’m looking forward to travelling up to Auckland to take part in the Printopia Festival in Ponsonby in November.

I am super excited to be having a limited run of ‘art-shirts’ made. Original prints on organic cotton shirt dresses or “art shirts’ like the kind you might wear in a studio. Artisan Screen Prints in Wellington have been great as they are very obliging and happy to print short runs.

For me the process of creating new work is about experimenting and building on what I learn from previous work. “Spirit Animals” is more figurative than the “Rorschach series”. The moon played a central role in “The Imperfect Pull” series and “Rona and the Moon”. There are always outlier prints that form the start of something new.

I feel very fortunate to have a supportive whanau. This gives me a lot of creative freedom. Each series is like a wave that crashes out of me on the heels of the last. I’m in the ideation phase for the next series, working title: Re-Gard.

9.  If I could go anywhere it would be to?        Right now I can’t think of anywhere in the world I would rather be than here in Aotearoa. I would really like to exhibit all around NZ and travel with my art to meet people around the Motu, that would be my idea of ‘dream travel’ right now.

SPIRIT ANIMALS  new work on paper and cloth opens at the Imprint Gallery at 6pm on 13th July 2021 to 13th August 2021.   Imprint Gallery at the Historic Village 159 Seventeenth Avenue, Tauranga. 

Text responses to ARTbop’s  Q&A and images provided by Noa Noa Von Bassewitz


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