Creative community responds to Ara’s private art collection


Hidden in plain sight on the campuses of the Ara Institute in Canterbury is a remarkable art collection of nearly 700 works. One of the first collections held by a higher education institution, it features works by Shane Cotton, Ralph Hotere, Margaret Stoddard and many other renowned artists. In a rare gesture, the collection has been curated to be viewed by the public off campus.

But Curate Me, A Response to the Ara Artwork Collection is more than a conventional exhibition of an established collection. Next to each original work are artistic responses from members of Ara’s creative community, including alumni, staff, and students.

Exhibiting the works next to each other provides a glimpse of the inspiration attendees drew from the collection and, according to Ara art curator Julie Humby, builds community awareness of the collection of works. Ara art.

“The exhibition aims to show how people bring their own personal experiences to art when they look at it,” says Humby. “Artistic responses show that there is no one answer to works of art and that everyone sees art through their own lens. This is especially evident in works where two people reacted creatively in such different ways.

One of Philip Trusttum’s earliest works, Christchurch Houses, features striking colors and thick, unmixed lines of thick paint. Humby says the painting “may have been inspired by a trip to Europe the year before. It shows expressive use of color and Van Gogh painting manipulation.”

Responses to Trusttum’s painting are presented by Ara alumnus, Magdalene Clare, and Ara’s Art and Design department director, Kathryn McCully. Clare’s work is representative of the disadvantaged socio-economic neighborhood where she grew up. McCully, who was looking for a home at the time, designed a vinyl sticker reminiscent of a “sold” sticker on a house for sale sign.

“Although the two responses to Trusttum’s painting are very different from each other, it is interesting that they both deal with the financial aspect of housing and the inequalities in the current housing market.” said Humby. This helps demonstrate, she suggests, that the perception of art is shaped by our current realities.

Cantabrian Janneth Gil visited the exhibition a few days after the opening. She was surprised by the extent of the collection and found herself really immersed in it. “I was interested in how the responses gave new meaning to the collection and started to transform my own view of the works,” she said.

An accordion-folded paper and ink response piece, inspired by Wayne Youle’s Navigation, caught Gil’s attention. “I found myself looking at it from below, from above, and from the side, really engaging the piece to find its artistic meaning,” Gil said of Debra McLeod’s piece.

The Ara Art Collection was established in 1935 by McGregor Wright, then Chairman of the Board of Governors of Christchurch Technical College Ara, with the donation of 61 works of art from contemporary Canterbury artists, including Rita Angus, Grace Butler and Rata Lovell-Smith.

Over the years, the collection has grown to include traditional Maori art and pou (carved wooden pillars), carvings, stained glass, carvings and weaving. Although he continues to focus on Canterbury artists, he has also acquired works by Pat Hanly, Shane Cotton, Robin White and a wide range of other artists to reflect contemporary and customary art in Aotearoa, Nova Scotia. Zealand.

Items in the collection have been reproduced in numerous books and magazines and are regularly on loan to art galleries and museums across the country. The collection is an invaluable resource for teaching, learning and research, enriching the lives of people on Ara’s six campuses.

Curate Me, A Response to the Ara Artwork Collection is open to the public for free viewing at the PG 192 gallery located at 192 Bealey Avenue, Christchurch until October 15, 2021. The exhibition is funded by the Ara Foundation.

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