East Meets West at Northart

Two new different exhibitions open at Northart in early August. Both demonstrate Northart’s extensive reach into the community.

‘The Ties that Bind’ is an exhibition of visual arts by Birkenhead College; participants include students and former students, teachers and former teachers. They work across a broad range of media, and interests and concerns. Head of Art, Naomi Bell, for example, is showing a series of photographic portraits of students taken over the past ten years, while Year 10 students are exhibiting large Basquiat style works and  the year 13 painting class smaller experimental abstract work.  Promised also are protest t-shirts from technology students. Birkenhead College is not just known for the excellence in the visual arts, there are many well established performing artists who attended the school and the performance at the opening function was enthralling. 

Earlier this year, thanks to a grant from the Kaipatiki Local Board, Northart appointed an arts co-ordinator to liaise with the Chinese community and to organise programmes and events for local communities. The exhibition currently on show in galleries 4 and 5 is one such event. The exhibition title  ‘Blue and White’ references the classic approach to  decoration on Chinese porcelain - blue decoration on white pottery which has been widespread in China since the 14th century (and later in the Middle East and Europe). 

The three artists in the exhibition, Alvin Xiong, Gavin Chai and Weilun Ha are Chinese, and have diverse backgrounds: Gavin is Malaysian Chinese and moved here in 2011, Weilun Ha was born in  Vietnam and holds a postgraduate degree in architecture from the University of Auckland, while Alvin Xiong was born in Guangzhou (Canton) and holds a MFA degree in Fine Arts from Elam. Each has a distinct art practice informed by his understanding of both Chinese and Western contemporary art practice.

Alvin notes: “East and West, traditional and contemporary, technical and conceptual; like the Chinese Yin and Yang philosophy describes how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. The spark of fusion will provide a new direction in contemporary art.”

‘Blue & White’ and ‘The Ties that Bind’ continue until 22 August, as does the installation of ceramics by Ian Firth in the window spaces. Replacing them and opening to the public on 27 August are equally compelling exhibitions by fibre artist Mary Donald, painter John Nicol, who’s work engages with the tragedy  kauri dieback, and ceramicist Martin Ward. They are joined by Diane Brand who makes “cheap and cheerful” jewellery from readily available, ordinary products sourced from hardware outlets, haberdashery stores and two dollar shops to distract her from her main job as an architect and academic and Rick Allender who’s marquetry explores a range of expressive potential with wood veneering in combination with paint, resin, paper and varnish.

For information on Gallery Time for Kids, and other public programmes