Dates: 22 Jul, 2014 - 9 Aug, 2014
"The Lie of the Land" Preview: Tuesday 22nd July - 5.30pm -7.30pm
A conversation with Mark Wooller[read more]
Q: Your recent series of paintings appear to be a subtle and inventive comment on our natural environment or the transition to what it is today?
A: The title perhaps provides an insight into the main theme and idea behind this direction my painting has taken. An underlying theme is the way the land falls or it is shaped. The last few centuries show how the land has been shaped by man following the demand for growth and expansion, so in this series I attempt to bear witness to this transition from forest to construction.
Q: Yes it is staggering to think how the land has been exploited and developed in perhaps just a few centuries. I guess there are negatives and positives to this but while you cannot change the past you can hopefully influence the future.
A: Well when you consider man’s desire to acquire more and more land, perhaps the negatives outweigh the positives. It is a fact of history and life. I hope in my own small way I am at least making people aware of at least the history of the development of our land and what has been lost in between. In a way the artworks/pieces become memorials to the past - a way of acknowledging what has been.
Q: By this do you mean our forests, creeks and waterfalls?
A: Well much more than that. The postcard paintings in this show, for example the waterfall pieces, serve as a remembrance of the once pristine waterways of our landscape, the cards through the passage of time remind us of what has been lost.
Q: So I guess you are talking about the bigger picture here?
A: Of course – In the city paintings some of the lots of land carved from the bush now have buildings appearing, the empty lots disappearing fast. As if in a game of monopoly the land is traded, and then one by one the buildings rise, towering over the bush remnants, creating even more wealth from what was forest.
Q: Rulers and measurements feature in a number of the paintings which are of course very relevant in relation to the subdivision of land and subsequently it value.
A: Yes they are not just included as props more as a key or instrument significant to the shape and valuations of the sections and properties. Rulers, numbers and maps can be everything, historical, literary and geographic. Also maps, rulers and numbers do not always tell the truth, measurements are easily manipulated and altered to tell the story desired.
Q: Mt Taranaki is an iconic feature of the New Zealand landscape with a lot of history behind it - and has been painted by many New Zealand artists. I see you have featured Mt Taranaki in a couple of the works. What is the background to this?
A: Mt Taranaki is an iconic aspect of New Zealand which everyone recognises – Here I have created another imaginary scene – prehuman where the forests grew in abundance completely undisturbed. Similarly with the Kauri painting I am providing a surreal image which may provoke the viewers’ attention to realise this is what the landscape may have looked like a thousand years ago. I love the act of looking at a landscape and re-imaging as it once would have appeared.
Q: Yes well there is no doubt this bushscape series of work has really struck a chord with people. It is quite difficult to pigeonhole or categorise your paintings – there seems to be three main aspects - the surreal, the historical narrative and the underlying message.
A: I suppose you could describe my works as surreal narratives. However they are described I am hoping my style of presenting re-imagined landscapes will at least provoke attention and thought and consideration for the environment. I have my underlying themes in each work, but always hope there is room for the viewer to interpret the work in a manner that touches their own values.
Q: Yes well the reality is a lot of people in NZ – particularly the younger generation have lost touch with what NZ used to be like - even in the 1950’s and 1960’s, for example when I grew up - clear creeks, native bush, frogs, eels and pheasants - and that was in Mt Roskill, Auckland - all gone now.
A: Yes – so much has changed in 50 years and now in particular as we are about to witness even more change with the city spreading outwards. The challenge is not to overly romanticize the past, but promote positive growth in the future where all values of people and the land can be respected.
Text Warwick Henderson July 2014