Current exhibitions at Mahara

 By Vivienne Bailey

MY14-Mahara-Neville-Spooner
Neville Spooner drawing, Deer, c1939

Three new exhibitions opened at Mahara Gallery last month: Stag Spooner, Wild Men of the Bush, ‘The Human Expression,’ created by John Lawrence, and in New SPACE is Jack Penman’s interactive display, ‘Party Lines: The Story of Waikanae’s Early Telephone Exchange Operators.’

Reported to be one of Wairapara’s most creative artists, Neville ‘Stag’ Spooner (1917-1946) was born with hunting and fishing in his blood, yet until this exhibition, curated and toured by Aratoi – Wairapara Museum of Art and History, his artwork was little known outside his family and the hunting community. Distinctively Kiwi, the early boyhood drawings and teenage hunting diaries illustrate how angling and hunting helped families survive the long economic depression of the 1930s. His World War II decorated envelopes and letters show his extraordinary drive to record and communicate what he saw and also felt in quite a unique way. Gallery director, Janet Bayly, said his unexpected death at the early age of 28 “robbed New Zealand of an exceptional talent.”

John Lawrence is based in Dannevirke and has worked as a ceramic artist since 1972. His exhibition, ‘The Human Expression,’ features stonework paper-clay chosen for “its extreme tolerance of being laminated, veneered and painted with different ceramic materials.”

Influenced by his study of Picasso for more than 60 years he said masks often bring a mixture of reactions and associations – levity, horror and theatre.

“Even the artificial means of tattooing, scarification and body painting – they all aid the cause of enhancing or changing one’s image. One cannot change ones facial expression as easily as clothes except by the use of a mask.” Photographs, filmed and recorded oral histories of Waikanae’s early manual telephone exchange operators feature in New SPACE with Jack Penman.

Jack Penman has lived in Waikanae since 1979 and been a professional photographer since 2010. He has also produced short films and documentary projects, including many events in Kapiti.

The three exhibitions are at Mahara Gallery until Sunday, 8 June.