Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Visitors from far away

Happy New Year! I hope you’ve all had a relaxing holiday break.

The Gallery had some special visitors at the end of last week – a group of students and their teacher from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, who got a behind-the-scenes tour of our works on paper conservation lab.

Since 1996, Professor Fred Hagstrom has been visiting the Gallery every two years, bringing with him about 25 students. The Gallery visit is part of a 10-week tour of the South Pacific including the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Australia.

“Most people in the United States don’t know much about art in this part of the world,” says Hagstrom.

So he’s brought his students to the other side of the world to learn about it in person. Themes they’re discussing include artmaking and its relationship with nature, and different cultural contexts surrounding art. For example, the group started their trip in Rarotonga, where they studied tivaevae and other traditional art forms. Unlike most Western art, tivaevae are often made for a specific person and therefore not for sale.

Fred remembers seeing Patterns of Paradise: Tivaevae on one of his first visits to the Gallery – and this year’s students were able to see works from the same show in the current Call Waiting exhibition.

As well as exploring the three exhibitions currently showing in the NEW Gallery, the students visited the conservation lab to examine some of the works on paper in the Gallery’s collection. This functioned as an introduction to their next unit on printmaking – they got to see close-up examples of intaglio, mezzotint and relief prints before they begin learning how to recreate the techniques in the studio.

Professor Hagstrom says the Gallery’s collection of prints and works on paper is impressive - “You’ve got some terrific examples in your collection”. Of chief interest were works by old masters like Durer and van Leyden, but the students also studied pieces by Gordon Walters and Fatu Feu’u.

Wherever they are, the Carleton students are expected to be sketching as part of their drawing course. Professor Hagstrom has taught them to make and bind their own sketchbooks, which they carry at all times, effectively becoming a “mobile course”.

Before moving on to Australia, Professor Hagstrom and his students will head north for a marae stay in Waipoua, complete the Tongariro crossing, visit Te Papa and the Abel Tasman National Park.

What a fantastic way to study! You can find out more about their travels here - and more about the work our conservators do here.

Next time Professor Hagstrom is in Auckland he’ll be able to visit the redeveloped Gallery. This time around he had to be content with a stroll around the outside. “I think the new plaza area is lovely. I like the contemporary architecture in this part of the world and it’s a great example,” he says.

Thanks for your visit, Carleton folk! Looking forward to seeing you again in two years’ time…

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