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SOFIA TEKELA-SMITH, LISA WALKER, ARETA WILKINSON
PEPEHA, 31 JANUARY - 25 FEBRUARY 2012
The title for this exhibition derives from Areta Wilkinson's investigation of "jewellery as pepeha". A pepeha is commonly a mihi, or introduction, but it can also be a proverb. While it has been argued that pepeha are embedded in whakapapa and a Maori worldview, a broader interpretation provides the framework for this exhibition.
Wilkinson in developing her ideas drew on curator Megan Tamati-Quenell's description of pepeha as an 'unlocking device', a set of words that reveal a greater narrative if sought. "I was always interested in the 'what had to happen' before a pepeha was formed," Wilkinson said. "That pepeha came out of something, and could that something be collective process?"
Without abandoning jewellery's essential connection to the body and its role as adornment, the three artists in this exhibition produce work that interrogates the nature, purpose and conceptual possibilities of their medium. They are interested in the craft's capacity to convey narratives of history, process and cultural practice. The notion of pepeha operates to suggest this content.
Wilkinson (Kai Tahu) says her practice has developed as an exploration of the sense of place inherent in tūrangawaewae and involves a search for "a craft methodology unique to Aotearoa New Zealand." Her 'aberrant' pendants in this exhibition 'speak' to moa-hunter fashions described in Roger Duff's 1950 book The Moa Hunter Period of Maori Culture. A jewellery box contains smaller gems generated from the same source material.
Similarly the work of Sofia Tekela-Smith speaks to her Rotuman and Scottish heritage to evoke the archeological with fragments of large breast plates found preserved in indeterminate landscapes, bound in mirror frames both reflecting the viewer and integrating them in the work and suggesting jewellery boxes or found treasure.
Lisa Walker presents a treasure trove, a contemporary cabinet of curiosities, employing a hugely diverse range of materials. Like artifacts found or created in some post-apocalyptic world, these 'jewels' are at once refined and raw. The jeweller's craft is evident whilst conventional aesthetics and notions of preciousness are questioned or eschewed. Now Wellington based after 15 years in Europe, Walker has been described as one of New Zealand's most internationally successful jewellers. She is the current holder of the internationally prestigious Françoise van den Bosch Award for jewellery art.
All three artists have exhibited widely in New Zealand and internationally and have their work in major public and private collections.