||Guise - New work by Pippa Sanderson
18 October - 11 November 2001 at Idiom Studio, Wellington
See below for selection of images
Returning in Disguise - Pippa Sanderson
8 March - 21 May, 2002 at Hawkes Bay Art Gallery and Museum
"Theyre like a thought thats on the tip of your tongue," says Wellington artist Pippa Sanderson, about the odd, beaked creatures which feature in her latest exhibition.
Guise, now showing at Idiom Studio, shows familiar scenes from Hawkes Bay, where Pippa grew up. However these landscapes are populated not with people but by masked, birdlike creatures she calls numino.
Their long beaks make the numino resemble gannets, and this isnt accidental. The gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers, south of Napier, is an inescapable feature of the local landscape. However the figures in her paintings dont fit easily into their environment, Pippa says.
"Thats where the disguise comes in the creatures are trying to hide, and theyre also trying to fit in. Its like the colonial experience of not feeling at home in your own country."
Napier people will have the opportunity to see these paintings next year, when a version of this exhibition transfers to the Hawkes Bay Art Gallery. Pippas exploration of the New Zealand landscape will also appear in Lower Hutts Dowse Gallery from April, as part of a group show she is curating.
"The Hawkes Bay landscape has been in my mind for years; its where I was born and grew up. But for me landscape is really a symbol of our interior life. I dont just want to paint hills."
I was born and schooled in Napier, where several earlier generations of my family have lived. I left Hawkes Bay without a backward glance at age 17, and since then have returned only briefly and rarely to Waimarama (the small coastal settlement east of Havelock North).
Recently however I have begun photographing and sketching the landscape where I grew up, using this process to negotiate my ambivalent feelings about the comfortably familiar and uncomfortably memorable.
With this exhibition, I am revisiting my hometown, warily and in disguise. I am also recollecting some of my earliest and most painful experiences, such as a series of emergency operations I underwent in my first year of life.
In a series of exhibitions over the past three years I have been exploring ways of representing spiritual connections with place, by means of imaginary, non-human figures (known as numino) which travel in several dimensions through time and space.
With this latest exhibition the spaces are mainly recognisable and familiar landscapes in Hawkes Bay, such as Motu-o-Kura (or Koura) (Bare Island) in Waimarama, and the distinctive profile of Bluff Hill, Napier.
The figures have evolved into cunning, gannet-like creatures, adept at disguise and concealment but also capable of humour, insight and irony.
In my paintings these masked figures sit, hover, stand and soar through the geographical spaces they barely occupy. Their costumed capers convey an ambivalent relationship with the land, but seem compelled to seek out some narrative, the age-old strategy of disguise employed to deliver the punchlines.
Click here for Catalogue essay James Meffan