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East Meets West In Art Partnership

November 1, 2011

Suzette Major, right, with Geraldine Guy at the East West exhibition. Photo by Virginia Winder.

Art adopts a new direction in the East West exhibition – a coming together of two regions and two tertiary art educators sharing the same latitude but located on opposite sides of the North Island.

Showing at New Plymouth’s Puke Ariki ‘knowledge centre’ until mid-December, the joint exhibition features 10 works by arts staff from the Eastern Institute of Technology and the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki.

Having attended the opening, EIT Head of School, Arts and Design, Suzette Major said East West was a far bigger and more significant exhibition than she might have imagined.

“The ‘conversation’ about the arts is all too often between Auckland and Wellington. What is happening here is that we are looking at the other axis – the relationship between east and west rather than north and south.”

Staff from the two institutes prepared for the exhibition over the last 12 months, communicating mainly through video conferencing.

“That made for a fascinating opening night,” Dr Major said. “Having already liaised in the virtual world, those involved scarcely needed to introduce themselves when they met.”

As well as solo artist works, some of the exhibited pieces are collaborations involving staff at one or other institute while others involved collaborations between academics across the two institutes.

“So we have every possible combination, and the work itself is stunning”.

Participating artists had responded creatively to the theme, juxtaposing, for example, concepts of Maori mythology and spiritual notions of place alongside European ideas of mapping and location, and exploring notions underpinning eastern and western religious ideologies.

It is the first time the tertiary institutes on either side of the North Island have put together a joint show. WITT art department head Geraldine Guy said an open brief was one of the reasons the exhibition worked so well.

Dr Major said it was vital for EIT to work with artists from other areas.

“Creativity is something that should be shared, and for it to grow and be nurtured it needs to have a voice that goes beyond the region.”

Because Hawke’s Bay and Taranaki were both vibrant arts areas, it was easy for them to remain insular.

“I think it’s really important to break out of that and recognise the differences and similarities we have with arts in our regions.”

The opening attracted a large crowd which included New Plymouth mayor Harry Duynhoven.

Showing at Puke Ariki’s north wing in the heart of New Plymouth, the East West exhibition is open until December 11.