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Parting the Darkness

Author: Leanne Wickham, Curator, Programmes
Our latest collection show, Parting Darkness, opened at the weekend and appropriately the sun came out after a week of rain and storms. (Finally the darkness has parted – even if it is fleeting).

Parting Darkness features works that play with dark and light, black and white and shadows and silhouettes. It’s a small exhibiton with an eclectic mix of works ranging from ceramics and glass to works on paper and aluminium sculptures. Together, they present a dramatic interplay around the use of light in the darkness.

Darkness Parted and There Was Light by David Brokenshire was the inspiration for the title of the show. It’s a large, heavy egg-shaped sculpture that has one small slither carved out of it. I wonder if it relates to that first sentence in Genesis where, ‘God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness’, or maybe it’s designed to show that offering the smallest segment of light out of a dark shape can provide a glimmer of hope.

In a similar way, Raewyn Atkinson’s Homelight is also inspired by ’a light in the darkness’. Made from the most delicate paper porcelains, Homelight is based on the boxes of Homelight oil that remain unopened at Scott’s Cape Evans hut in Antarctica. Beaten to the South Pole by Roald Amundsen, Robert Scott’s defeated party never made it back to the warmth promised by the Homelight oil. All five died of exposure and starvation. After visiting Antarctica Raewyn commented, The experience of creating a shelter to sleep in during field training provided the inspiration for Home Light, such as the unique qualities of the snow we handled so much to create a home, and the blue light coming through the blocks which made the roof. The imperative need for shelter in such a beautiful but ‘un-homely’ landscape is more than just a physical one. The effect of light is one of the strongest impressions in this environment of extremes, where light is experienced as continual or absent.

Imagine trudging through the cold and dark land of Antarctic struggling towards the light in the distance… and never making it. I guess it puts Wellington’s winters into perspective, but it also reminds me of the ability of a piece of beautiful crafted art to jolt you out of dark mood, and that visiting an art gallery on cold rainy day can offer a sense of escapism from the weariness of day-to-day winter (and house-bound children). In moments of seasonal gloom, beauty, light and art can indeed part the darkness.

Leanne Wickham, Curator, Programmes and Events

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