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Mark Wooller - A Line in the Bush

24th October- 10th November (Exhibition Preview, October 23rd 5:30-7:30pm) Mark Wooller’s transliteration of the phrase “A line in the Sand” to “A Line in ...

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24th October- 10th November (Exhibition Preview, October 23rd 5:30-7:30pm)

Mark Wooller’s transliteration of the phrase “A line in the Sand” to “A Line in the Bush” is appropriate in that Wooller lives in the bush and hinterland of Matakana as opposed to the coastline. The dichotomies between human and nature; constancy and change, natural and constructed, have long interested the artist who takes to the canvas to depict New Zealand scenes in a distinct style that blends landscape with language.

Wooller’s 2018 solo exhibition A Line in the Bush uses text and ephemera as effective compositional devices that add layers of meaning to the work. Original and correct Māori place names are also important to the artist, who carefully records these historical place names, many of which have been misinterpreted over time. Wooller states “The use of place names, and the literal way we read the geography of the landscape, sets up the contrast between the use of English place names and pre-existing names by Māori. The European usage is often a romanticised or commercially based title, whereas the Māori nomenclature refers to a historic and ancestral link.”
Despite this somewhat measured statement it is also true the saying “A Line in the Sand” (Bush) is steeped in the tradition of drawing battle lines, demarcation and confrontation. Lines in the sand were drawn not only in Roman times before battle but reputedly by Colonel Travis during the Battle for the Alamo (1836) and Ngati Whatua Chief Taoho before a famous early 19th century battle against Ngapuhi (c1808). Wooller says “The world’s forests, lakes and waterfalls are constantly under threat from not only development but disease and pollution. There is essentially an environmental war playing out before our very eyes.”
Many of the paintings focus on subject matter relating to Tāmaki Makaurau. In The Waitemata Auckland is linearly subdivided into numbered lots up to an edge of dense native bush. Eleven volcanic mounds including Maungakiekie appear as displaced islands, untouched and cloaked in dense primeval foliage- a stark contrast to the grid of orderly sections.
Scenic Drive similarly takes an iconic Auckland landmark, the road that runs through the Waitakere Ranges from Titirangi to Swanson, and divides it into blocky numbered lots. Wooller’s signposting of the attractive walking tracks, an area so well-known, remind us of the recent closures of significant regions of the Ranges subsequent to the battle against Kauri dieback disease.
Beyond the bounds of Auckland, Wooller re-visits the motif of the waterfall, a favoured subject for the artist. The waters of Āniwaniwa Falls, Five Mile Creek and Puketi Forest whimsically cascade over amorphous regions of native bush, bringing an element of fantasy into the exhibition. These joyful waterfall pieces remind us of those scenic treasures tucked away, awaiting those willing to find them. Our Gulf Islands are a feature of the new series also with paintings depicting pohutakawa bush clad enclaves from Coromandel to the far North.
Wooller’s unique and idiosyncratic depiction of the early development of our landscape not only serves to remind us of our history and future planning, but the precious state of our irreplaceable environment.

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