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Mark Wooller "The Measure of Things"

Link here to view New Zealand Herald Arts Review (April 27th 2013) on Mark Wooller's Exhibition "The Measure of Things" Exhibition Dates: 10th April - 4th May ...

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Link here to view New Zealand Herald Arts Review (April 27th 2013) on Mark Wooller’s Exhibition “The Measure of Things”

Exhibition Dates: 10th April – 4th May

Wooller’s two previous and much acclaimed exhibitions focused largely on the bush landscapes and forests lost to early development and logging. This new series progresses the theme further where paintings depict plots of exotic flower gardens which were planted by early settlers. In this colonial period and during the reign of Queen Victoria many migrants had no sooner landed than they were trying to recreate nostalgic English Cottage gardens from “Home”. The first Rose was reputedly brought to New Zealand in 1805. Other imported plants around that time included Camellias and Jasmine. In 1851 the early New Zealand artist Albin Martin and his wife, who were keen gardeners, brought out Hydrangeas and Roses. Their Garden in East Tamaki is depicted as a riot of colour in his painting “Garden at East Tamaki” c1865 (collection McKelvie Trust and ACAG). This delightful early and rare painting shows a wide variety of flowers including Roses, Foxgloves and Sunflowers. Mark Wooller states “There was a desire by many early settlers to try and control the natural world and transpose their own values and culture. Many considered it a somewhat foreign landscape and did not appreciate what was already here”.

Nonetheless many immigrants arrived to a barren landscape and have endowed New Zealand with a wonderful legacy of horticulture and floriculture. The climate here was extremely conducive to gardening as Jemima Martin attested to in 1852 when she wrote “The way in which our English Garden flowers flourish and grow like weeds is wonderful – anything grows without care” (1)

Wooller has continued his concept of depicting subdivided blocks of bush or land but here he shows fields of flowers (such as Hydrangeas, imported by the Martins) carved into the forest. The flower fields act as a foil to the original blocks of native bush yet show they can coexist with balanced forethought.


The inspiration for the “Land Measure” works came from the unearthing of an old wooden and brass builders measure during renovation. “Found in a wall while renovations were being carried out at home – the ruler has been “released” from captivity and given a new lease of life. I have introduced this object into several paintings as a metaphor or motif, representing the language and art of the surveyor and his influence over the measuring and division of the land” says Wooller. The wooden handcrafted ruler, with brass fittings and pins, along with other ephemera (such as early tobacco tins, beer bottle labels, stamps and documents), have once again been iconicised in Wooller’s paintings.

The titles to these new works are appropriate such as Angle measure, Grid measure, T-measure, and Cross measure. An old New Zealand beer bottle label Kauri Pale Ale has also been skillfully utilized, perhaps with a nod to Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962) painting, but in this case in a repetitive overlapping manner to represent the bark on a tree trunk.

While there is an emphasis once again on the magnificent kauri and native forests of New Zealand there is a compelling amount of variation and innovation in this diverse take on a unique aspect of New Zealand History.


The Painted Garden in New Zealand Art, Christopher Johnstone, Quote from Martin correspondence p54, Pub Godwit 2008


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