Thirty years of estuary inspired works
It is rare to get Rosie Little and Bruce Hamlin out of Golden Bay; rarer still that they are exhibiting this side of the hill at Atkins Gallery in Nelson, reports Judith Ritchie.
The title of Rosie Little and Bruce Hamlin's exhibition, An Attachment to Place, certainly rings true about their connection to their beloved Estuary Arts Gallery and home at Para Para. It took a bit of coaxing to tear Hamlin away from his work and head over the hill to open their show at Atkins Gallery in Nelson.
"It's unusual to get Bruce out the door," says Little "He just wanted to keep on working there."
Both are driven to create by a love of nature; Little is passionate about the land while Hamlin adores the sea.
"I just love the sea and feel a natural draw to it," says Hamlin. "And I love boats."
Hamlin built himself a 5.5 metre wooden Maine lobster boat inside the gallery over the winter months when they are closed to the public. With a little canopy over part of the deck he can live aboard or go out on day trips sheltered from the sun.
"It's my water colour boat; like an art piece," says Hamlin. "I never tire of going out into the sea and looking, painting, that's my place to go where I love."
His works in the exhibition include a pencil drawing and acrylic painting, while the feature works are fused glass. Once both artists produced ceramics but over the past ten years they have moved into fused glass.
"It's really exciting for us to find a new medium and explore glass," says Little. "Because we are learning we don't have any preconceived ideas; we're teaching ourselves, so there's no boundaries to what we're learning."
Fused glass requires a special kiln which is circular and distributes the heat evenly across the work. Only one piece can be fired at a time, then it requires a very long cooling down time. They find the medium more immediate than ceramics since there are no glazes or double firing required.
A fan of expressionist painters Cezanne, Woollaston and McCahon, Little paints isolated rugged landscapes inspired by the natural landscape where they live and beyond.
"The form and drama of the landscape inspires me, the Heaphy Track, places I've walked and where we live and work, West Haven Inlet and Takaka Hill as well," says Little.
Her series of small watercolour and gouache paintings sit alongside large works in acrylic. While Little spends the summer months working inside the gallery, she has more time to create when the gallery is closed between May and October.
"To do a drawing outside or a little quick painting is always the best way," says Little, "Because you've got all the information you need when you get back to the studio."
She once took three huge sheets of watercolour paper, rolled up, onto the Heaphy Track and while propped up on pieces of cardboard supported by a pile of rocks, she painted "lovely big sploshy watercolours."
Little says she still uses those watercolours as reference points today, nearly twenty years down the track.
This December Little and Hamlin celebrate 30 years of making and selling art from their gallery, opened in 1987 after they spent three years building it themselves. It's obvious they love being busy; Little was stitching a pattern onto a vest while we chatted and Hamlin hopped up now and then to adjust a work on the gallery wall.
"We like projects and keep busy," says Little. "We do have the life of artists; we live and breathe our art; we're down to earth with a fairly pragmatic approach to art."
An Attachment to Place, Rosie Little and Bruce Hamlin, Atkins Gallery, Dowson's Arcade, 34 Bridge St, Nelson, to April 19.
"An Attachment to Place - Rosie Little and Bruce Hamlin, Estuary Arts, Golden Bay:
paintings, drawings and glass", at Atkins Gallery.