Neighbours share art over the fence

Artists Sharron Martin, left and Greta McComb with work from their exhibition at the Refinery ArtSpace.
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FairfaxNZ

Artists Sharron Martin, left and Greta McComb with work from their exhibition at the Refinery ArtSpace.

 

Two artists celebrate being neighbours while exploring the idea of whether we are losing the art of being neighbourly, Judith Ritchie reports. 

Two Washington Valley artists who are also neighbours have come together with an exhibition that celebrates neighbourliness. They explore the simple pleasures of a kiwi backyard, while also highlighting how it can be difficult for neighbours to get along.

Greta McComb with a work from Over the Fence.
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FairfaxNZ

Greta McComb with a work from Over the Fence.

A Backyard Job features works by Sharron Martin, while Over the Fence is a series of works by Greta McComb. Their work aims to celebrate the backyard as a place of beauty, productivity, relaxation, renewal and sanctuary.

"Many a thing has been passed over the fence between our properties," Martin says. "Pets, a sideboard, carpet, a TV cabinet, that's what we do as neighbours."

From her backyard studio, Martin works with textiles, fibres and eco dyes, manipulating fabrics by hand in ways that transform them. 

A limited edition screen printed tea towel from A backyard Job by Sharron Martin.
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FairfaxNZ

A limited edition screen printed tea towel from A backyard Job by Sharron Martin.

"My display aims to celebrate our backyards; to treasure neighbourliness, growing produce, keeping pets, children's play and family relaxation using the combinations of earth, water, air and heat," Martin says.

Martin has sourced foliage from her backyard to naturally dye fabric. Foliage includes eucalyptus, the native broadleaf griselinia, the smoke bush (cotinus) , and mexican orange blossom. These are carefully boiled up in aluminium or cast iron pots; the metal in each pot adding to the colour and effect on the silk.  The results are twelve eco dyed works on silk fabric, stitched onto felt and mounted on blocks.

Another series which are embellished and collaged, make reference to the four classical Greek symbols of earth, air, water, heat.

Martin has also used text from original handwritten letters from one neighbour to another which she found on international public domain websites. These texts are screen printed onto tea towels, then pegged onto an old style Kiwi clothesline, within the gallery.

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"These printed messages highlight the visual and audible intolerances that can create tensions between neighbours world wide, often where the buffer zone of a backyard is not present," Martin says. "The backyard for many is just evaporating away."

McComb loves the natural world; her works include whimsical paintings in acrylic and watercolour.

"Neighbourly antics, community, diversity, gardening and friendship were all words of inspiration and the fence between our properties which is, for the most part, where we find ourselves stopping to have a chat, impart some advice or ask to borrow something," McComb says.

Her paintings make reference to our history; an old fashioned pram, a section of the Nelson Mail newspaper from 1945, an old teacup and saucer.

"The use of antiquated items such as the tea cup and newspaper is also a suggestion towards a shared love of old things between my neighbour and I, and to the viewer, connects us to our past," McComb says.

Alongside these are pencil observations of birds, including the fantail, tui and house sparrows, with the addition of a human element to create a narrative. 

"I love observing the birds in my garden and hearing them, to me they represent neighbourliness," McComb says. "But it's really up to each of us to relate to neighbours which is becoming a dying art." 

 A Backyard Job, Sharron Martin, Over the Fence, Greta McComb, Refinery ArtSpace, 3 Halifax St, Nelson, to June 10.

 - Stuff

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