Artists at work

JUDITH RITCHIE
Last updated 14:31 02/04/2014
Lawrence Walterfang
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
ACCESSIBLE: Lawrence Walterfang making a piece of jewellery from greenstone.

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Two artists have spent their first week as Artists in Residence at Icon Gallery and Sculpture Garden in Upper Moutere.

Both agree it has been a positive move. Janis Holland, a sculptor and wood carver and Lawrence Walterfang, a greenstone carver are working from two purpose built studios in the grounds of Icon.

Artist residencies are part of director Neville Parker's long term vision for Icon being a place where people can experience art first hand.

"It's about people seeing art being made, connecting with the artists and learning," says Parker. "Also about fostering emerging artists, while they're here they are also running a business."

The artists work autonomously from their studios, selling work as an independent business. As well, Parker shares his vision about what he is building at Icon, along with business acumen. The artists stay at Icon for an open ended period of time. Parker plans to build further studios and envisages a cluster of studios developing over time, with artists working in a variety of mediums and art practises.

Artists are expected to be professional and use their studios daily, as Parker feels this reflects on their work and maximises opportunities for selling their work to an "elite tourist market" by consistently "making really good stuff."

Janis Holland recently studied at the Learning Connection in Wellington completing an Advanced Diploma of Art and Creativity, specialising in metal sculpture. She had previously been a wood carver and has begun work on her first piece in wood since 2009. She is carving a large piece of maitai, a dense hard native, with bird and grape motifs on it.

"After four years of focusing on course requirements, I started carving again, tiny pieces in bone," she says. "Now I'm enthusiastic about getting into wood, the possibilities are very exciting."

The chance to be in residence at Icon provides a practical solution for Holland as well, who can still make steel sculptures in her studio in Nelson.

" I can't do woodcarving and steel in the same workshop, it's too dangerous mixing welding with wood chips and saw dust," says Holland. " Icon allows me to separate the two, and focus on woodcarving at the moment."

Another advantage for Holland has been mixing with other people, gallery visitors as well as other artists.

"It's such fun, bouncing ideas off, talking to people, it's wider than ones own art practice."

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Showing visitors how art is made also demonstrates that they are not mass produced, something Holland believes is important to buyers today.

"There can be a disassociation when buying art work, whereas seeing it being made opens up opportunities, it may even inspire other people to go off and do something themselves."

Lawrence Walterfang studied traditional woodcarving in Germany, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, before coming to New Zealand in 1999. He then studied industrial design at Massey University, but came back to carving again.

In his studio at Icon he works quietly, carving greenstone, bone and jade neck pieces, some making reference to Maori symbols, others to New Zealand whales, fantails and tuataras. Sometimes his work is so fine, one can see through the greenstone when held up to the light, revealing veins of different colours. Other carvings in wood inlaid with jade are in Maori designs with gothic european influences.

Walterfang is convinced that allowing visitors to see artists at work is pivotal in their decision to buy.

"It absolutely makes a huge difference," he says. "People like to know the source, that the art is not made overseas, but right here."

He also enjoys being his own boss, and having the exposure offered by working at a busy gallery where tourist buses and visitors frequent.

"It's great, I really enjoy when people come in, it may be a disruption in the work flow, but the benefits are worth it."

He plans to stay at Icon and make the commitment for a few years.

"I want to be accessible to more people all of the time."

Artists in Residence, Janis Holland, Lawrence Walterfang, Icon Gallery & Sculpture Garden, 1280 Moutere Highway, Upper Moutere, Nelson.

- Nelson

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