Solid support for pastel artistry

Last updated 12:28 04/04/2014
Southland Times photo
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
Pastel Artists of New Zealand national convention and exhibition organiser Lyn Henry and Southland Museum and Art Gallery co-ordinator Tracey Wedge prepare the work of artist Tony Allain, ahead of Invercargill hosting the national pastel exhibition.

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Pastel artists will descend on Invercargill this weekend for the first national pastel convention held in the city. Lauren Hayes reports.

When it comes to the big hitters of art, pastels are sometimes missed off the list.

Often overlooked in favour of more immediately shocking works - the thick globs of Impressionist oil paint, for example, or sharks preserved in formaldehyde - pastels are solidly clawing out a following in the modern scene.

New Zealand's pastel artists' society, acronymed to PANZ, boasts more than 270 members up and down the country, including a strong showing in Southland.

There's even the worldwide organisation, the International Association of Pastel Societies, dedicated to demonstrating the "validity" of pastel art.

Validity is a pretty strong word, again signalling perhaps some don't take the art form seriously.

Art lovers should, at the very least, consider pastel. The medium rose to prominence during the Renaissance, and hasn't died off yet. The global association has more than 70 member societies, from countries as diverse as Russia, Spain and Ireland, who produce a wide variety of work.

The profile of pastels is set to get a boost, at least in Southland, when Invercargill plays host to the Pastel Artists of New Zealand national convention and exhibition at the weekend.

It will be a first for the city, after the range of locations considered for hosting the convention was widened a few years ago.

Co-organiser John Cutt said hosting the national event, which includes workshops and demonstrations by artists working in the medium, would be exciting for the province.

As well as a strong focus on the art, the convention would include a formal dinner, where pastellists could chat and network, and a keynote presentation by Dunedin artist Janet de Wagt.

Participants would also get a bus tour of the region's art highlights - the Eastern Southland Gallery in Gore, a couple of galleries in Riverton and a look at the outside of Anderson Park, Mr Cutt said.

"It'll be a full-on three or four days."

The three "major drawcards" of the convention were de Wagt, pastel artist Tony Allain and master pastellist Maxine Thompson, but the exhibition would feature the work of a variety of artists, Mr Cutt said.

The Pastel Artists of New Zealand national convention will be held in Invercargill from today until Monday , while the exhibition will continue at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery until June 1.

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- The Southland Times

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