A lively debate on the good oil

It's free entry to tonight's Monica Brewster evening in New Plymouth.

From 6pm, artist Maddie Leach will lead a lively conversation at the Govett-Brewster about her project, If you find the good oil let us know. The discussion will be open to some of the people involved, including Taranaki Daily News deputy editor Robert Mitchell, Massey University School of Fine Art associate professor David Cross, and project curator Mercedes Vicente.

A graduate of the University of Canterbury sculpture department in the early 1990s, Leach is senior lecturer at Massey College of Creative Arts in Wellington. She is the Govett-Brewster's 2011-12 New Zealand artist in residence.

When Massey University closed its engineering school in Wellington, it disposed of 70 litres of supposed "whale oil" which had been used in quenching tanks. New owner Leach thought it should be returned to the sea.

The search for the authenticity of the "whale oil", the Used Oil Product Stewardship Scheme run by the Holcim cement plant in Westport, and a little red book titled Letters from New Plymouth 1843 are among the leads that ignited Leach's project.

In January, readers of letters to the Taranaki Daily News were introduced to a curious narrative, composed by multiple authors and appearing sporadically. In early February, observant passersby would have noticed the appearance of Leach's title, If you find the good oil let us know, painted across the top of the Govett-Brewster's facade.

Taranaki Daily News