Symposium ushers in new dawn for collectors

STONE SCULPTURE: Tanika Hodson, 7, was impressed with Malcolm Sowerby's Still Thinking sculpture.
STONE SCULPTURE: Tanika Hodson, 7, was impressed with Malcolm Sowerby's Still Thinking sculpture.

John and Lynda Matthews' art collection is beginning to rise from the ashes.

Last week the couple lost a lifetime collection of art in a midnight fire that gutted their Omata home and destroyed between 200 and 300 pieces of art.

The fire caused what has been described as the single biggest loss of significant New Zealand contemporary art ever.

Although the couple are still coming to terms with the loss of their home and their irreplaceable artworks, just days after the blaze the family has purchased a piece for their new collection.

Still Thinking, a stone sculpture by New Zealand's Malcolm Sowerby, was created on the foreshore as a part of the Te Kupenga Stone Sculpture Symposium.

At auction on Saturday the couple bought the much talked about piece.

"We are very pleased to have it," Mrs Matthews said.

The work is the first they have purchased since the loss of their collection, which included works by Ralph Hotere, Colin McCahon and Taranaki's Don Driver.

However, Still Thinking was not the first artwork in the family's new collection, Mrs Matthews said.

Taranaki artist Stephen Te-Kotuku Komene, who worked as a security guard at their Omata property after the fire, has painted a piece for the couple.

Mrs Matthews said the work depicted the "most beautiful" representation of the burnt site.

"That is our first work, and the stone is our second," she said.

Andrea Connor, a member of the Te Kupenga Stone Sculpture Society, said she was touched to learn the Matthews family had started to rebuild their collection.

"And it is so nice to know they have started with a piece from our symposium," she said.

The sculptor had two of her own pieces in the auction, Abundance and New Beginnings, and said it was strange to sell work she was so connected to.

"It's sort of like selling your baby. You put so much of yourself into it and then when you let it go you get this pang, but you also get excited too - because the work is going to a new home," she said.

Around 300 people attended the auction, with the highest-priced item selling for more than $10,000.

Out of the 44 pieces on auction at the event, 37 of them sold on the day.

Liz Bridgeman, chairwoman of Te Kupenga Stone Sculpture Society, said the international artists who were a part of the symposium had enjoyed the level of public interaction during the event.

"And we were blessed with the best day of summer for the auction. We had a very good turnout and we are all saying this is the best symposium we have ever held.

"The public support has been great."

Taranaki Daily News