Solo Exhibition by Marilyn Rea- Menzies
27/04/2023 – 29/05/2023
We are very privileged to be hosting another opportunity for people to view Marilyn Rea-Menzies’ powerful exhibition – Extinction Is Forever. What a timely body of work and how wonderful to bring it to Taranaki as we work to restore our biota and flora as a community.
Linley Wellington has crafted a review of the Exhibition at ‘from out of the blue studio gallery’. As Marilyn lives in Westport and is unable to travel to us for this event Linley chatted with her on the phone:
I learn many things by osmosis, for example, when I visit galleries and exhibitions I observe and listen. People around me are invariably having serious discussions or differing interpretations that are both interesting and perplexing. I converse with them in my head, endless questions about what they seem to be seeing.
When Viv, from out of the blue studio gallery in Opunake, presented me with an opportunity to talk to Marilyn Rea-Menzies about her exhibition ‘Extinction is Forever’ I jumped at the chance. One of New Zealand’s leading textile artists, Marilyn’s exhibitions, commissions and collaborations are recognized nationally and internationally.
I read reviews and visited websites. Vast amounts of information are available detailing Marilyn’s influences and her impressive body of work. Articles discuss her process, imagery and the multiple talents she draws on to complete her tapestries.
Details about her life piqued my interest, providing a springboard for a lively discussion that proved Marilyn to be an impressively agile conversationalist and a very good sport. Lovely stories fleshed out the person she is and has clearly always been. Determined, independent and generous. Two year old Marilyn painted the wash house walls with a slurry of washing powder and black shoe polish. Teenage Marilyn studied art and history by correspondence at a small country school where, she cheerfully pointed out, she was the only 6th former and therefore also the Head Prefect!
Snippets of information resonated immediately. Inviting clients to cut their finished work from the loom to a background of corks popping made perfect sense. Revealing a piece that may have taken up to a year to complete should be a moment of triumph and high drama.
All through her life when there was no one to teach her Marilyn taught herself, as she says ‘driven by a real need to do art’. She believes drawing is the basis of all good work, teaching us to look at the world in a different way by training the eye to see accurately.
I was curious how an artist feels sending their work out into the world and Marilyn admitted it can be tempered with some sadness. Quickly adding the sadness was balanced by the pleasure of giving someone a work to enjoy which may add to their knowledge and awareness thereby helping to make the world a better place. Ever pragmatic, she added as an afterthought that you should always have something else coming along to start on.
Marilyn ended our conversation with two comments I am still thinking about. The first is that everyone in front of a work of art is recreating it from their own experience and secondly she believes art is the legacy we leave behind. It is how we know the past and how future generations will know us.
So if you have the chance visit her exhibition, stand in front of the intricately woven kokako cloak then pivot and gaze at the exquisitely drawn and painted images vividly portraying the critical state of many of our flora and fauna. Talk to a stranger about what they see. I guarantee you will go home with questions and maybe some answers too.
Marilyn Rea-Menzies is an artist whose professional skills stretch across several unique disciplines, from tapestry to painting, drawing and printing. Her specialist area is in fibre art and the creation of spectacular wall hangings that grace many collections throughout the country and overseas.
One of these is to be found at Government House, Wellington—a tapestry screen for the Drawing Room, commissioned by Lady Susan Satyanand and gifted to the government on the retirement of her husband’s tenure as Governor General of New Zealand.
She has also worked collaboratively with leading New Zealand artists like Philip Trusttum, Julia Morison and Don Driver, interpreting their design creations and working them up into fibre art works, two of which were purchased by the Christchurch City Art Gallery.
Her skills and standing in this field have been recognized internationally with an invitation to exhibit her work at the Canadian Tapestry and Textile Centre in Ontario, in 2019.
This current show at from out of the blue studio gallery, entitled ‘Extinction is Forever’, reflects the artist’s environmental concerns for the flora and fauna of this country at a critical time in our history when species management of endangered birds and animals are of pressing importance.
The artist’s love of nature, birds in particular, (which feature strongly in the exhibition), reaches back to her child- hood, growing up on the West Coast near the native bush line. Such an early encounter with the natural world has stayed with the artist all her life, and in this show she has given voice to the current concerns to do with ecology and conservation, matters needing to be addressed as planetary problems become even more acute.
Using a cloak format as her structure, a configuration which signifies protection and mana, Rea-Menzies has depicted various endangered birds, the Kokako, Kieke and Hihi among them, and composed them in such a way as to alert us to the ongoing need for the safeguard of these rare and threatened creatures. In doing so she has employed both a realist and stylized method of representation together with a touch of abstraction to carry her imagery. She has also employed a dual compositional device whereby both presentation of live birds and dead birds are juxtaposed in the same work, the later complete with name tags as per museum practise.
About 50 native birds have become extinct since human habitation and artist’s work, which includes paintings and charcoal drawings, depicting the scourge of plastic, is a timely reminder of conservation work still left to do.
There is an illustrated catalogue to accompany this exhibition which is available through ‘from out of the blue studio gallery’.
More information about the Artist Marilyn Rea-Menzies and her processes can be found on http://www.tapestry.co.nz/
or on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100032893856158
Marilyn’s Instagram is https://www.instagram.com/marilynreamenzies/?hl=en