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The Poetry of Objects #1

The Poetry of Objects #1: Thirty seven piece Branksome Dinner set

Cold mornings are to lift me to your smile,
This bird boned tableware, so thin, light weight,
Your gracious, timely action, full of style.

So curl your hands ‘neath powder blue, and wile,
And cup a cloud of steam against your face,
Cold mornings are to lift me to your smile.

We teacups wear no halos, sure, but I’ll
Reglaze the blue of Mary’s baked in grace
Her timeless gesture, classy, full of style,

As families grow more stories pile up, while
Boards groan with hued ceramics song ‘till late,
When summer nights are to lift me to your smile.

The gravy tide, it lifts all boats on high
So raise a toast to bread and butter plates,
Sunday roasts are to lift me to your smile,
A timeless set. So classy. Full of style.

By Tampa O’Connor for Gizzy Local

* The Poetry of Objects is a creative marketing collaboration between local business ‘Retro’ and writer Tampa O’Connor.
Each month we will be provided with a photograph of an object or collection of objects from Ro Darrall’s shop Retro and our in-house poet will provide a poetic response to it.

** This poem is a Villanelle, an old form of poetry defined by its structure. The most famous example is by Dylan Thomas, “do not go gentle into that good night.”

** Ekphrastic poetry is a form of poetry that emerged in ancient Greece whereby writers aspired to transform the visual into the verbal especially to describe Art. Today, the word ekphrastic refers to any literary response to a non-literary work.

*** Special thanks to Ro Darrall from Retro for supporting local creatives through Gizzy Local.

You can follow Ro on Instagram @retro.ro.gisborne or find her on Facebook.

MEREMERE – A MULTIMEDIA JAM

Choreographer Malia Johnston is all about collaboration.

She’s the director of Meremere, a multimedia performance that tells deeply personal stories from the life of dancer Rodney Bell (Ngāti Maniapoto). The show is sometimes seen as a dance performance but there’s much more to it, Malia says “it’s actually theatre, a new way of telling a story, and as such it draws a more diverse crowd than traditional dance”.

Rodney performs in his wheelchair but he isn’t defined by his disability rather, it’s his ability to sustain a career in the performing arts. Malia says there are not many dancers still dancing in their late 40s – he’s had the longest career of any dancer that she has known, “The opportunities for dancers with access needs might be more limited but that doesn’t seem to be the case for Rodney.”

Joining Rodney onstage is a live band (fronted by Eden Mulholland, who wrote the songs) and live projection designed by Rowan Pierce.  This is where the collaboration comes in. “It’s like jamming with a band,” Malia says about the way they created this show, “everyone throws in their ideas and we pull out the cool stuff.”

During the creative jams Rodney would tell them stories and Eden would respond intuitively with music. Malia says “Rodney is very funny. And engaging, when he tells stories about his life living on the street (in San Francisco), or his dancing stories, his stories of predicaments he’s come across  in his life – which are many – but they’re very funny as well, we have a lot of fun working with him.”

He’s also very generous as a performer, answering questions from the audience after each show. People often ask about being a dancer who is in a wheelchair, which, Malia says, is an extension of his body “An able bodied person probably perceives the problem with it and the emotional relationship to what that means, but from his perspective he sees it as this highly engineered piece of equipment that enables him to do what he wants to do.” As a choreographer Malia describes the chair as a “fantastic manoeuvring device – it’s fantastic for choreography because it glides, it’s got beautiful movement in terms of what’s possible, like skateboarding or rollerblading.”

Each show is slightly different because of the live music and because the projection has to be mapped to each new venue they play in, essentially collaborating with the architecture as well. Years ago it was expensive to hire a projector but it is becoming cheaper and cheaper. The technology is becoming more accessible and Malia encourages young people who are working with technology to collaborate with people in other disciplines.

“If you’re learning to master one discipline it’s really good to play with that skill set in relation to others in many territories… when you’re collaborating with people it teaches you more about what you can do in your own field, it opens up opportunities. We can add value to other people’s environments.”

Meremere will play at the War Memorial Theatre on October 12 and 13. Get your tickets here: https://tetairawhitiartsfestival.nz/events/meremere

Rodney Bell will also be doing a movement workshop at the YMCA on October 13.

AARON COMPTON WRITES ABOUT FOUR LEGGED ART

When Torri Stewart’s husband tried to take a photo of Sid Vicious he got bitten. 

Sid Vicious was my dog. Torri is a pet portraitist.  Under the moniker Four Legged Art, she draws character-filled portraits of beloved furry family members, using coloured pencils and watercolours.

Throughout her life Torri has drawn portraits of the pets of friends and family members — often as memorials, after the animals had died — and on seeing how much pleasure people got from her art she wanted to do more. It wasn’t until she came to Gisborne, however, that she started to make a business from her talent. 

“What amazes me about Gisborne is that when people come here, instead of just doing what they do, they start exploring what they could do. I reckon it’s tapped into that entrepreneurial spirit people have,”

Torri and her young family moved to Gisborne two years ago after her husband, a food technologist, began working for Leaderbrand.

“It’s so beautiful here, it makes you stop and appreciate where you are and that makes you reflect on what you’re doing. That’s it for me anyway, the beaches definitely did that for me.”

Originally from Scotland, Torri has always been fascinated by art. She wanted to study art at high school but the timing clashed with a science class she had chosen. At university she did art history papers as well as English literature, and the love of art stayed with her.

Art activities with her children made her think about taking it more seriously.

“I was sitting with the kids, doing a little arts session, and after a number of these sessions, where I discovered I was still sitting at the table drawing after the kids had moved onto another activity, I realised that I was really, really enjoying it, so I started thinking–  why can’t I do more art?”

Creation of art has positive outcomes for mental wellbeing and mindfulness, and this was also something Torri wanted to explore. 

“So I drew a duck, I drew a horse, just to see if I could. The portraits I’d done in the past had all been black and white pencil, so I thought: I’m going to try doing them in coloured pencil. It was lovely to discover I could do it.”

After this initial success Torri contacted some friends and asked if they’d be interested in commissioning portraits as Christmas presents. That was the beginning, and it took off from there.

“I did say if you don’t like it you don’t have to pay for it. But they turned out really well.”

And so, Four Legged Art was born.

Now that she’s established her process, Torri says that working from photos, she can take a so-so image and make it into something special.

“The best portraits I do are from really good photos, but if you give me a very blurred picture I can create a portrait from that, just without the fine detail. Often it’s those portraits that can trigger an emotional reaction more in the owners because all they’ve had to look at is a blurry photo. When I isolate the animal from that photo and do a picture of them, the mind kind of fills in the gaps. It makes a lot of people cry. There’s not many jobs that measure success in tears.”

It’s particularly emotional when the pet has a sad story, as with rescue dogs. Torri says this is part of why she was determined to give something back. 

“It’s a measure of how much people love these animals, when they want to spend money on a portrait, and my thinking was: there are all these horses and dogs and cats and rabbits that don’t have that level of love, so it would be nice to take some of that and invest it back across,”

As well as donating some of her income to the SPCA, Torri has worked with Wellington Rabbit Rescue. She’s drawn a few of their rabbits and also designed Super Binky Bunny, a character used on promotional and fund-raising material.

Torri’s plans for the future involve more fine art projects based around local beaches.

“I’m fascinated by objects on the beach and the way you can walk on the beach and look down and it’s like someone has created this perfect composition. I’d love to get into drawing those.”

She says her experiences in Gisborne, and the people she’s met here, made her realise that’s what’s possible is what you decide to do.

“That made me question what I want to do and I realised I get a lot of pleasure from art.”

This writer can vouch for the pleasure her art gives to others. Her portrait of Sid Vicious, R.I.P., hangs in a prime position in my house. 

Torri’s husband has made a full recovery.

To order your own unique artwork contact Torri on her facebook page

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