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  • Writer's pictureAmy Couling

Curate Me Exhibition

The opening night with my piece 梅雨 | Tsuyu and Gretchen Albrecht's Changes/Spans

The Curate Me exhibition's opening night was on 28 September at PG Gallery. Unfortunately due to Level 2 it had to be a private opening with just the artists, their guests and staff invited. It basically turned into a big Ara reunion on the night and it was really fun to catch up with everyone.

The concept behind Curate Me was created by Julie Humby, curator of the Ara Art Collection, which boasts over 700 works of local artists. The Ara Art Collection was established in 1935 and it is one of the earliest collections held by a tertiary institution in Aotearoa New Zealand.

For Curate Me, Julie handpicked around 50 artworks from the collection for Ara alumni, graduates and staff to pick their favourites from and respond to in their chosen mediums. Out of all of the response works submitted, 23 of them were selected for the final exhibition, including my A2 size gouache on paper work titled 梅雨 | Tsuyu.

Curate Me exhibition

The artwork I chose to respond to from the Ara Art Collection was Gretchen Albrecht’s piece titled Changes/Span made in 1984. I was instantly drawn to this artwork because of its elegant fan shape and the beautiful tones of blues and turquoises in it. I immediately envisioned a Japanese woman in kimono holding a sensu folding fan surrounded by all of those blues.

My first digital concept sketch of Tsuyu

I started planning my painting in June when we had an unusual amount of rain that lasted for over a week. This made me think of Japan’s rainy season which was just around the same time during the months of May, June and July.

I wanted to showcase the different gradients of blues from Albrecht’s work in my painting, and there was no better flower to use than the Japanese ajisai or hydrangea which absolutely thrives in the rainy season conditions of Japan.

Details of Tsuyu

Another interesting addition to the exhibition was that it had an app to go with it, which was designed by Alan Hoskin. The Actionbound App was a way for the audience to interact more with our artwork by seeing the behind the scenes content that we had created for it.

Every artist involved submitted something for the app, whether it was writing about their artwork, submitting a video, photos or even music to listen to while looking at the art.

Keep reading to see the images and writing that I put into the app!

The final touch to my painting - my hanko signature stamp

Tsuyu (梅雨) means rainy season in Japanese and it could be called Japan’s fifth season as it is a significant weather event there every year. The rainy season occurs within the months of May, June and July amidst the summer heat and humidity.

Ajisai hydrangeas in the Botanic Gardens

Ajisai (紫陽花) or hydrangea flowers thrive in the rainy season, blooming in beautiful gradients of blues, purples, whites and pinks. They are a native flower to Japan and the colours of the flowers can change depending on the acidity of the soil they grow in.

My Mum's sensu folding fan

The kanji for the word tsuyu in Japanese combines the characters of ume (梅) plum and ame (雨) rain together. The reason for this is said to be that in the olden days in Japan, people would know the rainy season was going to start once the ume fruit were ripe on the trees during May and June.

The sensu (扇子) folding fan in the painting is one that my mother owns, and it depicts ume flowers on it.

My Mum's furisode kimono tied with a fukura suzume knot

The woman in the portrait is wearing a furisode (振袖) kimono, which is the most formal and gorgeous kimono that young women can wear. Furisode means ‘swinging sleeves’ because the sleeves of the kimono are very long and the patterns and colours of the kimono are usually bright and eye-catching.

The furisode kimono is most often worn by young women on their seijinshiki (成人式), which is known as the coming of age ceremony in Japan. Twenty year olds across the country celebrate becoming adults as they can legally drink alcohol and vote at this age.

The obi (帯) sash on a kimono can be tied into many different knots according to the occasion. The knot depicted in the painting is called fukura suzume (ふくら雀) and it is a common way to tie the obi for furisode kimono.

Holding Tsuyu up in my shibori dyed yukata

I loved painting this big piece and I especially enjoyed painting it during the rainy days we had here that coincided with Japan’s rainy season.

Gouache is a water based medium and I loved doing watercolour-like effects with the hydrangeas while making the background an opaque and beautiful shade of indigo.

Indigo has long been an important colour in Japan as it has been used in ancient shibori tie dying techniques. Shibori dyeing cannot be done without water, and you can see the amazing effects it makes in the yukata (summer kimono) I am wearing above.

Rain, shibori, water and the colour blue were the main themes in Tsuyu.

梅雨 | Tsuyu

Thank you to everyone who went to see my painting in person! I really appreciate your support and I hope you liked this piece and finding out the context behind it.

It's quite rare to be able to show at a dealer gallery when you're not one of their artists, so it was a really special and exciting opportunity that I was honoured to be a part of. A big thank you to Julie Humby, Alan Hoskin, the Ara team and the staff at PG Gallery for all of their hard work in putting this show together!

The Curate Me exhibition was on at PG Gallery from 28 September - 15 October

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