top of page
  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

MFA, Aug 2-9 2021

Crit presentation of Impressions of Mountain, Forest and Sea; Artists Mike Pine and Hemi Macgregor; Territories and Boundaries.

1. Crit Presentation of Impressions of Mountain, Forest and Sea

For this crit I briefly introduced the work Impressions of Mountain, Forest and Sea (a departure for me!) -

"In this installation I'm exploring the dynamic quality of space, where our movements and memories are experienced in a non-linear, relational way. This work retraces the installation I held in this space last semester, Mountain, Forest and Sea."

Installation of Impression of Mountain, Forest, and Sea -

(i) Details of Impression of Forest:

The two rubbed prints of the charred log were hung delicately in the center of the room by white thread, illuminated by fluorescent lighting above. This was where the burnt log had been before so I placed an 'X' on the pillar and floor to mark the spot where the log made contact with the room in the previous work. The prints however didn't line up exactly and this slippage from the log's original position mirrored the iterative process of memory making i.e. the slipping and shifting as moments are recorded and recalled and re-recorded.

The tissue paper swayed with the movement of air currents from the aircon and as people moved around the art. People touched the threads and knots and remembered the log from the previous work. It was wonderful to see people connect with the artwork.

(ii) Detail of Impression of Mountain:

Originally I suspended the tissue artwork of the mountain in place but removed it as it felt too much in the room and an unnecessary distraction for the viewer. This meant the 'X's I had marked on the floor, were the only memory trace of the previous work. The crosses came out a little disorientated which I really liked (memories slipping again). I am intrigued still about the notion of non-repeating patterns.

I noticed how people stood and really observed the crosses to try to discern a pattern. Shannon said they referenced topographical maps and positionality. I am not sure if anyone had seen the previous stone work in this group so was surprised how powerful simple marks on the floor seemed to be.

(iii) Sky and Sea:

For this element I hung 50-60 strands of white thread from the ceiling to the floor in a double 'V' pattern formed by the ceiling tiles in the corner where the two blue Sky and Sea pastel works had been placed. The threads fell to the floor like rain and held an ethereal quality given their almost-invisibility (thanks to the white of the wall and ceiling). Two 'X's marked the previous works placement on the floor and wall. I initially suspended the 'sea' tissue paper in the threads but felt they just didn't work so removed them (too much in the room and an unnecessary distraction for the viewer).

From a distance it was quite hard to discern the threads and people seemed surprised as they approached the corner. Up close the strands moved in response to people's movements and clung to their clothes which I liked. I watched people interact with it, smiling. It was surprisingly more successful than I had thought it might be.

(iv) Other pattern elements:

To cement pattern into the installation I introduced a playful interpretation of the ceiling pattern onto the floor, linking the space between. The grid pattern is obviously loaded with meaning (i.e. Western colonisation and dominance over nature) which seemed important to include in this relational exploration of my/our space in Aotearoa. I had been restrained in how much I did, and used only one portion of a room filled with delicious crack marks.

People seemed genuinely interested in this work, stopping to look at it and a number asked if I had done it - was it part of the installation? I think they liked the way it stopped at the cracks and how it spoke to the distortions operating on the building by unseen physical forces.

For me, the lines interacting with the cracks in the floor also allowed other movements and memories held in the landscape of Aotearoa to be part of the conversation of this space; memories of colonisation that fractured the 'space' of tangata whenua and their connection to the land and all its life forms.

I also introduced two plywood boxes to allow the audience to sit and reflect, thus bringing them into the installation too. The boxes solid sculptural form served to anchor the installation and their simple construction mirrored its minimalist style.

It was interesting watching people move round the space (there was so much emptiness), engaging with discrete works that were themselves delicate, ethereal and empty. The relationality between the works was not explicit, but allowed the audience to decipher their own meaning of the quality that linked them together. Hamish saw the way typography (the 'X's) linked the works, Shannon saw the relational dynamics of space and how space and work are one. He said it recalled topographical maps, territoriality and positionality, others saw how the marks and memories from others installations had been invited into the installation. Others welcomed the sound of 'white noise' coming from the aircon which they felt was in keeping with the installation.

I explained how this installation spoke to the memory of Mountain, Forest and Sea and of my intention to layer future installations into this space also. This will, hopefully, invoke the "dynamical flow of time-consciousness", described by Gallagher and Zahavi as having a fractal structure ("Fractality captures the self-similarity of a structure: constituting parts resemble the whole they form across multiple scales of observation or “zooms”". Vrobel imagines this re-assemblage as nesting 'nows', "in which “nows” (threefold structures) are nested into each other, and can be thought as different timescales or “levels of description”).

I was really grateful for people's willingness to engage and share their experiences.

Feedback from Crit


  • space is dynamic and spacious, not telling me what to think (like previous works)

  • responding to space, et al collection ... work made in space - space and work are one

  • gestures of mapping processes, demarcating space, act of locating/marking things out/ territorialisation


  • no reference to anything else - conceptual, transposable

  • suggested artist Matt Pine


  • extreme minimalism, how shape of room used as a frame

  • strings are traces left to see in room

  • silence... aircon...white noise

  • Hamish: Crystal Gondola typography (x's) voice for communicating, how typography is an active voice for the room

  • Mel Bokna post war conceptual artist

  • memories of previous works... Lay in Measures artists Megan Brady and Ed Ritchie

2. NZ Artists

(i) MIKE PINE (Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa).

Line, Matt Pine 2016, Tape. Sourced Te Papa

Centre Line, Matt Pine 2016, Tape. Sourced Te Papa

Centre Line, Matt Pine 2016, Nylon and metal weight. Sourced Te Papa

Brickwork, Matt Pine 2016, Tape. Sourced Te Papa

O Series No.3, Matt Pine 1979, Metal, rope, rocks, cloth. Sourced Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua

Colourwork Series, Matt Pine 1972, Perspex and nylon. Sourced Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua

Untitled, Matt Pine 1975, Felt pen on paper. Sourced Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua

Born in Whanganui and internationally trained in England and America., Pine was influenced by British constructivism and American minimalist sculpture. His artworks "eliminate all non-essential features to find a subject’s very essence.” (Te Papa). This is no understatement as Matt’s aesthetic is really, really pared down. Quite stunningly so.

From the 1970s, Pine began to include “references to Māori and Pacific cultural forms, particularly architecture." (Te Papa). In 1978, he installed Placement Projects at the Auckland Art Gallery using everyday materials like aluminium pipe and black tape to create minimalist, site-specific works that explored a sense of place. In 2009 Matt was invited by Te Papa "to create new installations in response to the precise shapes and limited colours in Ralph Hotere’s and Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings". Line of Circles is from this exhibition. It is both simple and complex; as if an understanding of the subject’s essence is on the tip of your tongue yet still hard to grasp. I am intrigued by this conundrum of minimalist art.

In Lines of Circles, Matt has drawn 3 equal sized circles in tape. Two circles are positioned on the wall yet touch the floor, and they are joined along their rim. The third circle is drawn on the floor and connected to the left wall circle as it meets the floor. Each circle is divided into different ratios: 4(1/4); 1/4+¾; and 3(1/4)+2(1/8). These internal divisions provide lines that serve to link the circles.

Is the junction between wall and floor an horizon line? Does the vertical wall represent the place of living and the horizontal floor a place of resting or shadow? The circles describe cycles and revolutions – are these of our lives, or the cosmos? Does the internal division of the circles represent divisions of time and space? I struggle to see architectural forms in the work, and am provided an insight via Auckland Art Gallery’s description of Pine’s later works as ”an ongoing series of personal laments and memorials for his whanaunga (relatives) killed during World War II.”.

Pine’s later works gave voice to the toll of human-induced crises on people, land and ecologies.


A wonderful, heartfelt talk by artist Hemi Macgregor (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tūhoe, Pākehā) -

“It’s important to learn how to speak from your heart, after twenty years of being an artist I am only becoming comfortable with this responsibility, I say this now to you because the world needs artists to talk from their hearts.”

“Being an artist is a gift that is handed to us from our tupuna, it is a gift that must be nurtured and honoured or it will wither without light. When we create we return like a tap root into the darkness of the earth to the origins of our own creation, if we achieve excellence in our creativity we in turn are nurtured because in truth the excellence achieved is our honouring of the legacy of our tupuna.”

Sharing his experience of working on the new Te Rau Karamu Marae on Pukeahu Campus at Massey University in Wellington, Hemi spoke of entering Te Po, the Darkness, in order to protect himself as he created. These images from Massey's website are testament to the raw potency and contemporary aesthetics of the marae, which is nestled so thoughtfully into space, place and site.

Hemi's work is painterly while woven with patterns inherent in Maori textiles as his explores space and cosmology. These images are from his 2021 exhibition at Mahara Gallery


Cassandra Barnett has written a beautiful short essay on The magic is not in territory. This is about how space has changed due to Covid, and her attempts to manage this new dimension of space between her and others which is filled with words that enter and punctate our inner being. It is a style of writing I really like - inner, outer, metaphors for feelings ....

"It has been a time of intensified territoriality. The virus tipped the balance, but I feel like we were already on our way there. At any rate, the virus and its associated bubbles, distancings and quarantines heightened my awareness of proliferating exclusionary practices and vocabularies.

I took to recirding the sords in watercolour as I heard them. Softly rematerialising them. Gethering them together. Trying to see the brute mass of it, to feel the mood and the thrust of it. But trying to hold onto their singularities too. I leaned both ways. Wanting to see a pattern. Wanting to see the differences: nuances of speaker and agenda and community and usage. I preserved snippets of the phrases in which I had heard to read these words. I recorded who said them and where.

It's not that I'm against this, or want wide open - dangerous- freedoms. I want tapu and noa. I want boundaries that are manged by experts. Tohanga. Brilliantly, majestically, artfully. There was one quote I wanted to paint but I didn't. Maaori Marsden: 'But do they know how to stitch it back together?' These words, in his book The Woven Universe, were from his Nga Puhi elders. They were in no way mine, I didn't have permission. And perhaps it was wrong anyway. Like a punchline or a riposte to the rest, but it fails. Because no, we don't know how. These words didn't want puncturing, answering, anyway. They just wanted holding up.

Mostly, I was trying to render those slightly terrifying close-down words into something small and real and manageable again. Like a wand-waving magic trick. These? oh, just words that dot uttered - or typed, or read, or performed - at a moment in time. Nothing more. Just words.

But it grew, and became a net of intersecting points. Each word a knot. A strange weave of my own.

I hoist a pole and prop another corner, and in this way keep the grid, the web, of closures, protections and barriers vaguely aloft. I hold it up to keep it from collapsing in on me and mine. To let fresh air penetrate our shrinking habitable zone. And, of course, to hold things out too. It looms close overhead but maintains a width, an airborne, swooping quality. A crawlspace. Somewhere to check our language, our safety, our complicities, to the bitter end."


bottom of page