Viv Kepes and MuKyung Jang describe their current exhibition as assuming the role of enthused anthropologists in the environment of Banks Peninsula and paying specific attention to its ecosystems and the precarious nature of the region, and - in a wider context, the state of planet earth.
Kepes’ interest is in a specific native plant, Carmichaelia corrugate, that she says was named by William Colenso (1811 – 1899), in 1883. In 2022, it is identified as vulnerable. Indeed, it has been assumed on a number of occasions to be extinct, yet rediscovered in 2020 by Christchurch ecologist Dr Melissa Hutchinson growing on a ridge overlooking Lyttleton Harbour.
The discovery is telling for Kepes whose paternal Great-grandmother was born in Akaroa in 1877 and her father, Captain Jacob Karulus of Le Bons Bay who arrived in Aotearoa with wife and family from Lithuania in 1875, establishing a dairy farm in Le Bons Bay. Kepes reflects on her descendents creating a new life for themselves in Aotearoa, and the native bush and biodiversity of a land and environment, cleared for farming. ‘I feel a part of me returning home after a long journey north. I dream of the land these ancestors encountered when they arrived in Canterbury nearly 150 years ago. I reflect on the impact that they, and many since, have had on it. My ancestors were one small family of many who cleared native forests to create their dairy farm. Today just one percent of these original native forests remain on Banks Peninsula.’
Kepes’ paintings celebrate the subtleties of the colour and beauty of Carmichaelia corrugate as a small, precious, plant. ‘My works are about trying to regenerate them, the exhibition being about bringing the invisible back into being. The backgrounds in these paintings are of tonal interest and deliberately, there is a short depth of field in my paintings. The works are painterly, they are not photographs. They are circular paintings in a row like windows or portholes and they are about a feeling.’
Mi Kyung Jang’s small sculptures are similarly respond to and draw from the land, the artist taking her clay from the Banks Peninsular region, her works both figurative and reflective, considered by the artist as an idea about both the small and wider context of her subjects in terms of the natural environment; ‘when we see the paper, we have to see the tree, the connections between everything are important. We are all connected together as one. I was raised in Korea, and had the good opportunity to see Nature and to understand this.’
For Voyage Beyond, Jang exhibits an extensive school of fish (species unidentified), working with terra cotta clay, and polishing the fired clay with a small stone to create distinct organic patina surfaces that encompass dyes formed from dried seaweed, orange and avocado skins, and salt .
‘The fish are imaginary, some are small and some are large. It is a circular work with a thought and a feeling that our minds are complicated. The connectedness of everything comes out in the many colours and shapes of these subjects, and I hope that visitors will take this as an invitation to reflect and think.’
Viv Kepes and MiKyung Jang, Voyage Beyond
Orion Powerhouse Gallery
1 Rue Pompallier, Akaroa,
15 October - 6 November
1. Viv Kepes, I always catch my breath, 2022, oil on board
2. Mikyung Yang, Fish, 2022, , 2022, size variable, pit fired clay with organic ingredients, gold leaf