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Indepth Arts News:

"Tapestries and Decoupage Murals by Kate Wells"
2005-08-20 until 2005-10-02
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu
Christchurch, , NZ New Zealand (Aotearoa)

An exhibition of eagerly awaited new work by artist Kate Wells opens Saturday, 20 August at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu. Toured by Milford House Limited, The Hunt combines drawing, photography and découpage with the ancient art of woven tapestry. “Many people will remember Kate’s last, hugely popular, touring exhibition, Fish Out of Water,” says Contemporary Art Curator Felicity Milburn. ”Her new work engages with the long history of tapestry-making, but also considers many of the environmental and ecological issues currently affecting New Zealanders.” The Hunt follows the sequence of the remarkable Hunt of the Unicorn tapestry cycle (c. 1495 – 1505), held in New York’s Metropolitan Museum. 

The two tapestry series of The Hunt of the Unicorn and The Lady and the Unicorn [another spectacular tapestry, held at the Musée National du Moyen Âge in Paris] particularly intrigued me with their rich combination of design, colour, narrative, natural history, detail and emotion,” says the artist, Kate Wells.

While the works reference these allegorical medieval hunting tapestries, the stories, images and themes are inspired by our place in the South Pacific at the beginning of the 21st century.

Focusing on a collection of New Zealand’s offshore islands – from the Three Kings, Tiritiri Matangi and Goat Island, to the quarantine islands dotted inside city harbours, and Ulva and Rakiura/Stewart Island in the south – The Hunt explores issues of extinction, isolation, illusion, ambivalence and perception. At times witty, at others quietly provocative, the works defy easy categorisation by straddling the boundaries of fine arts, design and applied art.

The exhibition comprises a series of large ‘designs for tapestries’ in the form of découpage murals on wood, ranging in size from 1.5m x 90cm to 1.5m x 3m.

“The découpage murals are essentially the completed designs to a suite of tapestries,” comments Kate. “I developed this method to best portray the surface pattern ‘mille-fleurs’ effect I was hoping for if the murals were made in tapestry.”

Accompanying the painted and varnished panels is a series of small intimate tapestry works that echo elements of the large designs. 

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