An artist of the floating world

ANOTHER LEVEL: Lina Marsh’s mixed media sculpture, He Tumu Herenga Waka He Taura Herenga Tangata (like the post that secures the waka, so too does the rope that binds the people), is part of the Te Ha Arts Awards exhibition at Tairawhiti Museum. Picture by Liam Clayton

A BIT of a cuddle settled Lina Marsh’s dog enough for the artist to press a clay tablet onto an inked patch of fur. The fur print tile is now part of Marsh’s mixed media sculpture, He Tumu Herenga Waka He Taura Herenga Tangata (like the post that secures the waka, so too does the rope that binds the people).

The fossil-like tile is fitted into one of the columns of panels that make up the face of her work, or works. Nine smaller versions of the piece are housed in shops around the CBD.

The dominant form in He Tumu Herenga Waka He Taura Herenga Tangata suggests the outline of a whare or whatarangi, a storehouse for treasures. The platform is a floating world supported by a post that stands in a planter.

Threads stream from the whare to the floor.

For this work, Marsh took elements of her practice into the next stage in her artistic development. Those elements include found and upcycled objects, printmaking, text and craft techniques derived from an earlier interest in embroidery. The whatarangi’s maihi (bargeboards) are made from Venetian blind slats bought from Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Lashed with twine, and standing in a ground of artificial foliage, the post is a heart pine round bought from Pak’nSave.

Small tiles in each column along the front of the whare make up the narrative for each sequential theme. Themes focus on essential needs: clothing, food, shelter, belonging and water. The most colourful panel is about birds.

“For each of the four needs essential to people’s survival I went to Grays Bush and collected off the ground bark and leaves. I rolled them up and pressed them into clay,” says Marsh.

“For the dog hair I inked up the dog and cut my clay to size and rubbed his belly while I pressed the clay tablet on to his fur.”

Some of the printed clay tiles look like fossils retrieved from layers of the earth but the printed clay also recalls Lapita pottery, says Marsh. Archaeologists believe that the Lapita are the ancestors of historic cultures in Polynesia, Micronesia, and some coastal areas of Melanesia.

The baseline pattern for each column suggests sequenced DNA.

Barkcloth features in the clothing sequence.

“Barkcloth was the people’s first clothing when they go here,” says Marsh.

“People brought mulberry plants with them on the first voyage but it wouldn’t grow here so they went from barkcloth to harakeke.”

Other resources for clothing included dog skin and kiekie which is said to be the most valued weaving plant after harakeke. The tiles include printed excerpts from anthropologist Dame Anne Salmond’s writings, Lieutenant James Cook’s journals and accounts of what the land looked like before settlement.

In the food section of the work, an extract from James Cook’s journal describes gardens the explorer and his scientists saw on their arrival. Contoured forms on the platform represent topographical maps on a floating landscape. These too are made from found materials.

“I collected a lot of paper to use in projects like this,” says Marsh.

“With the paper I wanted to build whakapapa — layers of earth and of the forest. Layers upon layers of paper and printed clay. It all connects to the land.”

A BIT of a cuddle settled Lina Marsh’s dog enough for the artist to press a clay tablet onto an inked patch of fur. The fur print tile is now part of Marsh’s mixed media sculpture, He Tumu Herenga Waka He Taura Herenga Tangata (like the post that secures the waka, so too does the rope that binds the people).

The fossil-like tile is fitted into one of the columns of panels that make up the face of her work, or works. Nine smaller versions of the piece are housed in shops around the CBD.

The dominant form in He Tumu Herenga Waka He Taura Herenga Tangata suggests the outline of a whare or whatarangi, a storehouse for treasures. The platform is a floating world supported by a post that stands in a planter.

Threads stream from the whare to the floor.

For this work, Marsh took elements of her practice into the next stage in her artistic development. Those elements include found and upcycled objects, printmaking, text and craft techniques derived from an earlier interest in embroidery. The whatarangi’s maihi (bargeboards) are made from Venetian blind slats bought from Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Lashed with twine, and standing in a ground of artificial foliage, the post is a heart pine round bought from Pak’nSave.

Small tiles in each column along the front of the whare make up the narrative for each sequential theme. Themes focus on essential needs: clothing, food, shelter, belonging and water. The most colourful panel is about birds.

“For each of the four needs essential to people’s survival I went to Grays Bush and collected off the ground bark and leaves. I rolled them up and pressed them into clay,” says Marsh.

“For the dog hair I inked up the dog and cut my clay to size and rubbed his belly while I pressed the clay tablet on to his fur.”

Some of the printed clay tiles look like fossils retrieved from layers of the earth but the printed clay also recalls Lapita pottery, says Marsh. Archaeologists believe that the Lapita are the ancestors of historic cultures in Polynesia, Micronesia, and some coastal areas of Melanesia.

The baseline pattern for each column suggests sequenced DNA.

Barkcloth features in the clothing sequence.

“Barkcloth was the people’s first clothing when they go here,” says Marsh.

“People brought mulberry plants with them on the first voyage but it wouldn’t grow here so they went from barkcloth to harakeke.”

Other resources for clothing included dog skin and kiekie which is said to be the most valued weaving plant after harakeke. The tiles include printed excerpts from anthropologist Dame Anne Salmond’s writings, Lieutenant James Cook’s journals and accounts of what the land looked like before settlement.

In the food section of the work, an extract from James Cook’s journal describes gardens the explorer and his scientists saw on their arrival. Contoured forms on the platform represent topographical maps on a floating landscape. These too are made from found materials.

“I collected a lot of paper to use in projects like this,” says Marsh.

“With the paper I wanted to build whakapapa — layers of earth and of the forest. Layers upon layers of paper and printed clay. It all connects to the land.”

Nine smaller versions of the work are housed in shops around the CBD. A map of the locations can be found online.

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