Light in August

Local artist's contribution to Nowhere to Somewhere exhibition.

Local artist's contribution to Nowhere to Somewhere exhibition.

THREE FIGURES: Three figures painted on pine boards make up Toihoukura graduate Catherine August’s contribution in the Nowhere to Somewhere exhibition at the Paul Nache Gallery. Each figure has a piece of fabric, such as the fleece maro and shawl worn by the left-hand side figure, glued on to it. The female figure (right) is adorned with a small plastic tiki. August “couldn’t even do art” before she began at the Maori visual arts and design school in 2014.
“I started at Toihoukura in 2014. I only started art then. Before that I did a fashion class at EIT. I’ve taken that with me to the art.” Last year, she was announced as the school’s ruanuku (top undergraduate student). Picture by Thomas Teutenberg, courtesy of the Paul Nache Gallery
THE LIVING STUDIO: Artist Catherine August, whose naive style is natural to her, is surrounded by her work and collected prints and ornaments in her living room studio. Picture by Paul Rickard

Paintings press against the walls in the narrow entrance to artist Catherine August’s home while her living room-studio is crammed with portraits, works in progress, ornaments, prints, a bird cage with a bird in it, sewing materials and furniture, one piece of which has been given the Catherine August treatment.

Three of her artworks, painted figures on pine boards, decorated with bits of fabric make up the naive artist’s selection of work in the Paul Nache Gallery exhibition, Nowhere to Somewhere. But the round-topped table, a wooden whirlpool, in her living room studio is a good place to start.

August carved an image in the table-top, filled some hewn bits with glitter, glued coloured diamantes in an approximate radial pattern, stained the timber then polyurethaned it.

She sat back and let the work suggest a title — Awhiowhio, an almost onomatopoeic word for whirlpool. It’s a good fit for a living room studio crammed with objects and art works.

“They make me feel warm,” says August.

Portraiture is her preoccupation in painting, relief carving and sewn works. Textiles are incorporated one way or another in many of her pieces. August studied fashion design before she decided to become an artist and submitted a portfolio of fashion design drawings to Toihoukura.

She began studying at the Maori visual arts and design school in 2014 and last year was announced as the school’s ruanuku (top undergraduate student).

Another item of furniture provided ready-made surfaces for a diptych — two cupboard doors, complete with hinges and tarnished brass handles.

Within the hexagonal panels on each cupboard door, a portrait is carved into the wood. As a naive artist, August has no fear of experimentation with unusual materials, and no anxiety if the experiment doesn’t pan out.

“I carved everything out then ran ink over it around the portrait.”

She added silver blobs of solder to the designs. In a portrait of Tama Iti based on a photograph, the activist is adorned with a solder necklace while solder works as highlights in other parts of the portrait.

The second cupboard door work features the form of a tui, also detailed with solder.

“I see my mum every day in the rest home,” says August.

“There’s always a tui we look at.”

Most recent work

August’s most recent work is a gypsy-like portrait sewn onto linen.

“I did the work then looked at it and thought ‘I wonder what I could call you’. “I thought she looked like a gypsy, maybe with the third eye. I called it I See Your True Colours.”

Along with plywood, textiles, chisel, inks, crayon and gold paint, a wood-burning pen is part of August’s tools of trade. She used the wood-burning tool to create a portrait on plywood.

“Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is harder to work with but the wood burner melts into plywood.”

Areas of the woman’s face are coloured in with a Fauvist’s freedom. but Fauvism — the “wild beasts” style of the early 20th century in which strong colour reigned rather than representation — wasn’t on August’s mind when she created the work.

'Like a map that tells the story of our hapu'

She based the initial portrait on a photograph.

“Then I made up my own stuff.”

“It’s like a map that tells the story of our hapu. The coloured areas, with gold bits, represent sub-tribes. It’s called Connecting to the Land.”

Prints in her studio living room include a white stallion against a smoky backdrop, an embroidered work that features pandas and bamboo, and Egyptian-themed pieces.

“They’re so beautiful,” she says of the Egyptian prints and other objects given to her by her brothers who lived in Sinai.

“They inspired me. I love the gold in them.”

Which is why she has a big collection of brass jugs, vases, candlesticks and plates.

“I love brass. My house is full of brass. I love the gold colour. The gold makes you feel rich.”

Paintings press against the walls in the narrow entrance to artist Catherine August’s home while her living room-studio is crammed with portraits, works in progress, ornaments, prints, a bird cage with a bird in it, sewing materials and furniture, one piece of which has been given the Catherine August treatment.

Three of her artworks, painted figures on pine boards, decorated with bits of fabric make up the naive artist’s selection of work in the Paul Nache Gallery exhibition, Nowhere to Somewhere. But the round-topped table, a wooden whirlpool, in her living room studio is a good place to start.

August carved an image in the table-top, filled some hewn bits with glitter, glued coloured diamantes in an approximate radial pattern, stained the timber then polyurethaned it.

She sat back and let the work suggest a title — Awhiowhio, an almost onomatopoeic word for whirlpool. It’s a good fit for a living room studio crammed with objects and art works.

“They make me feel warm,” says August.

Portraiture is her preoccupation in painting, relief carving and sewn works. Textiles are incorporated one way or another in many of her pieces. August studied fashion design before she decided to become an artist and submitted a portfolio of fashion design drawings to Toihoukura.

She began studying at the Maori visual arts and design school in 2014 and last year was announced as the school’s ruanuku (top undergraduate student).

Another item of furniture provided ready-made surfaces for a diptych — two cupboard doors, complete with hinges and tarnished brass handles.

Within the hexagonal panels on each cupboard door, a portrait is carved into the wood. As a naive artist, August has no fear of experimentation with unusual materials, and no anxiety if the experiment doesn’t pan out.

“I carved everything out then ran ink over it around the portrait.”

She added silver blobs of solder to the designs. In a portrait of Tama Iti based on a photograph, the activist is adorned with a solder necklace while solder works as highlights in other parts of the portrait.

The second cupboard door work features the form of a tui, also detailed with solder.

“I see my mum every day in the rest home,” says August.

“There’s always a tui we look at.”

Most recent work

August’s most recent work is a gypsy-like portrait sewn onto linen.

“I did the work then looked at it and thought ‘I wonder what I could call you’. “I thought she looked like a gypsy, maybe with the third eye. I called it I See Your True Colours.”

Along with plywood, textiles, chisel, inks, crayon and gold paint, a wood-burning pen is part of August’s tools of trade. She used the wood-burning tool to create a portrait on plywood.

“Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is harder to work with but the wood burner melts into plywood.”

Areas of the woman’s face are coloured in with a Fauvist’s freedom. but Fauvism — the “wild beasts” style of the early 20th century in which strong colour reigned rather than representation — wasn’t on August’s mind when she created the work.

'Like a map that tells the story of our hapu'

She based the initial portrait on a photograph.

“Then I made up my own stuff.”

“It’s like a map that tells the story of our hapu. The coloured areas, with gold bits, represent sub-tribes. It’s called Connecting to the Land.”

Prints in her studio living room include a white stallion against a smoky backdrop, an embroidered work that features pandas and bamboo, and Egyptian-themed pieces.

“They’re so beautiful,” she says of the Egyptian prints and other objects given to her by her brothers who lived in Sinai.

“They inspired me. I love the gold in them.”

Which is why she has a big collection of brass jugs, vases, candlesticks and plates.

“I love brass. My house is full of brass. I love the gold colour. The gold makes you feel rich.”

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