Out of the earth, into the light

CONVERGENCE: “Our history emerges with the formation of the Cradle of Taonga-Aotearoa,” writes former Ministry of Works draughtsman Michael Liddell of his 12 drawings hung in the Gisborne District Council customer service area. The theme is particularly strong in The Meeting Place-Wahi Tutaki. Pictures by Rebecca Grunwell
THE CRADLE OF LIFE AND THE WHARENUI: In his pencil work The Cradle of Taonga-Aotearoa, artist Michael Liddell has created a drawing within a drawing in which the woven cradle, formed from movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates, embraces the ocean on which sail waka, the Endeavour and a passenger ship — some of the modes of transport that have brought people to these shores.
BACK HOME: Te Hau ki Turanga, the totara meeting house that was confiscated by the Crown in 1867, dismantled and taken to Wellington is restored and returned to its true home in Manutuke in Liddell’s drawing.

The theme of whakamarama (to illuminate) filters through former Ministry of Works draughtsman Michael Liddell’s drawings in the Gisborne District Council’s customer service area. The collection is part of Liddell’s project, Whakamarama — Into the Light — Light and Shade.

Among the 12 fine-grained pencil drawings is The Meeting Place-Wahi Tutaki. Within the spherical form dominating the picture is an abstracted “cradle of life”. Beneath it are the geological forces that created the land masses of Europe and the Pacific islands. Those forces also seem to have thrust up Te Toka a Taiau, the rock that once rose out of the water near the mouth of the Turanganui River.

Te Toka a Taiau was the meeting place between explorer James Cook and a Rongowhakaata man — as recorded graphically by Endeavour’s surgeon, and perfunctorily by the ship’s captain in the margin of a page in his journal. The hongi is depicted in a small oval, deep beneath the rock, at the foot of the work.

“Geologically, it is the subterranean stratum below the rock that eventually unfolds to create the Cradle of Taonga,” writes Liddell.

He describes the circular form in the drawing as “the sphere of 1769 — a mirror image of the mind’s eye”.

“At the top of the rock is the coming together of the koru of the New Zealand fern and the red rose of England. This symbolises the historic occasion as the two men saluted each other with a hongi.

“Our world in real time is highlighted around the outer perimeter of the larger inner sphere of 1769.”

Another work features the meeting house built at a Manutuke pa in 1842. The wharenui was confiscated by the Crown in 1867, dismantled and taken to Wellington. In Liddell’s drawing, the building is depicted in its original location. The site is neatly fenced and two waka are moored nearby.

As an artist, Liddell is self taught and has developed a unique style.

“I sculpt these drawings to create a relief effect,” he says.

He lightly pencils in the subject matter then the backdrop.

“The point of the pencil is the beak of a bird. I shear the paper with it.”

This gives his drawings their fine shading effects. No line work delineates forms in Liddell’s drawings — they are all light and delicate shade. The detail, the etching effect, is created with tiny strokes of the pencil.

Objects have no edges but are limned with an absence of shade to let the light show through.

The theme of whakamarama (to illuminate) filters through former Ministry of Works draughtsman Michael Liddell’s drawings in the Gisborne District Council’s customer service area. The collection is part of Liddell’s project, Whakamarama — Into the Light — Light and Shade.

Among the 12 fine-grained pencil drawings is The Meeting Place-Wahi Tutaki. Within the spherical form dominating the picture is an abstracted “cradle of life”. Beneath it are the geological forces that created the land masses of Europe and the Pacific islands. Those forces also seem to have thrust up Te Toka a Taiau, the rock that once rose out of the water near the mouth of the Turanganui River.

Te Toka a Taiau was the meeting place between explorer James Cook and a Rongowhakaata man — as recorded graphically by Endeavour’s surgeon, and perfunctorily by the ship’s captain in the margin of a page in his journal. The hongi is depicted in a small oval, deep beneath the rock, at the foot of the work.

“Geologically, it is the subterranean stratum below the rock that eventually unfolds to create the Cradle of Taonga,” writes Liddell.

He describes the circular form in the drawing as “the sphere of 1769 — a mirror image of the mind’s eye”.

“At the top of the rock is the coming together of the koru of the New Zealand fern and the red rose of England. This symbolises the historic occasion as the two men saluted each other with a hongi.

“Our world in real time is highlighted around the outer perimeter of the larger inner sphere of 1769.”

Another work features the meeting house built at a Manutuke pa in 1842. The wharenui was confiscated by the Crown in 1867, dismantled and taken to Wellington. In Liddell’s drawing, the building is depicted in its original location. The site is neatly fenced and two waka are moored nearby.

As an artist, Liddell is self taught and has developed a unique style.

“I sculpt these drawings to create a relief effect,” he says.

He lightly pencils in the subject matter then the backdrop.

“The point of the pencil is the beak of a bird. I shear the paper with it.”

This gives his drawings their fine shading effects. No line work delineates forms in Liddell’s drawings — they are all light and delicate shade. The detail, the etching effect, is created with tiny strokes of the pencil.

Objects have no edges but are limned with an absence of shade to let the light show through.

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