Hunting waterfalls

THE SOURCE: Fascinated by why people are drawn to natural features such as waterfalls, photographic/digital artist Norm Heke explores the notion in his installation Wairere — Waterfalls. Picture by Norm Heke

A soundscape of cascading water envelopes digital artist Norm Heke’s photographic installation Wairere - Waterfalls. The exhibition includes composite pictures of waterfalls, projected imagery and a cresting wall of “pixilations”.

Images that make up the multimedia exhibition have been digitally manipulated or cut-up and seamlessly reconstituted with added birds or other wildlife to create hyperreal wonders. In one of Heke’s composite works the flax came from the Chathams while the tui were photographed in Bluff. The bush, water and rock in the composition are also from different locations. Heke’s aim was to create an immersive experience that invoked the feeling of invigoration experienced by people after coming upon a waterfall after a long bushwalk. He is intrigued by the question “why do people like waterfalls?”

Waterfalls always have tracks that lead to them, he says. An aerial view of a waterfall might show everything outside its bush-clad circle stripped back for farming, industry, parking.

“But the waterfall remains natural. It’s a haven. People cherish them. There’s a molecular change in the air around waterfalls. The turbulence creates negative ions that have a positive effect on people. That’s where you get your sense of well-being.”

He recalls seeing a group of teens arrive at one site.

“They were swearing and kicking and pushing each other. They were at the waterfall for about half an hour. When they left they were holding hands and singing.”

The arcadian atmosphere in a work in which harpist Natalia Mann’s instrument merges with the roots of the tree she sits under, is made up of about 500 images. The musician’s dress is comprised of digital pohutukawa flowers. On the right hand side of the picture, Mann’s daughter balances on a rock in the stream while butterflies dot the air.

The kohekohe tree Mann sits under has special significance for Heke’s iwi, Ngapuhi. When warriors attacked a defenceless Ngapuhi pa and slaughtered women and children, among those who managed to escape were Tekona and her son Hone Heke. They survived by eating berries from the kohekohe trees that covered Kaikohe Hill.

The artist visited various locations “to gather data”.

“I’d scope a waterfall then think ‘what time of day is the best time to take the picture?’”

One work is a composite of images from a Dannevirke waterfall.

“This one was best at one in the afternoon after rainfall,” he says.

“I went down three or four times until I got what I wanted. When it’s raining, that’s when you go hunting waterfalls.”

Sometimes he would tie a rope around his waist so he could get into position.

To get the waterfall sequences projected onto the back wall of the gallery Heke visited several falls. In one sequence, water forced through several gaps in the rock forms rainbows. Swallows dart around the falling water.

The Waioeka Gorge stars in another work but it’s the gorge like you’ve never seen it before. It features three rivers and three waterfalls that come from Haast, the Fox Glacier and Auckland. Down below, on the water is a small steamer.

“You have to consider the atmospheric perspective,” says Heke. Atmospheric (or aerial) perspective is a method of creating the illusion of depth or distance by giving faraway forms the colours of atmospheric haze.

“You have to consider consistent light.”

Heke can manipulate the light to enhance the luminosity in the water’s blues or to throw a hint of sun flare. Roaring stags were placed in one work, but photographed at 7am the hyperreal light is actually, well, real.

“I haven’t enhanced this one,” says Heke.

“The sun came through at the right time.”

Wairere — Waterfalls by Norm Heke. Tairawhiti Museum, September 29 - November 25.

A soundscape of cascading water envelopes digital artist Norm Heke’s photographic installation Wairere - Waterfalls. The exhibition includes composite pictures of waterfalls, projected imagery and a cresting wall of “pixilations”.

Images that make up the multimedia exhibition have been digitally manipulated or cut-up and seamlessly reconstituted with added birds or other wildlife to create hyperreal wonders. In one of Heke’s composite works the flax came from the Chathams while the tui were photographed in Bluff. The bush, water and rock in the composition are also from different locations. Heke’s aim was to create an immersive experience that invoked the feeling of invigoration experienced by people after coming upon a waterfall after a long bushwalk. He is intrigued by the question “why do people like waterfalls?”

Waterfalls always have tracks that lead to them, he says. An aerial view of a waterfall might show everything outside its bush-clad circle stripped back for farming, industry, parking.

“But the waterfall remains natural. It’s a haven. People cherish them. There’s a molecular change in the air around waterfalls. The turbulence creates negative ions that have a positive effect on people. That’s where you get your sense of well-being.”

He recalls seeing a group of teens arrive at one site.

“They were swearing and kicking and pushing each other. They were at the waterfall for about half an hour. When they left they were holding hands and singing.”

The arcadian atmosphere in a work in which harpist Natalia Mann’s instrument merges with the roots of the tree she sits under, is made up of about 500 images. The musician’s dress is comprised of digital pohutukawa flowers. On the right hand side of the picture, Mann’s daughter balances on a rock in the stream while butterflies dot the air.

The kohekohe tree Mann sits under has special significance for Heke’s iwi, Ngapuhi. When warriors attacked a defenceless Ngapuhi pa and slaughtered women and children, among those who managed to escape were Tekona and her son Hone Heke. They survived by eating berries from the kohekohe trees that covered Kaikohe Hill.

The artist visited various locations “to gather data”.

“I’d scope a waterfall then think ‘what time of day is the best time to take the picture?’”

One work is a composite of images from a Dannevirke waterfall.

“This one was best at one in the afternoon after rainfall,” he says.

“I went down three or four times until I got what I wanted. When it’s raining, that’s when you go hunting waterfalls.”

Sometimes he would tie a rope around his waist so he could get into position.

To get the waterfall sequences projected onto the back wall of the gallery Heke visited several falls. In one sequence, water forced through several gaps in the rock forms rainbows. Swallows dart around the falling water.

The Waioeka Gorge stars in another work but it’s the gorge like you’ve never seen it before. It features three rivers and three waterfalls that come from Haast, the Fox Glacier and Auckland. Down below, on the water is a small steamer.

“You have to consider the atmospheric perspective,” says Heke. Atmospheric (or aerial) perspective is a method of creating the illusion of depth or distance by giving faraway forms the colours of atmospheric haze.

“You have to consider consistent light.”

Heke can manipulate the light to enhance the luminosity in the water’s blues or to throw a hint of sun flare. Roaring stags were placed in one work, but photographed at 7am the hyperreal light is actually, well, real.

“I haven’t enhanced this one,” says Heke.

“The sun came through at the right time.”

Wairere — Waterfalls by Norm Heke. Tairawhiti Museum, September 29 - November 25.

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