Hanging around at the War Memorial Theatre

Collection of magnificent quilts unveiled at a ceremony this week.

Collection of magnificent quilts unveiled at a ceremony this week.

Quilters - Kathy Grimson , Irene Smith , Morva Thomson , Deb Williams , Bronwyn Furlan
‘Curtain Call’ hangs upstairs at the theatre.
Quilter Irene Smith with the ‘Poppies’ on the pillars to the left of the entrance.
Hanging Quilts -
The ‘Horizon’ panels hang above the bar in the entranceway.

A CHANCE meeting at a concert resulted in the creation of a collection of magnificent quilts that were unveiled at a ceremony last night at the War Memorial Theatre.

In April 2015, textile artists Irene Smith and Bronwyn Furlan met arts patron Professor Jack Richards at a Gisborne Boys’ High School concert.

“Jack knew we were quilters and he showed a great deal of interest in what we do,” said Bronwyn and Irene.

“The next day, he contacted us and said he felt the refurbished theatre — of which he is a principal sponsor — needed the warmth and colour of art works to liven up some of the big, empty spaces.

“He asked if we would be interested in making a number of hanging quilts to soften and add character and texture to the spaces.

“Surprised and excited, we eagerly accepted Jack’s commission to make a number of large pieces to be hung in the entranceway and upstairs.

“We realised it would be inefficient to have too big a group working on such a project so five quilters with different strengths and skills were decided upon.”

Bronwyn and Irene were experienced textile artists having sold their works before and exhibited at museums and quilters’ symposiums around New Zealand and overseas.

They were joined by Deb Williams, Morva Thomson and Kathy Grimson who also had years of experience in quilting and had exhibited work in New Zealand and overseas.

“When we met with Jack at the theatre, he asked us to focus on a war memorial theme downstairs and a general theme upstairs.

“The theatre encompasses all theatres of war throughout the ages. While WW1 is topical now because of the 100-year anniversaries, the theatre represents many other conflicts from the Middle East to the Boer War,” they said.
The women began work in May 2015 with a series of planning workshops. They met with Associate Professor Steve Gibbs from Toihoukura School of Maori Visual Arts who Prof Richards had appointed as cultural and artistic advisor for the project. Steve also helped with concept planning of the panels for the entranceway.

“We talked about each concept and sketched it to scale before we began.”

There are three main works:

Horizon panels

“In the early theatres of war, soldiers departed on ships, looking back at the horizon while the families left behind watched them as they sailed away towards the opposite horizon.

“So we started with a horizon, a dark blue line that is a common element running right through all five panels.

“We used lots of Indian silks and torn fabric representing the torn lives of the men leaving home and the loved ones left behind.

“We worked on a panel each and kept them generic and non-pictorial so as not to polarise opinion.

“There’s some continuity in the panels but they are not identical.

“The spaces we were working with were very big so we had to make large, imposing pieces. That’s where Steve’s exhibition experience and sense of proportion was great.”

The 1.7m x 1m panels hang above the bar in the entranceway where the lights reflect off the silk.

Poppies

The quilters created four poppies to hang on the pillars to the left of the entrance.

Made from cotton, silk and linen scraps, they represent the life cycle of the Flanders poppy — spring, summer, autumn and winter — from bud to full bloom and beyond.

The fabric is patched and stained with rust and blood, to represent the dislocated lives and wounded bodies. Each hanging is 3m x 40cm.


Curtain Call

Upstairs, there was no war theme, so the quilters created a scene representing the audience — people seated in the dark, then the brightly-lit stage and above that the gold of the curtains in the theatre.

Made from cotton, the audience is stencilled on with shiva paint sticks to suggest people’s heads.

After thousands of hours of stitching punctuated by much laughter, a few glasses of wine and shared lunches, the finished quilts were hung in the theatre last week and unveiled at a ceremony last night.

“It has been such an exciting project to be involved with,” the quilters said.

“We’ve met at each other’s homes and got together for big decisions but mostly we’ve worked alone.

“The rule was that if you didn’t like something you had to say so. We can critique each other’s work without offence because we know each other so well.

“There’s been quite a bit of unpicking but that’s OK with torn fabrics.

“It’s been great fun . . . otherwise it would not have been worth doing.”

“We are all very appreciative of Jack giving us the opportunity to submit these pieces.”

Bronwyn and Irene said some people would find the quilts unusual and even unsettling.

“The use of torn, stained and ripped fabrics with threads left hanging, and the lack of straight lines echo the shattered lives of war time and people not knowing what’s happening.

“It has been a great honour to work on the project, but it’s also been a bit scary — the War Memorial Theatre is such a big public space . . . hopefully people will love our work.”

A CHANCE meeting at a concert resulted in the creation of a collection of magnificent quilts that were unveiled at a ceremony last night at the War Memorial Theatre.

In April 2015, textile artists Irene Smith and Bronwyn Furlan met arts patron Professor Jack Richards at a Gisborne Boys’ High School concert.

“Jack knew we were quilters and he showed a great deal of interest in what we do,” said Bronwyn and Irene.

“The next day, he contacted us and said he felt the refurbished theatre — of which he is a principal sponsor — needed the warmth and colour of art works to liven up some of the big, empty spaces.

“He asked if we would be interested in making a number of hanging quilts to soften and add character and texture to the spaces.

“Surprised and excited, we eagerly accepted Jack’s commission to make a number of large pieces to be hung in the entranceway and upstairs.

“We realised it would be inefficient to have too big a group working on such a project so five quilters with different strengths and skills were decided upon.”

Bronwyn and Irene were experienced textile artists having sold their works before and exhibited at museums and quilters’ symposiums around New Zealand and overseas.

They were joined by Deb Williams, Morva Thomson and Kathy Grimson who also had years of experience in quilting and had exhibited work in New Zealand and overseas.

“When we met with Jack at the theatre, he asked us to focus on a war memorial theme downstairs and a general theme upstairs.

“The theatre encompasses all theatres of war throughout the ages. While WW1 is topical now because of the 100-year anniversaries, the theatre represents many other conflicts from the Middle East to the Boer War,” they said.
The women began work in May 2015 with a series of planning workshops. They met with Associate Professor Steve Gibbs from Toihoukura School of Maori Visual Arts who Prof Richards had appointed as cultural and artistic advisor for the project. Steve also helped with concept planning of the panels for the entranceway.

“We talked about each concept and sketched it to scale before we began.”

There are three main works:

Horizon panels

“In the early theatres of war, soldiers departed on ships, looking back at the horizon while the families left behind watched them as they sailed away towards the opposite horizon.

“So we started with a horizon, a dark blue line that is a common element running right through all five panels.

“We used lots of Indian silks and torn fabric representing the torn lives of the men leaving home and the loved ones left behind.

“We worked on a panel each and kept them generic and non-pictorial so as not to polarise opinion.

“There’s some continuity in the panels but they are not identical.

“The spaces we were working with were very big so we had to make large, imposing pieces. That’s where Steve’s exhibition experience and sense of proportion was great.”

The 1.7m x 1m panels hang above the bar in the entranceway where the lights reflect off the silk.

Poppies

The quilters created four poppies to hang on the pillars to the left of the entrance.

Made from cotton, silk and linen scraps, they represent the life cycle of the Flanders poppy — spring, summer, autumn and winter — from bud to full bloom and beyond.

The fabric is patched and stained with rust and blood, to represent the dislocated lives and wounded bodies. Each hanging is 3m x 40cm.


Curtain Call

Upstairs, there was no war theme, so the quilters created a scene representing the audience — people seated in the dark, then the brightly-lit stage and above that the gold of the curtains in the theatre.

Made from cotton, the audience is stencilled on with shiva paint sticks to suggest people’s heads.

After thousands of hours of stitching punctuated by much laughter, a few glasses of wine and shared lunches, the finished quilts were hung in the theatre last week and unveiled at a ceremony last night.

“It has been such an exciting project to be involved with,” the quilters said.

“We’ve met at each other’s homes and got together for big decisions but mostly we’ve worked alone.

“The rule was that if you didn’t like something you had to say so. We can critique each other’s work without offence because we know each other so well.

“There’s been quite a bit of unpicking but that’s OK with torn fabrics.

“It’s been great fun . . . otherwise it would not have been worth doing.”

“We are all very appreciative of Jack giving us the opportunity to submit these pieces.”

Bronwyn and Irene said some people would find the quilts unusual and even unsettling.

“The use of torn, stained and ripped fabrics with threads left hanging, and the lack of straight lines echo the shattered lives of war time and people not knowing what’s happening.

“It has been a great honour to work on the project, but it’s also been a bit scary — the War Memorial Theatre is such a big public space . . . hopefully people will love our work.”

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