Art New Zealand

Leaves from the of Iron

Jeff Thomson has so much old roofing iron and metal in his Helensville workshop/studio/warehouse that, a few years back, he was accused by local residents of interrupting the television reception in the area.

The size of a small stadium, his iron-clad workshop has the feeling of a strangely altered depot or transfer station. Not only does it contain a very significant ‘library’ of old iron (awaiting future projects) but also a vast array of completed, abandoned, resumed and partially made sculptures. In the midst of this ferment, the artist’s living quarters are an internal annex. We met there on a blustery, grey morning, 8 July 2020. Possibly on account of electro-magnetic factors hinted at above, the 25-year-old Sony cassette recorder enlisted for the purpose of the interview malfunctioned and, as I found out later, blanked long tracts of our conversation and rendered other passages an entangled, incomprehensible racket. As a result, the text below also includes material from a subsequent, lengthy telephone interview and a few emails.

Gregory O’Brien: Walking into your studio this morning, Jeff, the thing that struck me was how painterly your recent works, en masse, are. The almost-impressionism of your leaf-sculptures, in particular. As if your machining-room/warehouse was slowly morphing into a forest. Elsewhere, coloured steel is much in evidence, woven strips of brightly coloured iron like an understorey. Could you tell me something about your relationship with painting?

Jeff Thomson: Well, of course, I’ve always been a painter and a printmaker. While a student at Elam between 1978 and ’81, those are the departments I went through. Don Binney, Garth Tapper, Bob Ellis, Dick Frizzell and Phil Clairmont were my tutors.

Don was the person I worked with most directly—he gave me the go-ahead to spend my final year walking around parts of the North Island, making roadside sculptures en route. He didn’t have a problem with my approach and saw no contradiction in my deciding to work in three dimensions. He said: ‘If it has paint on it you can consider it a painting.’ If anything, his belief in, and dedication to, painting-as-a-way-of-life rubbed off on me.

G.O’B.: What about the ‘non-painting’ departments at Elam?

J.T.: I had very little to do with the Sculpture department and little direct contact with Greer Twiss or Phil Dadson, who both taught there. I did, however, as a student, paint both of their houses and/ or roofs during university holidays: Greer’s twice, different houses. I bent more towards the printmaking department where Alberto Garcia-Alvarez, Victoria

Вы читаете отрывок, зарегистрируйтесь, чтобы читать полное издание.