Artist in Residence re-imagines Aotea Great Barrier Island

Publish Date : 21 Dec 2020
Artist in Residence re-imagines Aotea Great Barrier Island
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Chris being introduced to one of the local and friendly kaka
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Chris interviewed locals in his research.
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Depicting places and people in new and innovative ways are at the heart of what 2020’s Artist in Residence Chris McDowall seeks to accomplish.

“Mapmaking is a creative way of coming to terms with a place,” says Chris. “I want to deepen people’s appreciation and understanding of Aotea’s Glenfern Sanctuary.”

The 2020 Ockham Book award winner and cartographer hopes that his digital visualisations will reveal some of the overlooked aspects and stories of the parkland.

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Chris conceives different ways of seeing places, and his maps manifest an idea clearly and evocatively.

The Artist in Residence programme is an Auckland Council initiative where a selected artist lives and works in a regional park for a period.

Artists create new pieces of work influenced by the park and the people they interact with during their stay.

This artwork is then shared with the public.

For his residency, Chris has been using participatory methods to create narrative maps, embracing, and depicting the knowledge of locals and visiting scientists.

He is also creating intimate cartographic portraits of special places within the sanctuary.

This has involved spending days and nights at specific locations - a forest pond, a mossy ridgeline glade and a small cove – and recording what happens in these spaces.

Chris turns those observations into visual portrayals of the landscape’s rhythms and the various creatures who dwell within it.

During these “slow mapping” exercises, Chris has been fortunate to see a rare Niho Taniwha (Chevron Skink) and has heard Pepetuna (Pūriri Moths) preparing to emerge from ancient trees. 

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Photo of rare Niho Taniwha (Chevron Skink) taken by Chris

He has also witnessed dolphins frolicking in harbour below his residency cottage and is living alongside kaka and the rare Pāteke (Brown teal).

Councillor Alf Filipaina, Chairperson of Auckland Council’s Parks, Art, Community and Events Committee, says that Chris’ application for residency stood out for its uniqueness.

“His proposal was specific to the sanctuary, it was innovative and most significantly, it tapped local people’s knowledge.” - Councillor Alf Filipaina, Chair of Parks, Art, Community and Events Committee

Chris’ maps will be permanently exhibited at the Glenfern Sanctuary when completed and will be reproduced as a printed poster.

Applications for next year's Artist in Residence are now open until February 15th 2021, with the selected artist being announced mid-March. 

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