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Park n’ Paua

A Review of Maria Park's latest exhibition

40 Kent St, Christchurch
4 - 11 July 2009


Tucked away in an obscure corner of a Sydenham street of warehouses, this exhibition emerges as a hidden treasure. The opening was enriched with a great crowd, a generous array of homely food and drink, and a passionate but brief speech by the artist. It was clearly a community event launched with much human warmth. For these points alone I think this show was a big success. It was a noteworthy contrast to the typical passionless exhibition launch in an elitist white cube, attended by arty snobs clad in black. It was a disadvantage though, that this exhibition was so hard to find.

The focus of the exhibition was the use of New Zealand paua shells, as a metaphor for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The works varied in how successfully they engaged with a range of different media and subjects. My favourite was a composition of found object, a poised composition of real driftwood, paua and a white sphere.

The idea behind the two key paintings was very moving. Maria came across a severely malformed beggar on a visit to an Asian city. She was struck by the sheer joy and positive spirit of this beggar, who had to travel on a trolley instead of walking. The two works entitled ‘Transformation’ were reference to God’s presence in ‘the least’ of human beings. The same joy of life and personal celebration is always evident in Maria, as a person as well as in her art, at every exhibition she launches. The use of the New Zealand paua shell in this way was an original local metaphor for death and resurrection. The scope of the show, in both media and number of works, was a symbol of the artist’s fertile creativity and passionate energy.


Reviewed and written by Peter Crothall


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