Wanda Gillespie - The Portrait and the Abacus
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Wanda Gillespie - The Portrait and the Abacus

8 September - 23 October 2023

Contemporary Auckland-based artist Wanda Gillespie showcases the exploration of her work in wood from her 2023 art residency on Waiheke Island.  

Gillespie’s evocative wood carved figures wade through the muddy waters of a transcendent era guided by the sacred mathematics in nature. The exhibition brings together the artists fascination with ancient mathematic curiosities such as the abacus and counting tablets with the emotive hand carved human form. Artefacts of a moment in time, these finely crafted sculptures blend the tangible and ethereal and invite us to collectively reconsider our values as we embark on a new era of existence. 


Artist Statement 

The Portrait and the Abacus


"The Portrait and the Abacus" exhibition weaves a tapestry of intertwined themes through the dynamic interplay of portraiture, figurative sculptures, and mathematical inspiration. Sculptures created during the artist's residency program take on new significance within the context of earlier works, engaging in a playful dialogue within the exhibition space.

At its core, the exhibition contemplates the sense that we are standing on the precipice of change—an inexorable progression that beckons us to reconsider the structures and paradigms governing what humanity values most. The "Windswept Portraits," influenced by conversations with locals about the island's winds, evoke the arrival of fresh air and a season of transformation.

As you traverse the exhibition, "The Truth Teacher" commands a serene understanding of the creative endeavor at hand, her youthful visage radiating an aura of mystical empowerment. She stands as a guiding light in the unfolding era.

A series of figurative sculptures, born of contemplation sparked by tumultuous floods, envisions the profound implications of rising sea levels on coastal communities and Pacific islands. In response to this uncertain future, we witness a procession led by children, their innocence serving as a beacon guiding humanity through the murky waters that lie ahead. These figures embody a mythic and narrative perspective on our transitional epoch.

The 'Circular Economy' prominently displayed on the gallery wall serves as a guiding symbol, an auspicious moon above my wood-carved figures'. It signifies the intellectual foundation needed to navigate the challenges of the upcoming transition era. Additional abaci throughout the space echo this sentiment, asking us to reconfigure our methods for counting.

The meticulously carved Klein bottles, flattened representations of Felix Klein's abstract mathematical concept, pay homage to the creative process of materializing thoughts. They also celebrate the mathematical beauty inherent in nature through intricate geometric chip-carved patterns. This fascination is echoed in the portrait 'We Are Made of Star Dust,' encouraging contemplation of our place within the vast cosmos. The complex geometric star pattern delicately placed over the eye serves as a visual testament to this cosmic wonder.

Emerging from the "Crossing the Rubicon" series, the 'Golden Boy' figure navigates a path across river stones, bearing an abacus on a ceremonial staff, symbolizing a moment of global reckoning and a collective reflection on our shared values.

The diverse threads of ideas and sculptural forms in this exhibition entwine to create ethereal manifestations that draw from our collective unconscious, vividly depicting this pivotal moment in history. - Wanda Gillespie




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