Oliver Stretton Pow is a sculptor living and working on Waiheke Island from his studio and art foundry. He has exhibited widely and this exhibition Make History was shown in Auckland at Kinder House in Auckland earlier this year.
Now it's Waiheke's turn to experience works from this thought provoking and intricate collection.
"...I spent a considerable amount of my youth in a parochial museum environment as my parents were the proprietors of the historic Stone Store in Kerikeri (built in 1833). Many artworks that I produce are inspired by the eclectic collection that was housed in the upper stories of the building. I have a strong connection to that place and the surrounding region, this connection continues to be tempered as my understanding of the history of the settlement has deepened.
This exhibition represents an attempt to reconcile this sense of displacement – a feeling that is compounded for many humans as boundaries shift, cultures flourish and morph.
The original premise for Make History is to research specific characters and events that shaped Aotearoa New Zealand’s post colonial identity and explore the gaps and contradictions to develop a fantastic parallel narrative. For instance one work nods to the Rev Dr John Kinder (1819-1903) as a pioneering photographer and gifted watercolourist. 'The good Dr's bag' in Cabinet 18 refers to the Reverend Doctor Kinder's honorary Doctorate of Divinity.
Other works suggest the cross-appropriation of tools and icons that may enhance their effectiveness, for instance in Cabinet 19 the ghostly Wahaika (war club) is adorned with a variety of symbols which complicate interpretation.
Questions arise such as; Does this embellishment serve the Missionary agenda or the delivery of the coup-de-gras on the battlefield … and are these outcomes as contradictory as they appear?
Though the objects are framed within each cabernet the absence of glass is conspicuous, this places the works in contrast with my previous series of vitrines (in vitro = under glass). The objective here is to encourage the haptic experience so the works are appreciated multisensory way. In addition, the ’enclosed objects’ appear to be attempting to escape the confines of each cabernet, this is a nod to current debates concerning collections of artefacts extracted from indigenous cultures that are currently housed in museums world-wide. Many cultures are now requesting that their property be returned, while most of the former colonists continue to resist.
Each display case is labelled as a collection, yet the contents appear to have been combined in a whimsical way rather than following a rigid taxonomic order. The collection appears to morph between genres creating hybrids from incongruous parts. Now the artefacts are calling out to be re-read through a museological lens."
- Oliver Stretton-Pow