Thirteen artists collaborate for The Water Project exhibition

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By Mick Jensen

A four day research trip around Canterbury gave inspiration and ideas to 13 artists who have collaborated for an impressive new exhibition at Ashburton Art Gallery.

The Water Project offers an artistic interpretation of New Zealand’s freshwater systems.

It features multiple art disciplines including painting, drawing, sculpture and computer graphics.

During their research, artists heard from a varied group of iwi representatives, environmentalist and scientists on the history, ecology and language of water.

Contributing artist Ross Hemera said the shared experience had created a strong bond among artists and set in motion the art new project that had been inspired by the imaginative and physical qualities of water.

Mr Hemera, who has enjoyed a distinguished career as an artist, designer and arts educator, has painted the large mural in the Ashburton Art Gallery and Heritage Centre foyer.

He said he was from Omarama, which had the Waitaki River and Aoraki Mt Cook nearby.

His work had used a central post, found in a whare or maori house, as a metaphor for developing his artwork.

That post represented the Hakatere (Ashburton) River and acknowledged the land through which it flowed.

He said his work also referenced founding maori ancestors, two mountains (Big Mt Peel and Little Mt Peel), the 12 other artists involved in the project, a sailing ship and a tree marker used by early travellers.

All but one of the contributing artists, including like Mr Hemera, took part in a series of public floor talks to offer an insight into the artist experience last week.

Each artist offered their own unique perspective and interpretation of our rivers and water, with some proposing a way forward on how we should protect them.

The Water Project runs until June 22, but the foyer art piece will remain in place for the next six months.