Tuesday, November 25, 2008
  Technology Investment Network 100
New Zealand technology firms could be well placed to weather tough economic times, as a more favourable exchange rate boosts earnings.

The latest Technology Investment Network analysis estimates the total revenue of the top 100 tech companies at $6.4 billion.

"Some 75 per cent of that is from exports, it's not internally generated revenue," says Greg Shanahan, the network's managing director.

Most of the companies are in the business of making products rather than software, so a big question for the future is where will manufacturing be done, as firms try to control costs and risk.

Fisher and Paykel Appliances, the largest firm on the list with revenue of $1.4 billion, moved the majority of its manufacturing offshore during the year, and its spin-off Fisher and Paykel Healthcare is considering a Mexican plant.

F&P Appliances' revenue dropped 1 per cent during the year, while F&P Healthcare could only manage 3 per cent growth in New Zealand dollar terms, as exchange rate fluctuation knocked back the effect of its 18 per cent boost in US dollar sales.

More in NZ Herald October 22...
  Robinson consumed by glass
A critical part of the glass caster's art is "annealing", slowly bringing down the temperature of the kiln so the glass cools from liquid at a steady and even rate without cracking.

Talking to glassmaker Ann Robinson in her Glendene studio in an industrial area on the banks of the Whau River, the opposite process seems to be going on - a slow warming up as she tries to talk about anything but her work.

"I find it really difficult being interviewed because I haven't got a hell of a lot to say," she says, after articulating clearly the thinking that drives her to make increasingly larger and more challenging objects.

"It's the exploration of a material, where it is at and it probably comes from my heart at some point but it's not hugely rationalised.

"It's more that you think about it as you are doing it and wonder what you are up to and what it means and why you might have chosen that.

"It's sort of an internal dialogue that's going on, but I don't think for a second that anyone else would be interested in that dialogue, can't imagine it, so I am just being true to my own sense of how I think this material could be expressed and the sorts of things I want to do with it."

More at NZ Herald November 15
  Rotuma to Grey Lynn in magpie eye
Somewhere around Grey Lynn Park there is a magpie nest with a mother of pearl disc which was supposed to be part of a Sofia Tekela-Smith jewellery piece.

"When I've finished sanding them, I leave them to dry on the deck. There were eight, and then there were seven, and there was a magpie on the fence looking very pleased with itself," says Tekela-Smith, chronicling some of the challenges of preparing her new show, Grace.

The biggest challenge was working around daughter Helava, who has just turned 1. "I couldn't cut stone or shell while I was pregnant, because it's all toxic stuff."

A show in an art gallery setting forces Tekela-Smith to think about more than the immediate object. "Jewellery is small. You can't do big works, and for it to have a presence outside the body in an arena like a gallery, you need to present it in a way that it doesn't get lost."

Her first John Leech show included big breastplates, the second large photographs of women wearing her jewellery.

With Grace, the photographs are of herself, posed as Botticelli's Birth of Venus and Raphael's Madonna and Child.

"It's a labour of love, this show. I have put myself up on the canvas naked. People have said incredible things about the photographs such as, `Why do that when you are not in your best shape?' - real personal criticisms.

"The photographs are not intended to be a fashion photograph but everyone is looking at it from a very superficial level. I have to be strong and not listen to what other people say. I know why I am doing stuff."

Grace was sparked by finding a photograph of her mother in a nun's habit on a website about Rotuma, a Polynesian island administered by Fiji.

"I knew she had been a nun but had never seen a photo. I wanted to do stuff around that. What was it like for her family when she left [the convent], what was it like for her?"

But in the way that so much renaissance art is unknowable to most modern viewers, because they are not familiar with the keys to the symbols, so Tekela-Smith's photographs are open to misinterpretation.

She seems surprised that they are being read as ironic commentaries on the "dusky maiden" stereotype.

"It's all going back to my mother. I look at it and think, 'There is a woman who has run away from the church'. One day she pledged herself to God and church, and took on vows of poverty, chastity - then one day she wakes up and that's not her any more. She is not going to be chaste any more. She starts exploring that whole sexuality she has. That is how I am looking at the photograph," Tekela-Smith says.

The first stop for the former Sister Francis of Assisi was Fiji.

NZ Herald November 8 more...
  Walters Prize judgment on aesthetics
Pity poor Catherine David. She is shortly to leave her Paris home and fly to Auckland to pick a winner from four artists whose installations have been determined by a group of curators as the best that New Zealand art can offer.

Yes, it's time again for the Walters Prize, that biennial attempt by Auckland Art Gallery to prove it is still engaged with the country's contemporary artists.

Chris Saines, the director of the gallery for the past 12 years, says in the catalogue foreword that it sets out to review the work that "arguably made the strongest or even potentially the most lasting impact on current New Zealand practice".

In case we might think that implies some judgment, Saines reassures us the intention is "always to start a conversation about contemporary art, not to establish a canon".

The prize exists because of the generosity of patrons Erika and Robin Congreve, and Jenny Gibbs. The gallery even stands back from the selection. That is left to a panel of jurors.

MZ Herald October 25
  Shades of McCahon in Brown
Nigel Brown remembers going to see a Sidney Nolan survey sometime in the mid-1970s, and chancing upon his former art school teacher, Colin McCahon.

"We ended up looking at it together," he says. "I can't remember much of the conversation, but he realised it was in a different direction to his own work, which at that time was moving into more abstract forms.

"I was attracted to [Nolan], but Colin was not interested in his obvious storytelling," says Brown, whose Lamp series - opening on Tuesday at the Warwick Henderson Gallery - includes the unashamed influence of McCahon, as well as borrowing the Ned Kelly mask so memorably used by the Australian painter.

The starting point for the series is an early McCahon of a kerosene lamp. The now anachronistic lighting device serves as a metaphor for casting light on people's lives. "I try to deal with archetypal symbols which will last the distance," Brown says.

The largest painting in the series, Hide and Seek, is a triptych grouping three of the characters Brown often uses: the poet James K. Baxter, a burly male in the Ned Kelly mask and Captain James Cook, in this case accompanied by his wife.

NZ Herald October 11
  Scaling her own mountains
Sarah Hillary remembers family holidays near Wanaka, climbing the relatively benign Mt Maude.

"I seem to remember it had a wonderful cave near the top, which we used to love going into as children. It was very exciting," she says.

The Mt Maude in Hillary's new show at Anna Miles Gallery is a copy of part of Rita Angus' Mt Maud, done on an ancient pipi shell collected from a beach at Whangarei Heads. What is different from many of the other mountains featured in the show, all sourced from paintings by 20th-century New Zealand artists, is that it has the "right" name.

The mountain in Mt Cook, which draws on a familiar Rita Angus painting of a bare tree at Lake Wanaka, is probably Treble Cone. The Cook is a reference to Angus' married name. Angus is also the source of Mt Rita, which samples her painting of the railway station at Cass.

Hillary thus joins a line of homage - which includes Julian Dashper, Peter Peryer and Dane Mitchell - to a work voted New Zealand's greatest painting in a 2006 poll conducted by television arts programme Frontseat.

NZ Herald August 16
  Artspace turns 21
Twenty one years ago, Auckland was in a ferment, with many industrial buildings in the central city waiting for demolition, the sharemarket crashing and the property market about to follow. The art market - such as it was - was slowing and artists, especially those doing more edgy work, weren't feeling much love from Auckland Art Gallery.

There was a mood afoot for an artist-run space where new ideas of sculpture and performance could be tried out, bold experiments conducted, young artists exposed before they were picked up by dealer galleries.

There had been a similar attempt at an artists' room earlier in the decade, Frank Stark's 100 Metres Squared gallery, and a city council-administered work scheme, Artworks, had allowed younger artists to think about different ways of producing and presenting work.

"When we started there were few opportunities for emerging artists, curators and writers," says Mary Louise Browne, a sculptor and performance artist and Artspace's first director. "We developed lots of space," she says, crediting people like Sandy Morrison and then-mayor Cath Tizard for support in finding venues.


The first space was the George Fraser Gallery in Albert Park.

"The very first show we did was Di Ffrench and Fiona Pardington, about the body. Di, who also did performance art, had these big colour cibachromes and dye works. Fiona had pictures of Neil and Joe [her brother and partner] in masks.

"We had Janet Frame upstairs as the artist in residence. She came down every day to check it out. She responded really well to it," Browne says.

A month later, Artspace opened a second gallery in a large white-painted brick building in Federal St which was awaiting the bulldozers for what eventually became the Sky City Casino. "We could do things there without pressure. It was very industrial, and there were a lot of performances and films made there after hours."

Browne says Artspace was definitely a reaction to the direction Auckland Art Gallery was taking, with an emphasis on quality high-end imported historical shows of artists like Claude Monet. When 101 Federal St was finally demolished, a lot of art went with it. For the last show, artists were invited to do works directly on the walls.

That was also a feature of the next venue at Quay St, where a Julian Dashper piece, which consisted of the word DRIVE painted from floor to ceiling on the wall, led to challenges from visitors that the space was being wasted.

"We tended to have an opening every two weeks alternating between the George Fraser and the other venue, so things kept moving. A lot needed to be looked at and we needed to be light on our feet because the space could be taken away at any time," Browne says.

More art...
  Internet NZ annual meeting
From NZ Herald Wednesday Aug 13, 2008

Internet New Zealand held its annual meeting recently. You probably didn't hear about it. Just a bunch of people from across the political spectrum sitting in a room talking about stuff most of us now take for granted.

You might have heard about the Netsafe conference in Queenstown in the days leading up to it. That was a forum to discuss what could be done to stop the extraordinary openness of the internet being used against the young and the vulnerable.

Netsafe is backed and partially funded by internet NZ, as are a number of other initiatives aimed at improving how New Zealanders experience the internet in all its many guises.

Internet NZ exists as an independent, membership-based organisation because of a desire by the creators of the internet that it not be run by governments, corporations or other vested interests. Its key goal is a free and uncapturable internet. Its primary job is running .nz, the top-level domain assigned to New Zealand.

An online possie for Adam Gifford, a New Zealand journalist specialising in information technology, Maori news and the arts.

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