EIT’s art and design division – ideaschool – has this year produced its first cohort of graduates from the newly established post-grad programme, the Masters of Professional Creative Practice / Te Hono ki Toi (Poutiriao).

Raewyn Paterson, Susan Mabin, Pita Kire, Tara Cooney and Sophie Watkins finished up with a group graduation exhibition ,Traces, in July and are now working and making art here in the Bay, adjusting to their post-study lives.

Programme co-ordinator Dr Mandy Rudge oversaw the first group and is working with current and prospective Masters students. She says that this programme differs from others at the post-graduate level around New Zealand due to its heavy focus on exhibiting, and emphasis on linking up with what’s going on right here, right now.

Sophie Watkins Photo: Florence Charvin

“The structure enables students to develop their creative practice in a way that has strong connections to the contemporary context and is relevant for them. Additionally, the experience of creating work to a professional standard for two exhibitions (one in the Honours year and one for the Masters) is also a key to its success. I know of no other Masters programme that does this. It is by making work, engaging in critical reflection and understanding the contemporary context of your work, that your work becomes stronger.”

Dr Rudge is full of praise for the founding cohort, and what they are already bringing to the wider Hawke’s Bay creative scene.

“It’s been really exciting to see what our fi rst graduates have achieved beyond the programme. They have numerous exhibitions planned (at MUSE, HCAG and MTG), are engaged in developing their own arts and design-based businesses, and all of them are furthering their own business networks and creative practice. This confirms the value of the programme and its name (Te Hono ki Toi: the link to the arts). What our graduates have already contributed to our communities and what they will contribute in the future, is significant.”

Dr Rudge says that the current students are working on their end of year show, and that applicants for next year’s intake for the 18 month programme are looking strong. Word seems to be getting around that this a challenging and productive option for artists and designers keen to push themselves. No doubt the increasingly positive reputation is largely down to the work of these first five:

Raewyn Tauira Paterson

Raewyn‘s Masters project investigated the use of Maori visual pattern in suburban domestic spaces to create an immersive experience like that of the wharenui and marae.

She points out that Maori visual patterns – whakairo, tukutuku and kowhaiwhai, the visual culture of the wharenui – are strong, and yet Maori generally live in homes that are of a western architectural style and decoration, with perhaps a few Maori art pieces. Her project asked and answered the question, “How might a suburban home look immersed in Maori aesthetic?” Raewyn’s installation ‘Whare Sweet Whare’ consisted of wallpaper panels, lifelike realisitic photographs of fully patterned house settings and a doll’s house.

So, where to, now that the programme is over? “As an artist and designer, I feel that generating ideas and creating and refining the work really is only half of the job,” Raewyn says.

“The next step for me will be promoting my work and designs through galleries and competitions, investigating manufacturing options, and creating a marketing and business plan. I want my work to be accessible to people, as for me, this is a main reason why I make it.

“I also want to find the right people with whom I can collaborate. And of course, the study has generated many other ideas that are just itching to be developed further … these are churning away in the back of my mind.”

Tara Cooney

Tara’s work is focused on research into the field of memory and design object, which began during her undergraduate studies at ideaschool. She says the Masters programme was a chance to continue this in more in-depth and focused space.

In her Masters project she created what she termed ‘Scentefacts’ – anthropogenic artefacts of olfactory origins, usually relating to emotional memory. These pieces form part of an ongoing investigation into the multi-sensory experiences of personal olfactory memories.

Since finishing the programme, Tara has been busy working on several design collaborations – one with studio Faculty (with an exhibition at Tennyson Gallery), and another as a graphic designer for Newton Espresso. One of her Master’s sculptural works, 00093, was selected as a finalist in the prestigious Wallace Art Awards for 2017.

“But I have still have plans to develop the nature of my research – memories, story-telling – into a formal business by documenting family stories and photographs too,” she says. “I guess one of the major benefits for my own practice, having done the Masters, is that it’s given me several pathways to explore across both my sculptural and design outcomes.”

Pita Kire

For Pita – a painter working mainly in oils – the Masters programme was an opportunity to delve further into his painterly fascination with angels, spiritual entities and Kaitiaki (guardians), leading in turn into exploring both Maori and European influences on a journey of identity.

The course itself has been tough going, Pita says, but worth it.

“It has been extremely stressful at the best of times – studying while juggling things with family and life, especially being the only male in the group, and there were times where I felt like quitting. But with the support from my wife and family, and the inspiring work ethic of my fellow colleagues, I was able to see it through.”

Pita is currently in the process of reworking and fine-tuning works produced during his time at EIT. He intends to exhibit next year for the general public.

“I’m also looking into the possibility of more studying to teach art to our rangatira (youth), which has always been a personal goal of mine.”

Sophie Watkins

Sophie Watkins put the humble honey bee and its colony collapse front and centre during her Masters project, using it to explore concepts of materialism, social sculpture, heart thinking and environmental issues.

Bees, Sophie says, are such incredibly important creatures to us, and they are leaving us.

“As a society we can make the choice on aiding or fighting the cause, but efforts may seem effortless when the entirety is realised. Mothers and sisters are lost and ill, and within this heart thinking is the imagination, inspiration and intuition; and through representation we may allow the truth to be known.”

In the Traces exhibition, at the end of the Masters programme, Sophie’s installation was minimalist and without actual bee imagery, reflecting the loss of bees and the sparseness they face.

Sophie is continuing to make a mixture of 3D object work, including light, sound, smell and interaction based on her bee research, while juggling paid work and collaborative projects.

Susan Mabin

Susan says she took on the Masters programme for the challenge, and because she felt it could support a new direction she had found in her work since finishing her undergrad art studies at ideaschool.

“I felt that the new programme would give me access to the support and to ‘minds’ that encourage, question, and constantly challenge you and your art practice, and this would be beneficial to my own understanding and ability to express verbally and academically what I was doing creatively, which in turn would be good for progressing my practice outside of EIT,” she says.

This new direction saw Susan develop a Masters project investigating processes of poiesis in art. She used found detritus, both manmade and natural objects, collected primarily from Napier beaches, to explore issues of agency (human, living and non- living objects) and the environment, by aesthetic engagement with these materials. The sculptural installation Susan presented as a result of this work aimed to engage viewers with recognisable materials in a gallery setting that could change the perspective of those materials, and throw light on global environmental issues from a local viewpoint.

Susan has established a shared studio (Studio 206) in Hastings with fellow artist Robyn Fleet, where they run artworks and classes for adults and children, as well as making their own work. She’s also preparing for an exhibition at Hastings City Gallery next June.

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