Artistic collaboration

Indigo members  (from left) Rachel Hirabayashi, Shaun Burdon, Judy Cockeram, Nigel Wilson (seated...
Indigo members (from left) Rachel Hirabayashi, Shaun Burdon, Judy Cockeram, Nigel Wilson (seated), Jillian Porteous, Lynne Wilson (seated), Megan Huffadine and Luke Anthony gather at Forrester Gallery. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A group of Central Otago artists have come together to show their work in a unique way in galleries around the South. Rebecca Fox discovers the artists' egos, if any, have been put aside to create exhibitions with a difference.

Put a diverse group of artists in one room and get them to create a cohesive exhibition in a few hours, showcasing their own work, might sound impossible.

But members of Indigo insist it can be done and their exhibitions are a shining example.

The eight artists’ expertise ranges from painting, ceramics and sculpture to mixed media so there are few similarities between them all.

One of the group, Shaun Burdon, of Bendigo, says the one similarity they do have is they all live in Central Otago.

Indigo’s exhibition at Forrester Gallery shows the diversity of Central Otago art. PHOTO: REBECCA...
Indigo’s exhibition at Forrester Gallery shows the diversity of Central Otago art. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

Back in 2019 a group of five artists got together for a casual lunch where they came up with the idea of putting on exhibitions together in different locations.

"Then word got about and it developed into a group of eight or nine people. We were looking for a different way to support each other’s work."

Burdon, along with artists Luke Anthony, Judy Cockerham, Rachel Hirabayashi, Megan Huffadine, Jillian Porteous, Nigel Wilson and Lynne Wilson, decided to hold group exhibitions.

"We all know each other and trust each other," Cockerham says.

They came up with the name Indigo and the logo of an octopus out of a group of random ideas, Burdon says.

"Funnily, the octopus has eight tentacles in one body and we’re eight artists in one group who come together to put on group shows."

Burn Off 2 by Jillian Porteous. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Burn Off 2 by Jillian Porteous. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

There is no formal structure to the group and no joint themes for their exhibitions. They just meet for lunch every now and again to come up with plans for their next exhibition. So far they have held six exhibitions. The seventh is their newly opened exhibition at the Forrester Gallery in Oamaru.

"We’re all quite informal, there is no shared aesthetic or philosophy."

As a group they approach galleries about exhibiting their works and when accepted, hang their exhibitions together, mixing up their works to ignite conversations that might not otherwise be had.

"They’re a really interesting contrast. You can have an abstract next to a expressive landscape next to a sculpture next to ceramics. It makes for an interesting contrast and conversation between the works."

The group has found visitors to their exhibitions respond really well to that as they try to figure it all out.

"It amplifies what is going on in each work."

Burdon himself is an abstract painter whose oil works recently have involved scripts and alphabets from different languages intertwined with human figures and vegetation.

His work can be placed alongside Nigel Wilson’s landscape works or Cockerham’s multi-media drawings.

"The contrasts make each other’s work stand out."

Work by Megan Huffadine. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Work by Megan Huffadine. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

It also means each exhibition is different as they place the works to suit the architecture and space of each gallery.

They also invite a local artist to exhibit alongside them wherever they are at — in Oamaru it is Eion Shanks.

While some might raise eyebrows at that number of artists working together in such a way, Burdon says it works.

"That’s the beauty of it, egos don’t come into it at all.

Cockerham says it is a bit of a "crazy process" as they design the exhibition but everyone trusts each other to place their works to be shown to their best advantage.

"It’s a very special group. Some kind of magic happens. Part of it I think is we are very much individuals and vastly different in our work."

Burdon agrees saying part of that good relationship comes from all the artists being established and that each is treated equally.

"We all get on OK. There’s no competition in that sense. It’s really quite refreshing."

It also gave the artists, who mostly work alone, a chance to interact and something to work towards that is not as consuming as a solo show for a dealer gallery as it only requires four or five pieces.

"It’s really positive. It’s stimulation and is almost a challenge making you want to produce and extend yourself."


Indigo at Forrester
Forrester Gallery
Until August 22, 2021

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