Exhibition more of a 'garden' adventure

German-made 19th-century Brendel models used for teaching at University of Otago’s 
...
German-made 19th-century Brendel models used for teaching at University of Otago’s Department of Botany. Photos: Craig Baxter
The models, which pre-date the opening of the botany department in 1924, show floral and leaf...
The models, which pre-date the opening of the botany department in 1924, show floral and leaf details typically only able to be observed under a microscope
A rare expanded anatomical model of an ear canal from the W.D. Trotter Anatomy Museum at...
A rare expanded anatomical model of an ear canal from the W.D. Trotter Anatomy Museum at University of Otago.

Art and collection items from 14 different collections across University of Otago have been pulled together for an exhibition at the Hocken. Rebecca Fox talks to curator Robyn Notman and artist Heather Straka.

A rare papier-mache ear, delicate models of flowers and botanical drawings sit alongside works of fine art in a ''playful'' and ''sensory'' exhibition drawn from a variety of University of Otago collections.

Hocken pictorial collections head curator Robyn Notman and artist and 2008 Frances Hodgkins Fellow Heather Straka have been inspired by their favourite painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch, to create an exhibition of the same name.

The Bosch work, painted between 1490 and 1510, is a triptych oil painting on oak panel and hangs in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

''We've both seen it. It is our favourite picture ever. He has created this fantasy world, mix and mingling different aspects of thought and nature,'' Notman says.

They set out to re-create some of that feeling in the exhibition.

A search through the Hocken Collections, the Embellishment Collection and the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship Collection commenced.

''Unbeknown to her, I have included a work by Heather from the fellowship collection from her time working in the Otago Medical School anatomy museum - it's a nice connection.''

Then the University of Otago research collections in archaeology, botany, geology and the W.D. Trotter Anatomy Museum were searched for pieces.

''It was a treasure trove of inspiration.''

Artist Heather Straka (left) and Hocken pictorial collections head curator Robyn Notman during the hanging of botanical teaching charts produced in Germany from 1894 onwards and held in University of Otago Department of Botany records. Photos: Craig Baxte
Artist Heather Straka (left) and Hocken pictorial collections head curator Robyn Notman during the hanging of botanical teaching charts produced in Germany from 1894 onwards and held in University of Otago Department of Botany records. Photos: Craig Baxter

The papier-mache ear, a teaching aid like the model flowers from the botany department, fitted the bill as there is an ear in the Bosch work with a sword through it. It is displayed on a trolley from the anthropology department rather than a white plinth.

In a cabinet of curiosities there will be exhibits such as a moa bone from the anthropology department. Works by inaugural Frances Hodgkins fellow Michael Illingworth - his Adam and Eve-themed work - Jeffrey Harris' Joanna and Euan at Okains Bay and monochromatic pencil drawings by George O'Brien (1821-1888) sit alongside.

They hope visitors to the exhibition will feel immersed in a world of experience when they enter and it provokes people to think about the relationships between the objects.

''We hope it will be quite an adventure.''

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