Themes get you to think

Aicha Wijland has brought her painting to life with animation.
Aicha Wijland has brought her painting to life with animation.
Megan Gladding is raising awareness of the impacts of deforestation.
Megan Gladding is raising awareness of the impacts of deforestation.
Phoebe Morrison’s life-size ornaments are quite discombobulating.
Phoebe Morrison’s life-size ornaments are quite discombobulating.

Dunedin School of Art’s annual SITE exhibition provides its third-year students with a chance to show their creativity and this year is no exception, Rebecca Fox discovers.

You could be forgiven for thinking you had been reduced to dwarf size when you wander around sculpture student Phoebe Morrison's ''collectables''.

What would normally be small, ceramic ornaments adorning a grandmother's, or, in this case, a student's, sideboard have all of a sudden become larger than life.

Morrison (21), of Dunedin, has super-sized some of her own collection of ornaments and those she found in opportunity shops using cardboard, chicken wire and plaster. The details have been filled in with paint and then glossed.

It was a process Morrison had to learn from scratch and it required a bit of experimentation. It took her about two weeks to make each of the five pieces.

''I'm getting faster at it. I've learnt some new skills.''

The exhibition differs from those she has done before but she wanted to branch out.

She got the idea for the works when sorting through her own collection of ornaments.

''It talks about the value we place on objects. By making them big, it highlights the absurdity of the mini ones.''

Morrison has also made a table to ''display'' the ornaments and the perspex boxes in which she will display the mini ornaments.

She had spent a lot of time rummaging around in opportunity shops for ornaments, indulging her own collecting tendencies.

There was now quite a collection of ornaments to go on display at the exhibition. After it ended, Morrison planned to get rid of them all, although the ''op shops'' were not keen to get them back.

''I might break down the collection into sections, like pigs and ducks, and see who wants them.''

Fellow sculpture student Megan Gladding (22), from Wellington, joined Morrison on many an opportunity shop hunt but she was looking for old wood or furniture that could be broken down. She also visited the rubbish dump.

''We're students. We need cheap stuff.''

Gladding wanted the wood to create a tree - inspired by a TV programme she saw on the impacts of deforestation in Indonesia, threatening wildlife, especially the orang-utan.

''I was watching the news last year and I saw this dead orang-utan mother and the baby would not let go.

''Before that I had no idea. I was oblivious.''

As part of her research for the project, she visited Auckland Zoo to see the orang-utans.

''I'm slowly delving into how many more animals are being targeted by deforestation; then there is the palm oil issue and the pet trade.''

So she wanted to make a statement by creating her own tree with branches made of furniture legs and other waste wood, accompanied by 38 fur-covered chairs for children.

''It's not as easy as I thought it was going to be.

''The children's chairs show the vulnerability of the primates in the forest.''

When people get up from sitting in the chairs they come away with fur on them, showing the consequences of their actions.

''I used faux fur in different colours for different species. I now have a profound respect for the glue gun.''

To highlight the issue there will be puns like ''King gone'', ''George where's the jungle'', ''Gone with the forest'' and ''Forest Dump'' on the wall around the tree.

''I want to make a heavy subject not so heavy, more accessible.

''The tree speaks of the human Band Aid we put on this but the consequences continue to happen.''

New tech

A large mural of life-sized nudes has been brought to life by photography and electronic art student Aicha Wijland.

Wijland has combined painting with 2-D digital animation using a figurative style to create an ''otherworldly tableau'' on a wall in a studio at Otago Polytechnic.

She has been inspired in her work by a recent exchange programme she completed in the Netherlands where she studied animation.

''It gave me the skills and freedom to express myself how I wanted to.''

Prior to that she had taught herself the basics of animation. So the course is where she discovered what she really wanted to do.

''It enables me to bring it into a gallery context.''

The animation projects bodies in floating gestures on to the painting in a looping installation.

''I hope people will spend a little time in here. With it now going to the floor it is immersive, almost as if you are stepping into it.''

Wijland, who is also completing a graduate diploma in advertising, says her ''Flesh'' installation reflects the ''sensual experience of being in a body'' and explores the physical embodiment of a person and their interaction with it.

''When we are aware of being watched, there is the reaction of the pose, the 'mortification' of the flesh. This work is, in a sense, 'reanimating' flesh, finding the liminal space in which we live.''

The figures are not in a heavenly space; rather, in limbo, she says.

''There is elements of Michaelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, of pop art, of a lot of different influences.''

The work came out of her passion for drawing.

''Animation is an extension of that.''

''New figures come to life. It can be tedious but it feels like magic when you play it at the end.''

Animation enabled her to create new worlds she could not with drawing.

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