Don't bother with a book; sit back and enjoy the paintings

The Earnslaw Park toilets will serve a dual purpose on Sunday, January 19 when an Arrowtown artist's series of digital text paintings depicting the female form is exhibited in the cubicles.

Although the first response from the Queenstown Lakes District Council, reported in the Otago Daily Times last month, said exhibition in council spaces of the paintings would not be permitted because ''some members of the public may find it offensive'', artist Paul Sewter has now been granted permission.

''It's very encouraging, for sure,'' Mr Sewter said.

Essentially, he was using public toilets as a space to exhibit his art just to do ''something different'' but also so more of the general public got to see it, as ''sometimes people feel a bit intimidated by going to art galleries''.

The paintings would not prevent people from using the toilets for their main purpose during the ''pop-up'' one-day exhibition, which would run from about 9am-6pm.

They feature coloured images of the female form in various poses and were created after Mr Sewter read Shakespeare sonnets, then selected lines of text and repeated them as the background.

The words were also used to create a virtual paintbrush, used on an electronic tablet, to create the images.

Mr Sewter said the Earnslaw Park exhibition would be titled Fountain Sonnets, which was a nod to 20th century French-American artist Marcel Duchamp's submission of a porcelain urinal to an exhibition organised by the Society of Independent Artists.

''I'm sort of reversing that [by] putting art in a public toilet.''

A week after the Earnslaw Park exhibition, Mr Sewter - who graduated from London's Camberwell College of Arts in 2007 with an MA (distinction) specialising in digital painting - will exhibit his ''Control, Alt, Delete'' collection in the Queenstown Gardens on January 26.

Council spokeswoman Meaghan Miller said the concept was unique and the council was happy to support the initiative.

''Given the artist will be on site throughout the event, he has the ability to receive direct feedback from the community and we wish him all the best,'' Ms Miller said.

''There will be a small section of the public toilets set aside which will not be subject to the exhibition for those who choose not to experience the art.''


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