Exhibition celebrates the huia and ‘op-shop’ treasures



Photo 1: Mahara Gallery Director Janet Bayly (left) with ceramic artist Kirsty Gardiner and her work, Whispers of Flight.


Wairarapa ceramic sculptor Kirsty Gardiner is determined that one of New Zealand’s most celebrated extinct native birds, the huia, will not be forgotten.

Her exhibition, Remnants and Remains, which has opened at Mahara Gallery celebrates the huia along with other endangered birds and objects which she believes deserve to be remembered.

“I confess the huia is my favourite bird,” she says. “By the end of the 19th century it had become an endangered species. The last official sighting was in 1907.

“Many Victorian women had huia-beak brooches or a pair of mounted huia in a glass dome in their parlour. High tea was a regular event and the best tea service would come out for guests.

“Tea would be served in the parlour with displays of taxidermied birds and other artefacts.”

Kirsty Gardiner recreates these “parlour favourites” in porcelain and also pays homage to another life-long fascination, the “op-shop”.

“Imagine an op-shop at the end of the 19th century,” she says. “The Rag and Bottle Shop” was London’s equivalent at the time – and mud-larking along the Thames would have been the next best option.

“Remnants and Remains was first exhibited at Aratoi, Wairarapa Museum of Art and History. Mahara Gallery Director Janet Bayly says she is thrilled Aratoi and Kirsty Gardiner agreed to bring it to Kāpiti.

“Kirsty is an outstanding talent,” she says. “She has an ability to move effortlessly between textiles and ceramics to create exceptionally detailed fine art works that offer a rich narrative.”

Kirsty Gardiner was born in South Africa. She started in pottery in the 1980s at art school and says she has never looked back.

“My initial training was in production pottery, working on my wheel and producing mostly kitchenware.

“My favourite subject at art school was ceramic history. Most people were fascinated by the potter’s wheel, but my passion was European porcelain.

 “Gradually I moved over to sculptural forms, and with this came the change from high fired earthenware to porcelain.



Photo 2: Celebrating the opening of Mahara Gallery’s latest exhibitions, Remnants and Remains and Through Female Eyes are from left: Aratoi Director Susanna Shadbolt, Kāpiti artist Gillian Cronin, Mahara Gallery Director Janet Bayly and Kirsty Gardiner. In the background is Kirsty Gardiner’s work, Innate Whispers.

Kirsty Gardiner has been a regular exhibitor since 1997. She won the Premier Award at The Portage Ceramic Awards in 2010, a merit award in 2011, and in 2013 and 2014 was a finalist in both The Portage and James Wallace Art Awards. 

Also showing at Mahara Gallery is Through Female Eyes, an exhibition of painting by Kāpiti artist, Gillian Cronin.

“So often throughout the history of art, women have been the objects of the artist’s gaze – the artist generally being male and the artist’s model or muse being female,” says Gillian.

“I wanted to turn the table and paint a woman’s-eye view of the world. In particular, having travelled extensively, I wanted my story in paint to be celebrating the lives of ordinary women in third-world countries.”

Remnants and Remains and Through Female Eyes will be on show at Mahara Gallery until 15 September.