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Despite the hours of labour-intensive handcrafting that Elizabeth Thomson’s installation Invitation to Openness – Substantive and Transitive States represents, it’s an exhibition that at first glance seems hardly there at all. The vast walls of The Dowse’s gallery space are marked by shadowy disturbances – hundreds of white moth sculptures create a ghostly swarm spanning the walls from floor to ceiling. For the bug-phobic, this flock of creepy-crawlies offers an experience which is more than a little unsettling. Invitation to Openness is Thomson’s largest installation piece. Each moth is made individually, drawing upon studies of various different species. Thomson models her moths from wax, used to produce moulds which give way to the final sculpture cast in bronze. She’s seeking to frustrate a sense of solidity. By finishing her moths with white paint and flocking, they’re rendered less visible, and the medium less identifiable. The moths range in size from just 3 cm to 20, and are carefully positioned to emulate the way moths naturally settle – haphazardly and grouped together, shuffling towards the light.
Thomson, born in 1956, is a Wellington-based sculptor and installation artist. She draws upon the natural and scientific worlds to inform her work. An early-childhood fascination with moths was revived by a 2011 artist visit to the Kermadecs, where swarms of the fluttering creatures surrounded the buildings on Raoul Island. The exhibition name comes from a ’70s jazz album that, for Thomson, reflects something of what she’s hoping to achieve – “To listen to the music, you just had to let it wash over you, and that’s what I’d like with this – just a chance to be in the space and spend time reflecting and being absorbed.” Invitation to Openness] creates a very charged sense of stillness, part-spooky, part childhood camping, and completely worth a visit to The Dowse.
The Dowse, until 23 November.