Vermeer 22, Manukau. A fallen tree had slipped from the grassy cliff onto the beach at Manukau Heads, near Auckland, New Zealand, just below the tideline, and had been claimed by the ocean. The timber was stripped of bark, bleached by the sun, and was encrusted with small blue mussels. The dormant shellfish had colonised the bare wood, creating an inky black and iridescent textured mass. It looked as if it had become a single creature, particularly as the branches of the tree touched the sand and cast long shadows in the evening sunset. This living garment had razor-sharp peaks, glistening and fascinating, each shell protecting a creature. We were aware that this colony would transform once submerged.
The enamel colours are indigo and black, like the night and like the blue of the mussel shells. The intense colours suggest a fabulous mystical beast which transforms when under water. The glass is cut to reference the surface of the ocean, which in time will return to cover the shells.
The Oceania Series of Vermeer reliefs
Rebecca Newnham 2020
The Vermeer series is a series of curved relief panels. Their reflective glass surfaces refract the room or the environment so that the viewer’s perception switches between the image and the reflection. Each piece starts by painting onto glass with enamels, which is then fired to fix the pigments into the glass. The glass is then cut and collaged to create a faceted, pixilated image. The shape of each Vermeer is a shallow, tensioned curve, like the lens of the eye.
The Oceania series is a group of works that reflect a trip to Tokyo and to Auckland early in 2020. Most have a relationship to water – either a beach, a lake, or the ocean – and to the natural and spiritual world. As Covid-19 was taking hold and the virus spread, they served to emphasise the value of the fiercely protected, unspoilt natural beauty of New Zealand and the restraint, focus and social consciousness of Japanese society at a time when the whole world is looking closely at itself and revaluating.
Medium: Enamelled glass, timber
Dimensions each: 920 x 920x 100mm