The Tokyo National Museum is in Ueno Onshi. An 11th century sculpture of the Buddha is the primary inspiration for this work, but there are elements of other pieces in here too. The statue is in bronze: magnificent yet simple, gleaming subtly and imbued with a powerful spirituality. For my interpretation, I painted in rich burnt umbers and earths, gilded with gold leaf. I remember focusing on the chest of the sculpture, where folds of the Buddha’s garments created a necklace of cloth. The idea of the simple adornment of a drape of fabric seemed to embody the idea of meditation, of concentrating on what is fundamental and not being distracted by luxury or frippery. A second element influenced this work: when in New Zealand, with the memory of the Buddha’s statue still in my mind, I discovered several giant necklace-like sculptures in museums. They in turn reminded me of celebrational lays or wreaths worn during festivities. Here, the gold leaf on the reverse of the painted glass gleams through the pigments, suggesting spiritual ascent.
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