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Mike Crawford - Te Ara o Nga Manu 13 April - 11 May 2019

Mike Crawford
Te Ara o Nga Manu
13 April - 11 May 2019

Te Ara o Nga Manu, is inspired by a book of the same name that served as the starting point for the development of new forms that look at migratory birds. Mike Crawford has built a strong practice on a stunning sculptural vocabulary that creates a dialogue between vessel shapes and bird forms. A curve of a bowl or the line of a rim can in a single moment subtly suggest both. Mike has developed a unique style of restrained abstraction through which to explore the birds of Aotearoa, and glass as a historical material for vessels. 
Please join us at the opening of Te Ara o Nga Manu, to celebrate this latest series with Mike on Saturday 13th April from 3-5pm.
Contact the gallery for more information and an e-catalogue.

Te Ara o Ngā Manu

This exhibition Te Ara o Ngā Manu took inspiration from the book Pathway of the Birds by Andrew Crowe. The book explores navigating achievements of Māori and Polynesian voyagers and gave me a new understanding of the processes of discovery and exploration that have occurred in the Pacific over the last 700 or so years. One aspect of the book that particularly resonated with me was Crowe's research describing how seafarers in the Pacific used the migration patterns of particular birds to ascertain the direction of possible land masses to the south and subsequently ways of returning as they migrate back north. It is this area of exploration that informed the name of Crowe's book, and subsequently my title for this exhibition Te Ara (the pathway) o Ngā Manu (of the birds).

Two land-based birds native to Aotearoa that I've looked to in this exhibition are the Koekoeā (Long-tailed Cuckoo) and the Pīpīwharauroa (Shining Cuckoo). Arriving in the spring and leaving in autumn these birds illuminated the possibilities of navigating around the Pacific at certain times of the year. The meaning of Pīpīwharauroa is 'bird of the long ocean journey' reflecting a Māori understanding of the long distances travelled by these birds.

Other migrating sea birds I've been considering are the Kuaka (Godwit), Tara (Arctic Tern) and the Kotaha (which is a Tuamotuan term for the Frigate bird). When departing from Aotearoa on their migratory route north, Kuaka are seen in considerable flocks that can number above a thousand. Even now it makes for a compelling sight, and even more so when considering the greater bird numbers that must have been seen by early travellers arriving around the 13th century. To those skilled in navigation, seeing these masses of birds departing would have led many to wonder where they might be heading on their journey. As the whakatauki says 'Kua kite te kōhanga Kuaka? (Who has seen the nest of the Kuaka?)

The Tara (Arctic Tern) is a less frequent visitor to our shores, although it is seen travelling from the Arctic to the Antarctic regions annually. Travelling up to 80,000km each year the travelling capabilities of these birds is astounding. The Kotaha (Frigate bird) is a familiar sight throughout the Pacific, but more rarely seen in Aotearoa. In the past Kotaha were used as land-finding birds, carried aboard waka for release as a way of determining whether land was nearby. Disinclined to land on water and wet their unoiled feathers, these birds would travel up to 100km to find land, otherwise returning to the vessel if none is near.

The vessel forms I've used in this exhibition are an extrapolation of my sculptural references to forms of waka and manu. While the Waka Huia is traditionally a container for housing treasured items, here I've looked at forms that might formally reflect the connection between the explorers and the migrating birds, which have provided inspiration and guidance for these voyagers. In these forms tail becomes prow, or the beak appears in both directions, symbolising journey cycles of voyage and return.

Mike Crawford, 2019