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East, of the Sun

Painting outdoors one day with the late Juliet Bowen, Gisborne artist Zoe Alford announced her frustration with watercolours.

For many years, the two artists would venture once a week into natural surroundings at dawn to sketch.

“I got annoyed with how long watercolours took to dry. When you’re out sketching, the light is so fleeting you need to work quickly to capture it. I told Juliet about my frustration one day and she said ‘try this’.”

Bowen handed Alford some chalk pastels.

“I tried them,” says Alford. I just fell in love with them. They give you the perfect combination of drawing and painting and you don’t have to wait for anything to dry.”

Alford’s collection of local landscapes created over the past two years will be shown in an exhibition called East, of the Sun that opens at Tairawhiti Museum tomorrow. The artist cites realist painters Grahame Sydney of the South Island and American artist Andrew Wyeth as influences on her style in which the play of light is a significant feature.

Sydney is technically brilliant but captures more than landscape alone, said Alford.

“His work is perfect but there’s something extraordinary in there that holds your attention.

“Juliet would say to me ‘think about focal points — what is it that caught your eye?’ — and to make sure that is my focal point. I’m trying to communicate what it is that caught my eye rather than just paint a picture.”

Also opening at Tairawhiti Museum on Friday is multimedia artist Tawera Tahuri’s exhibition, Kahukura.

Tahuri could not be contacted for comment, but her recent body of work is said to have been inspired by the revitalisation of her iwi and its Treaty of Waitangi land claim. Her art is a conduit for her cultural and political activism.

On her web page, Tahuri said influences on her work include graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, modernists Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso, New Zealand artist, academic and educator Kura Te Waru Rewiri, and expressionistic artist Emere Karaka.

Having graduated from the Toihoukura school of Maori art and design in 1997, Tahuri travels extensively as an artist who represents indigenous Maori artists on the global stage.

In 2009, she was invited to exhibit at the Florence Biennale, which is held every two years and exhibits work by hundreds of invited artists from all over the world. She is a board member and secretary for contemporary Maori visual arts committee, Te Atinga, and is president of, and board member for the Seventh Generation Fund For Indigenous Issues based in the USA. The fundamental principle of this group is to maintain the aspirations of the future seven generations.

Tahuri is a passionate advocate for fresh waterways and is actively involved in the care and maintenance of sacred waterways.

Zoe Alford’s exhibition East, of the Sun, and Tawera Tahuri’s exhibition, Kahukura, open at Tairawhiti Museum on Friday.

Zoe Alford's work Grazing III