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Lino cuts of Kiwi life

The swirl of foliage dotted with bird coops, berries and birds in Teri Wilkinson’s lino cut Bird Cage has the decorative character of a work from mid-19th century Britain’s Arts and Crafts movement. But the self-taught artist does not consciously draw on historical styles which is possibly why her work on show at Muirs Bookshop cafe ranges from folkish to sophisticated, “from intense to fun”, as Wilkinson puts it.

A print of a camping scene depicts two women in a meadow toasting marshmallows over a fire. Nearby is a tent and a caravan and a boat sits in the bay. The forms are flattened; linear perspective is abandoned. The scene though is one Wilkinson remembers from her childhood.

“A lot of my lino cuts are based on typical Kiwi things we can relate to.”

In Bird Cage the forms are simplified rather than stylised; the bush characteristically wild rather than lyrical while a circular print based on photographs and real life explores in detailed close up the texture of a ruru’s (morepork) face.

“I live in the country so we’re surrounded by wildlife. We get moreporks around our home.”

A lino cutters’ forum has been an invaluable resource and Wilkinson has looked at artworks from historical woodcuts.

“I love the simplicity. Many years ago a lot of our books were illustrated with lino and woodcuts.”

Such prints were often used as bookplates or ex-libris, a decorative label pasted into a book, often on the front endpaper, to indicate ownership.

Wilkinson returned to producing artwork about three years ago.

“Once I started on lino I got hooked on it. It’s almost therapeutic. Once you start carving lino blocks you want to keep going.

You can carve it busy or keep it simple. Then you can’t wait to print it to see what it looks like.”

OF BUSH AND BIRD COOPS: Teri Wilkinson’s lino cut Bird Cage is among works that range from folkish to sophisticated in her collection on show at Muirs Bookshop cafe. Picture by Liam Clayton