Commission for the Office of the Crown Solicitor MC 2021
In 2017 at Sydney Contemporary, I built my first painting “wall”, a three metre by five metre work comprised of multiple canvases, loosely based on a Fibonacci grid.
Composing with multiple canvases has remained a regular part of my practice, so when Paul Nache and I sat down with brand agency Saturday NZ to discuss a commission for their client, the relevance of a multi-panel work was picked up on immediately.
“Many separate pieces coming together to make a whole – isn’t that Aotearoa New Zealand?” exclaimed Anna Kean, Saturday’s Business Director.
Saturday NZ’s client MC (formerly Meredith Connell), the Office of the Crown Solicitors, were moving into exciting new premises, one of only two Green Buildings in the country, and were commissioning six artists to present six prescribed elements of Contemporary Aotearoa.
I was asked for an artwork that interpreted “Diversity, including ethnicity, linguistics, religion, sexuality, gender, sports and cultural interests, and social, economic, political and geopolitical outlook”, a responsibility I took seriously from my position as a Ngāti Pakeha man. I planned sensitively and with great excitement.
MC were thrilled with the result, a multi-panel work two metres high by five metres long.
In their catalogue, MC declared “Evan Woodruffe’s 2nd November 2021 expresses diversity as ten individual paintings, using bold and bright Schmincke Artist Colours, but connecting and functioning as one. The individual paintings can be reconfigured or be exchanged, symbolising the fluid dynamic of an ever-changing Aotearoa New Zealand. No human forms are shown for these would place limits on diversity. Instead, the work stimulates the viewer’s own imagination to explore the unlimited diversity of human experience. Connecting the ten works is a green ouroboros, also tattooed on Woodruffe’s arm, linking the artist permanently with the work while symbolising the infinite possibility of Aotearoa New Zealand as it grows and evolves”.
As well as paint, I used collage, with fabrics from around the world, and earth – whenua from Tairawhiti where Māori first met with Cook, and gold, the shiny earth that brought many early immigrants.
I had the nine metre long wall painted a deep, warm blue so the work could float on it like our motu on the Pacific.
I’m proud to have my work in the Office of the Crown Solicitor, alongside my fellow artists on this project: Israel Tangaroa Birch, Xoë Hall, Yuki Kihara, Mary-Louise Browne, and Michael Hight.
“Along with his brilliant work that left us all speechless, Evan’s way of creatively collaborating and including us in his step-by-step process made the experience of working with him all that much more exciting. We were listened to and understood – which is why this piece is one of our favourites. Thank you Evan, we can’t wait to work with you again!”
Trying to fit the large commission for the Office of the Crown Solicitors MC in my studio.