Artwork Detail

Southern Cross Parterre
Paramount Award Winner, 1998 Wallace Art Awards.

Around the beginning of the 1990s Elizabeth Thomson’s various artistic productions in painting and sculpture coalesced into a unique language using cast metal leaves as a basic unit, from which the artist could build up complex statements. This same phase saw her make a profound movement in her studies from nature, from the very particular to the most esoteric. Her familiar, anatomically faithful, bronze sculptures of insects gave way to increasingly abstract, predominantly two-dimensional compositions addressing cosmological themes. Several interrelated series and exhibitions resulted from this shift of focus, in which the leaf elements, cast in bronze or zinc, were applied to panels, and incorporated into paintings, or were arranged on gallery walls in abstract configurations suggesting the fundamental forms of nature, as described in modern particle physics.

Southern Cross Parterre is a pivotal work in Thomson’s development towards a cosmological framework for her interest in nature. While her preoccupation with nature is present in the elemental leaf shapes used to make up the cross, the cross itself is evidence of Thomson turning her attention to questions involving New Zealand’s physical location under the constellation of the Southern Cross, and the wider philosophical questions involving our place in the universe, ultimately addressing questions of spiritual faith, which are unavoidable in reading the formal cruciform she has assembled from the delicate cast leaves. In this way Southern Cross Parterre marks a crux or central logos in Thomson’s thinking: from this point she expanded her interest in the abstract logic of astrophysics, leading to the important exhibition My Hi-Fi, My Sci-Fi at Wellington’s City Gallery in 2006, in which the leaf motifs were arranged in waves and circles alluding to phenomena such as wave-particle duality, space-time, and light cones.

Thomson’s often noted ability to slip effortlessly between two and three dimensions is very evident in Southern Cross Parterre. She has an innate facility for a kind of conceptual space travel that is both the source and the vehicle for her investigations into dimensionality. Yet Thomson’s profound interest in nature has remained constant and unchanging throughout the many evolutionary phases of her practice.

Catalogue text:
Published on the occasion of the Twenty Wallace Art Awards Paramount Winners Exhibition.
14 February to 22 April 2012 at The Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre and 2 August to 30 September 2012 at the Wallace Gallery Morrinsville.
painted and patinated bronze on gesso on board
1800 x 1060mm
Accession number

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