Review: Devonport Through Artists’ Eyes

Posted by on Sep 13, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Don Binney

September 4th – September 16th
Devonport Through Artists’ Eyes

Depot Artspace
This impressive exhibition of paintings, prints, photos and reproductions of early Devonport up to more recent times, curated by local artist Robyn Gibson, is an exceptional representation of the vast amount of memorabilia and artefacts held by the Devonport Museum. Hosted by the Depot Artspace, the exhibition is a fine example of community organisations working together to bring the area’s rich history to the people of the community.

Running until Thursday 16th September, Through Artists’ Eyes features a fascinating and varied collection of artistic impressions of Devonport from the earliest days to the present. 19th century paintings and prints of the landscape we know so well are covered in grazing sheep and cattle, horses and carts meander along our now car-dominated roads, and a smattering of houses dot the entire area. Huge swathes of land between where now we have dwellings sardined in every street, remind us that Devonport was originally a small and isolated community.

There is also comprehensive coverage of the role of Maori in this area, with paintings of the arrival of the ‘Tainui’ at Te Haukapua (Torpedo Bay) and a detailed examination of the life and work of the Ngati Hohao ‘Peacemaker’, Ererua Patuone, who is buried at the Mt Victoria cemetery and had a significant influence on the dealings between local Maori and the colonial government at the time.

Other parts of the exhibition highlight Devonport’s long association with maritime trading and leisure activities, in addition to some beautiful photos of those lovely ferries, the Toroa and the Kestrel (hopefully soon to return to her old home). Apparently the traffic queue for Devonport’s vehicular ferry often stretched all the way along King Edward Parade – some things never change!

There is a large hand-tinted photograph of the arrival of the royal yacht Britannia in 1953, along with paintings of other, less luxurious craft bearing less illustrious individuals on their immigration from Britain to the other side of the world.

Also of note is the space dedicated to Devonport’s environmental ‘awakening’ in 1968, the fight against the development of Ngataringa Bay as a marina. Don Binney’s black and white protest poster (the updated and coloured version of which is the advertisement for this exhibition) illustrates the beginning of the more recent drive to maintain Devonport’s heritage status in the face of ever-encroaching development.

The whole exhibition is a timely reminder of the unique character and historical importance of Devonport in the history of our country. Available for the modest sum of $5 is Warren Wilcox’s 2007 pamphlet ‘Devonport – A Very Distinct Community’ – well worth every cent and a useful accompaniment to the show.

Bill Rayner from the Devonport Museum will be talking about the exhibition from10.30-11.30 on Tuesday 14th September, and it runs until the 16th (Thursday). Highly recommended.

Additional displays of stored materials will be held at the Devonport Museum, in Vauxhall Rd. There will be a walking map available for people to visit other heritage sites around Devonport.

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