It looks rather like the display for a roofing firm, or a demolition yard.
In one sense that is what is is. While Jeff Thomson was Tylee Cottage artist-in-residence at Wanganui, he set up a ‘roofing company’ and made additions and alterations to about thirty building in the area. Roofs flaunted patterns and colours like wallpaper, ridge caps and flashings were adorned with kiwi and fantail images, gutters and downpipes had diagrams of printed instructions or illustrations from books on nature while cow shed roofs sprouted the most extraordinary lead headed nails. Wanganui will never be the same, as many buildings have been transformed - functional roofing becomes a decorative adventure and the modifications keep the idea of a home inventive, elusive and alive.
This installation reflects the wide range of imagery and mouldings that appear in his recent work.
Thomson’s choice of corrugated iron and roofing steel as the basic material for his art has transformed a utilitarian building material to new cult status by bringing to it a host of unexplored possibilities. Some of these have been his grazing cows, the 1985 herd of elephants in Albert Park, Napier’s roof top ‘King Kong’, Taihape’s giant gumboot, the elephantine entrance to Auckland Zoo, the individualized mailboxes, the blow torch-filigreed ‘lace’ curtains and his famous corrugation clad HQ Holden station wagon that now resides in Te Papa.
His is an art inspired by the everyday and the commonplace, by ordinary things made extraordinary. Michelangelo might have insisted we look upwards towards the gods, Thompson’s roof-works themselves face skywards: they are something for the gods to look down on.
→ Jeff Thomson: JGTS Roofing Co, 2003, exhibition card