John Edgar’s is the sixth in a series of exhibitions (after Jim Vivieaere, Cecilia Parkinson, Maureen Lander, Carole Shepheard, Areta Wilkinson) that make use of the Carnegie Cases, borrowed from the Ethnology Department of the Auckland Museum. All of these exhibitions not only showcase the artist’s work, but also explore the meaning and viewer expectation created by displays in museums.
The refurbishment of the Museum’s displays was funded by the Carnegie Foundation in 1929, with new state of the art cases offering freestanding displays for the first time. The Edwardian appearance of the brass and wood construction provides the participating artists with an elaborate showcase with a heavy aesthetic history.
Edgar’s work Insignia is like a miniaturized collection of 32 national flags, arranged for study by visiting groups, but they are symbols of Edgar’s personal exploration in his work.
He explains it as follows - ‘The origins of these badges are to be found in my travel drawings and writings of the early 1980s. I wanted to realise the drawings as objects, but at that time my predominant working material was stone which presented various material and technical restrictions. In an early attempt around 1983, I tried making (stone) ‘slides’ of my work. They had the format of 35mm transparencies, with the slide ‘mount’ made from copper and the ‘film’ made from a thin section of material: stone, glass, shell and bone. These did not develop far. I continued... to look for ways to record the physical and spiritual states of travel: planning, packing, departure, new terrain, uncertain ways, strange lands, weird maps, nostalgia, remembrance, return.
It was not until 1993 that... I resolved to convey my ideas in the format of badges. The results were first exhibited in Light Relief at Fingers, Auckland in 1994 and then in Badge at Fluxus, Dunedin in 1995. The latest exhibition continues to record journeys through the land. It develops my interests in geology and it begins to examine the geometric insignia of flags. The badges use copper, silver and brass, soldered and forged then ground into the final work.’
John Edgar has exhibited widely through New Zealand and has work in most major New Zealand craft collections.