Mary-Louise Browne is widely known for her poetic groupings of words that often reveal power plays latent within language. Aucklanders will be familiar with her work By Word, a major public commission that features a series of four letter words engraved on the granite benches of Lorne Street. In exploring a new aspect to her practice Browne has produced a non-text based work for the Te Tuhi Billboards that references local heritage.
Entitled Golden, Browne has produced a series of three giant photographs featuring kauri gum sourced from the Howick Historical Village collection. Enlarged as crisp digital prints the kauri gum takes on an abstract or otherworldly appearance. The luminous golden glow gives the gum a science fiction like quality reminiscent of kryptonite and other fictional minerals. The odd organic contorted form together with the gum’s fissures and inclusions also induces wonder in much the same way as one deciphers the moon’s craters.
Despite having many uses by early Māori, kauri gum is more commonly associated with the booming trade of the nineteenth century when thousands of tons were exported through Auckland to be turned into varnish overseas. With the invention of synthetic varnish the market for kauri gum plummeted but has retained cultural value as a relic of New Zealand’s colonial history. The Howick Historical Village has over the years obtained large amounts of kauri gum donated by the public. By re-imaging this gum Browne plays off its inferred meaning as a colonial resource by giving it a new revitalised but cryptic representation.
→ Glowing Kauri Resin Presented in Billboards, EyeContact, 21-07-2010