I am excited to share one of my favourite New Zealand sculptors with you. Juliette Milne resides in Auckland where she is a busy grandmother, wife, student and artist, not neccesarily in that order!
Juliette is currently studying art history as a ‘mature’ student and in recent years has exhibited regularly in the greater Auckland area. She has exhibited work in many galleries and locations including Brick Bay; The Black Barn, Hawkes Bay; Tarawhanui Art in the Woolshed; Waiheke Art Gallery and of course her work is in many private collections.
I sat down with Julette and asked her a few questions, I enjoyed her responses and I am sure you will too. This is a great insight into a working sculptor.
I consider you well established as a sculptor in Auckland. Do you exhibit in Queenstown perhaps or Australia? If not why not?
“Thank you for the compliment, I have had great rewards through the contacts, the exhibitions and the friendships I have made but it is a challenging journey.
I have retrenched from the South Island having been represented in Dunedin, Queenstown, Christchurch and Nelson but at the present time, sales and costs outweigh the benefits of having work everywhere. You have to keep a balance because you can spread yourself too thinly.
I have exhibited in group shows overseas several times, but solo shows, or having my work stocked by overseas galleries is not something I pursue. The link that my work holds to New Zealand is important to me and is better exhibited nationally.”
You have been studying at university recently; is this to advance your sculpture or just because you enjoy learning?
” Both. A University friend pronounced that we are confirmed “epistemophiles” which I had to go away any look up and discovered what I was … someone who loves searching for and learning new things. There is no denying that research and information cements, feeds and deepens your learning and is ultimately reflected in the concept for your own work.”
Why do artists generally speaking need a formal arts education to get recognition?
“In this day and age there are so many “artists” … it’s a fashionable thing to call yourself, and most are not going to cut the mustard without formal learning. Two very good friends, Peter and Sylvia Siddell who had no formal training in the arts (who have sadly both passed away) often debated this point with myself, Jim Wheeler and Terry Stringer. They were great debates and each of us have won the debate in our own way.
For me it was a major part of the journey and I gained so many skills and friendships that I would have otherwise been lucky to have stumbled upon. Lecturers make good friends but perhaps that was the added bonus of being a mature student. Good lecturers are what I call wonderful people-people. “
When did you start making sculptures?
“I had worked in 2D for many years and when I returned to formal study for my fine arts degree I firmly expected to continue in this vein but I had a wonderful lecturers, in particular, Trish Scott, Paul Cullen and Deborah Crowe, who reinforced in my mind how important 3D was to my thinking. My drawing, my painting and ultimately, my sculptural pieces are all very much in the realm of 3D.”
Are there other artists in your family?
“Oh yes they are and were wonderful women. On my Father’s side, Heather Lomas painted wonderful landscapes and portraits, her work is still revered in the National Portrait Collection in Wellington. On my Mother’s side, her cousin, my Godmother was an Elam student and to this day is one of my greatest critiques and encouragers.”
“What was the catalyst to start working in bronze?
“When I returned to fulltime study to gain my degree if fine arts, the thrust of my research was into the lack of recognition of women’s achievements. I worked in a number of medium, one of which was resin making the “lace-pearls”. To me they were like containers of memory incorporating the lace worn, washed and held by my forebears and carried their touch.
Furthering and celebrating the memorial side of recognising these women led me to working in bronze which is traditionally a medium of acclaim. Initially, I didn’t make medals in the traditional sense. I drew a metaphorical parallel between these women and our native New Zealand bush, focusing on the seed pods and layers of the plants which nurture and protect the next generation. Hence my series of Harakeke are the seed pods, not flowers. As a continuum from my work with the lace, I embossed the surface of each pod with a fragment of lace, like a fingerprint or a mark acknowledging my past.
I enjoyed working in bronze, it’s predominantly a masculine environment and as a woman I felt it had a poignancy with the concept of my work.
I moved on to create several other series of works in bronze and am a member of MANZ Medal Art New Zealand, formally the Medallion Group.”
Can you tell me more about your involvement with Medallions – MANZ?
“It is a group started by Betty Beadle following the death of her husband Paul to hold together the artists they had taught, worked with, or encouraged. It is a very prestigious and well respected group and I was fortunate to be invited to join them eleven years ago. We exhibit annually, sometimes more frequently. This year is the 25th Anniversary of the group and Sir James Wallace has invited us to hold our exhibition at the TSB Wallace Arts Trust, Pah Homestead, July 20th – September 20th 2015.
Do you plan to return to larger pieces? Or are they just too heavy to manage?
“I enjoy working on a smaller, more intimate scale but still make larger pieces in fact am currently working on a commission for two very large pieces but in this economic climate I would not consider a solo exhibition with work on this scale.
To answer the second half of your question, my larger works are cast in several pieces and welded together so only become difficult to manage in the latter part of the process. Its fun, challenging and at times unwieldy! “
I recall a large Nikau palm frond at Brick Bay, is that piece still there?
“There have been two of my Nikau works at Brick Bay, and it was such an honour to have had work there. One was sold from there to a private collector and I have the other in my garden. I have been approached to install another work there and maybe, when I feel I have the right piece, I will. “
On a lighter note did you make pies as a small girl? Or people out of “play doh”?
“Play Dough? Well that dates me! I made that for my children, it hadn’t been invented when I was young. We had Plastercine and Plaster of Paris and it was just as much fun. I can’t say I recall the mud pies but no doubt they were there and as yummy as ever. I did make sand pies and lots of things out of lumps of wood, nails, and ‘things’. I drew and painted on everything and stuck everything up on the walls and curtains in my bedroom and invited people in to see my exhibitions, much to my Mother’s horror.”
When and where is your next exhibition?
“I have already mentioned the exhibition with the MANZ Group in July and I have also been invited to be part of a group show to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Waiheke Art Gallery which will run from late August till late September this year. I don’t have plans for a solo show at this stage, I enjoy the comradery and involvement exhibiting in group shows.”
Where do you get your inspiration as an artist?
“Life, family, the world I live in …. just keeping my eyes, ears, and heart open.”
This exhibition celebrates the 25 year journey of the Medal Artists of New Zealand.
Regroup Reflect Regenerate looks to the past, present and future of this impressive group of artists through a comprehensive display featuring 35 exhibitors and over 200 medals.
“Medallic art is an art for lovers of sculpture on a small scale; art in the palm of your hand. The primary function of the medal has always been to be a bearer of messages, communicated intimately by the artist to the public.”
L.Tilanus, FIDEM, 1998