Embracing the familiarby Tamara Nyholt on 08/06/2012
New Zealand is a country of imports. On an average day (especially in Auckland) you can find yourself surrounded by a potpourri of cultures, from Europe to Asia to North America and beyond. Maybe even an Aussie thrown in for a bit of Oceanic flavor.
As designers we bring with us a cultural and creative memory that informs what we do and adds a unique flavour to our immediate environment. As a young creative growing up in the middle of blink-and-you-miss-it Canada, I had a certain distain for ‘home-grown’ art. I viewed much of it as unsophisticated and parochial (bronze cowboy art? paintings of bison?) and yearned desperately for the classic ‘art warehouse’ of Europe.
Thank goodness for maturity and the perspective it brings.
While there is still no excuse for the steer roper cast in bronze, when I now cast my gaze back to my homeland I am overawed by the rich plethora of work that exists there – both historically and contemporaneously. Unfortunately Canadians, a bit like kiwis, keep our bright lights under a bushel and many of you reading this will not have encountered some of our greatest creative contributors.
Emily Carr is one of Canada’s most esteemed artists. Working around the turn of the last century, she was a visionary – a modernist who succeeded in what was then very much a man’s world.
Her work was much informed by the work of Canadian First Nation’s peoples. For many folk outside of Canada, the only awareness of our indigenous art is a totem pole or maybe some of the lovely costume beadwork. Truth is, there is a huge historic repository of stunning prints, paintings and carvings from a creative tradition that still thrives today.
Looking towards recent work, two of our greats in the graphic world are somewhat inter-woven. Typographer and book designer Robert Bringhurst (author of the essential type guide Elements of Typographic Style) was the mentor of one of our other celebrated creatives, Marian Banjes (who grew up not far from my one-horse prairie town). Many of you will already be familiar with Marian, who gave many of us a creative rocket a few years ago at Semi-Permanent. Her obsessive type constructions have influenced a generation of creatives and certainly given script a bit of a renaissance.
These are just a few of the home-grown treasures that have come to appreciate over the years. I’m sure many of you have similar experiences and boast a great tapestry of influences. I’d love to hear if you’ve come to embrace the creative work from ‘home’ and how it informs what you do now.