Corrugations: The art of Jeff Thomson – Publication Review

First published 2013

Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga

By Sarah Kennedy

This publication explores the journey of an artist who has made a big achievement over the past three decades in New Zealand and also overseas with an insightful narrative of what it took to make it in the art world. Jeff Thomson is a New Zealand sculptor who is well known for his corrugated iron works. His explorations of this specific material enabled him to explore the process of shaping and cutting, weaving and French knitting, cladding, roofing, printing the surface, cutting, stacking, braiding and moulding to make objects that seem at odds with the material they are made of.

The very beginning of his successful career started from long distance walks from place to place in rural areas of New Zealand fascinated by their mailboxes. In 1981 Jeff Thomson walked from Bulls to New Plymouth and along the way started to put letters in mailboxes, telling people about himself and his work, proposing that he would make an artwork for them. From the 350 letters delivered Thomson had received seven responses back with the owner’s interests, and set off constructing mailboxes personalised each by a sculpture. These works appeared in his first solo exhibition ‘Mailboxes’ in 1982 Auckland dealer gallery, RKS Art and in 1984 featured in Bowen Galleries, Wellington with the first time using corrugated iron of a cut–out shape of a cow. This show attracted attention from the public and opened up the opportunity where people were asking for him to make works of what they wanted with this material. The artist also sent proposals to galleries and got many offers in artist residency, and his public sculptures are seen all around New Zealand and is productive finishing commissions for offshore clients.

Jeff Thomson is a busy man, constant in demand. The very nature of his work reaches a variety of audiences because it is memorable, humorous and the way he uses corrugated iron to make common everyday objects we are familiar with is extraordinary. The publication is a useful tool to read and make a connection with his work, experiencing works you’ve seen already and discovering new works. In awe I’m inspired by his work because of the artist technique in mastering the kiwi material of corrugated iron and unlimited imagination to make anything possible for the people.


Elbe’s Milk Bar by Tim Barlow – Art Review

Common Ground Hutt Public Art Festival

3rd March – 7th March 2015

By Sarah Kennedy

Ten artists from across New Zealand have been selected in this year’s 2015 Common Ground Hutt Public art festival to show their work to the public in Lower Hutt. Wainuiomata based artist Tim Barlow is one of the ten artists chosen to take part in the festival, where his work responds very well to the location. His temporary public art project went back down memory lane to recreate Elbe’s Milk bar close to where the original Elbe’s Milk bar traded from the early 1940’s to the late 1950’s. This reinvention happened inside the old souvenir shop on the corner of Laings Road and High Street where the place was transformed back in time, with the same theme of classic 50s colours and installation of the original.

Elbe’s Milk Bar served ice cream, sundaes, milkshakes, and was a main area for teenagers to hangout and socialise enjoying the atmosphere, music from the jukebox and food.  The behaviour of some of its teenage patrons led to moral panic which led for the Mazengarb inquiry report of 1954, a beginning to the birth of youth culture in New Zealand.

Tim Barlow’s project captures an audience of a mix of teenagers, families and elderly coming in to reminisce of their younger days. Also what made it special was that the artist got in touch with the original owners of Elbe’s Milk bar sons to help out behind the counter at the same time the brothers got to relive their father and mothers business in the 1950s and 60s.

I found Tim Barlow’s installation inviting and it is a very clever way to get the public mixing and thinking about societal changes or youth culture whilst enjoying sundaes and listening to music from the jukebox. I found out about this from the newspapers, radio, posters and word of mouth to come along and experience it. I think the work is engaging, history repeating itself, satisfying, brings up discussion of the past and what’s happening today in New Zealand youth culture and is a fun interactive piece that people socially engage in the community.