Tag Archives: exhibition

Mad Max meets Dr Who

CelesteReviews Steampunk HQ Logo

Steampunk HQ Logo

Steampunk HQ
1 Itchen Street, Oamaru

Take steam powered machinery and other random items from 19th century Victorian England, add a twist of Sci Fi and fantasy, and sprinkle with an unsettling undercurrent of Goth and horror. Mix together with a post-apocalyptic feel and a sprinkle of artistic historical drama, and I give you Steampunk HQ, “Oamaru styles”. Or, in their words, “Tomorrow, as it used to be”.

My interpretation?  Imagine an alternative Victorian future, where Mad Max meets Dr Who. By far the weirdest interactive art installation that I’ve ever encountered.

It’s not for everyone’s palate. A prior appreciation for the essence of the Steampunk genre goes a long way in attempting to understand this artistic expression.

CelesteReviews Steampunk train

From the outside of the historic Meeks Grain Elevator Building in Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct, you are greeted by an impressive steam train spouting flames, an interesting motorcycle, a kaleidoscope machine with an airship hanging overhead. Surely, you know you are in for more than your usual art gallery experience.

CelesteReviews Steampunk Motorcycle

Motorcycle and Kaleidoscope

CelesteReviews Steampunk

Pop $2 into the train to see it flame and smoke

CelesteReviews Steampunk Oamaru

Steampunk HQ Artist, Jac Grenfell

Lounging against the train, we bumped into Jac Grenfell, one of the artists of Steampunk HQ and a quirky fellow himself. He explained how there is an unrealistic perception that the Victorian era was all this lovely elegance, when really it was a hard and bleak time in history. So, they’ve taken Victorian items and provided a more serious artistic perspective of the Industrial Revolution, but in a fun and quirky manner.

Their artistic spin dramatises how humans and machines from this era interact. Which segues nicely to Steampunk HQ’s logo (see above)  incorporating a cog (machine) and skull (human).

CelesteReviews Steampunk

Maze Portal – gateway to Steampuk HQ’s inner dimensions

Stepping into the first darkened room, you feel you’ve stepped back in time, but into the future. Strange contraptions peer through the rising steam and machines whir as your eyes adjust to the low level of light.

Some of the art is downright spooky. Especially the eerie collection of vintage dentist chairs clustered here and there. Peering down through a glass window in the floor, a vintage dentist chair is set in a gloomy dungeon. I honestly felt that I was about to witness a scene from a SAW horror movie.

Other works provided a little humour, such as the ‘Maze Portal’, providing a gateway to the inner dimensions of Steampunk HQ.

CelesteReviews Steampunk Oamaru

Cheerful tractor driver

Bigger installations and other curious machines feature in the second room. A large boat, complete with pitchfork wielding captain at the helm, peers through the rising smoke at a skulled rider atop a steam powered tractor. Several old fashioned dental chairs recline in a semi circle to watch a themed Steampunk short film, while in the corner sits a portal to unexplained mysterious dimensions.

CelesteReviews Steampunk Oamaru

Boat with pitchfork wielding Captain

My husband described the yard area as having the post-apocalyptic feel of the computer game ‘Fallout’. It is filled with machines and parts, in different stages of artistic completion. An impressive black locomotive carriage is the largest piece situated in the yard, kitted out with a spiky mane and other mysterious adornments. Make sure you clamber on top of the carriage, for an alternative view of the heavy metal devices (the jury is still out on the purpose of the giant bell hanging from an oversized bath plug chain).

CelesteReviews Steampunk Oamaru

Locomotive in the yard area (note the bell and chain contraption – top right)

Casting your eyes skyward, there are more unusual sights to behold. Giant flies swarm the side of the historic building, while a skeletal fisherman tries his luck from the top of the building.

CelesteReviews Steampunk Oamaru

The Yard (note the flies on the building and the fisherman on the roof)

We loved the freedom of Steampunk HQ. There are no barriers or prescriptive route of the order to view the artworks. You are left on your own to explore and be delighted with what you discover. With so much to take in, I’m sure that no two visitors will have the same experience.

Jac ensures us that the Steampunk HQ team has a lot of development plans in the pipeline, including a room of infinite mirrors. So, stay tuned for more adventures.

I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand all of the work included in Steampunk HQ, but we thoroughly enjoyed our hour of weird and wonderful entertainment.

CelesteReviews Steampunk Oamaru

Aethertractor, situated outside the Information Centre

Entry: It’s $10 per adult to explore the yard and inside works. You can also put coins in the outside attractions (steam train, airship, etc) to see them in action.

In a Nutshell: Take an open mind, and prepare to be  immersed in a strange and quirky alternative world.

Top Tip: It could be a bit scary for youngsters (low light levels, skulls, smoke and dramatic lighting), but I imagine brave boys would love the machinery. Also look out for other Steampunk artwork around town.


Artful Vines

Sculpture in the Country

Gladstone Vineyard, Carterton

Recently, on a work trip to the Wairarapa, I stumbled across the bi-annual art event ‘Sculpture in the Country’ at Gladstone Vineyard.

This was the third ‘Sculpture in the Country’ event to be held, and the first to have the exterior art on display at a vineyard. Over 45 artists from around the country contributed over 100 sculptures, with visitors able to purchase the exhibition pieces.

Crocodile - Sculpture in the Country

Imagine this lurking beside your lake, although the ducks don't look scared - Crocodile by Carl Gifford

Along with wine (well the sculptures were placed in a vineyard), attendees could also enjoy live music. The event raised money for Wairarapa Women’s Refuge.

I loved the way some of the sculptures were arranged within the natural environment of the Gladstone Vineyard property, especially Crocodile, by Carl Gifford, emerging from the lake.

The sculptures were extremely varied in style and the material used.

Here are photos of some of my favourite sculptures on display:

Roaring Stag - Sculpture in the Country

A clever use  of native driftwood, this sculpture and was very impressive when rounding the bend of the vineyard’s driveway – Roaring Stag by Jack Marsden-Mayer.

Dragonfly - Sculpture in the Country

The wings of this artwork moved in the wind. Odanatas Reprise by Doug Kennedy ($9,990).

Car Sculpture - Sculpture in the Country

Qualis Vita Finis Ita was created by Niko Thomsen. The old car has hundreds of bugs, made from milk steel, crawling over and inside the vehicle. This piece was on sale for $13,000, so I admired from afar, plus it would never have fitted in my suitcase back to Auckland.

Winery Dogs

Every winery should have a dog, and I thought these two were gorgeous.

Art in the trees - Sculpture in the Country

Hells Bells ($1,150) was created by J & R Nott/Hassall. Strung up between two trees, the bells tinkled in the wind.

Cork Sculpture

I’m imagining this would be from a very large bottle of Bubbles. After Dinner Play, made from wood and steel by Doug Kennedy ($5,000).

Bull Sculpture

An intricate work of barbed wire and steel from artist, Brett Harman, created Hurricane ($14,000).

Chair Sculpture

Chairs balancing between the vines, made from zinc and granite. The Opposeat by Ben Beemsterboer.

Jigsaw Art

Stueart Welsh used Corten Steel to create this giant jigsaw piece, called Piece of Sky.

In a nutshell: Wine, music, food and art. A lovely way to discover the Wairarapa.

Truly Outrageous

Outrageous Fortune – The Exhibition

Auckland Museum

For Valentine’s Day, the hubby surprised me with a trip to see the Outrageous Fortune Exhibition at the Auckland Museum. I’d have at least put on a black t-shirt, had I known where we were going, as we are Westies after all.

Armed with a ticket, 3-D Glasses,‘I AM WEST’ tattoos and an enthusiastic welcome by Museum Staff, we stepped into Outrageous Fortune – The Exhibition.

According to John Campbell, Outrageous Fortune is the most successful drama series in the history of New Zealand Television. This exhibition focuses on behind the scenes of the cult series; creation, script development, casting, props, make up, set, etc – and boy did I learn a lot.

The first part of the exhibition looks at the writers and creators (Rachel Lang and James Griffin), showcasing the initial pitch documents, concept ideas, and how they went about pulling together each episode. There vision was for the series to be “cheerfully trashy and larger than life”, “not Once Were Warriors goes white trash”.

Outrageous Fortune - West's House

Sitting at the West's Dining Room Table

I’m not sure if I was just not paying much attention over the years, but although I knew that the series was named after a Shakespearian quote, I’d neglected to register that so had each episode.

I also was unaware that the West Family was based on the Van der Velter family from the New Zealand TV series Mercy Peak. Antony Starr (Van/Jethro) actually played Todd Van der Velter in Mercy Peak.

I appreciated the extensive Family Tree Diagram, featuring all the cast and highlighting who was related to who and who ‘rooted’ who – what a tangled web we weave.

The next segment was ‘Make Up’, where you could see how Kasey applied hee westie eyeliner. It was then on to wardrobe and props (referred to as Evidence Locker). The Tool Guys van has been submitted into evidence, along with the huge wall mural ‘divine retribution’ painted by Sparky in season two.

Towards the end of the exhibition you can take a quiz to find out which character you most resemble (mainly based on moralist questions). It turns out that I am Cheryl. “forthright, loyal and passionate – with a strong sense of right and wrong … a great battler, and not at all afraid to meddle or get into a scrap … generous and out-going”. Pity I can’t  pull off wearing a pair of leopard print anything.

The piece de resistance is the re-creation of the West’s living room/kitchen. Auckland Museum had to freeze all the items for a certain time period before installation, to make sure it was safe to bring into the museum environment. On closer inspection, I’m sure we had the same carpet in our house growing up! 

The finale of the exhibition was a 3D film, directed by Loretta of course. Very funny, but it was a bit scary having Falani’s butt crack jump out of the screen towards you.

On a sombre note, it wasn’t until a couple of hours after we left the exhibition, that we discovered Frank Whitten (Grandpa Ted) had passed away. So it seemed a fitting tribute that we had chosen that particular weekend to visit.

Outrageous Fortune – we will miss you – “you in my brain, you in my heart”!

The exhibition runs until 1st May 2011, so don’t miss out.

Don’t Forget: Your camera. As you can see by my pic, I only had the phone with me.