Artist gets up close to produce willow works

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A series of artworks based on willow trees features in the latest exhibition to be hosted at the Eastern Southland Gallery.
The exhibition ‘‘Willow’’ opened on August 13 and runs until October 9 gallery, programmes officer Marcella Geddes said.
‘‘‘Willow’ features a recently completed series of works by Christchurch artist Nigel Buxton based on willow trees situated on a farm in South Canterbury,’’ Mrs Geddes said.
‘‘The exhibition includes drawings done some 30 years ago and more recent works using a collaged photographic montage approach, incorporating oil and chalk pastel,’’ she said.
Several of the works are close to the actual size of the tree trunks, Mrs Geddes said.
This is Buxton’s third exhibition at the Eastern Southland Gallery.
He trained at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London.
In 1981, he moved to New Zealand where he is based in Christchurch.
The most persistent theme in Buxton’s work, and one that has engaged him for more than 30 years, is still life or interior.
He evokes space by mapping the shimmering dimensions between objects, the studio walls, the easel and him. These works are drawn and re-drawn.
Time is a crucial factor in the evolution of each image as he makes repeated returns to the studio, re-engaging with the subject each time, and each day seeing the subject afresh.
In 1997, Buxton’s interest in music provided a new subject. He used the musical scores of operas to create imaginative works which dealt with emotive themes in an abstract yet lyrical way.
More recently, he has been working with drawn-over digital collages, where studio elements are juxtaposed with figures borrowed from paintings or photographed costumed models are printed out life-size and pasted into fresh compositions.
‘‘I first drew willows 30 years ago,’’ Buxton said.
Planted as shade trees by the early settler farmers in an otherwise treeless and harsh environment, they developed and grew into gnarled monsters, breaking themselves under their own weight and fierce storms, he said.
Armed with easel, drawing boards and drafting materials, Buxton positioned himself close, a few feet, so their bulk and bark were almost at touching distance.
‘‘ In order to control my subject, I added other elements like wooden boxes and placed rocks in front, to help me map the space between myself and the subject,’’ he said.