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Monday, 20 May 2019 10:43 pm

Dyeing rivers in China inspires art installation

WHEN buying a new pair of jeans, the last thing on most people’s minds is what all that blue or black dye might do to the environment.

But Clare Smith thought about it a lot, and inspiration for her wall hangings exhibition came from
reading about the dye industry in China and the effect it has on waterways.

The Bachelor of Applied Arts student and textile tutor set out to challenge others to consider the issue with a week-long art exhibition at Dixon St’s Trio Gallery.

“We sort of turn a blind eye to stuff that’s happening overseas,” she says.

”If we can’t see it then, you know, we’re not responsible for all the blue from the jeans that’s going into the streams. But we love our jeans, I’m wearing jeans today.”

The installation, entitled Watermark, featured five suspended wall hangings, each with a different image of an iconic New Zealand waterway stitched into its centre.

A series of paper cups was placed above the artworks and filled with coloured dye.

Ms Smith decided on a different colour to use each day based on projections of which colours will be fashionable in seasons to come.

Holes are pricked into the cups, allowing the dye to trickle slowly down the tapestries, seeping into the stitching and colouring them over the course of a day.

She says while there were some issues with the space, that is to be expected with a temporary ”pop-up” gallery.

“Somebody chained a bicycle to a post in the middle of the room. We had to get rid of it. They obviously didn’t notice there was an exhibition happening.”

She thought about using bolt cutters, but luckily the bike’s owner removed it before that became necessary.

While Ms Smith is looking forward to being able to relax after the project, she has enjoyed the experience.

“I was told to keep going until it’s fun, and this is fun. Especially in the morning, when you see the dye going and it starts drizzling round the side, and we go ‘it’s filling up the bird! The duck, the duck’s getting it!’”

The exhibition received a small but steady flow of visitors throughout the week.

Merle Roberts was impressed by the contrast between beauty and ugliness contained in the artworks.

“It’s beyond me, so amazing. You could look all day and still not see all the details,” she said.

Pat Watkins was struck by the thought that had gone into the project.

“It leaves you thinking deeply about pollution and everything,” she said.

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is a Whitireia journalism student.
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