Beyond the Surface: Re-imaging History, features new work by artist, printmaker and educator Toni Mosley created during her three-month artist residency at Howick Historic Village. Exhibited on site, the thirteen works on display have been installed in eight different cottages and homesteads in the village, often alongside the objects, textures and wallpaper that inspired them. Dispersing the work throughout the village, which Mosley views as an art project in itself, was a conscious decision to send visitors on a journey of discovery of both the village and her suite of images.
During her own initial exploration of the site, Mosley immediately fell in love with the wallpaper which in some buildings are in a state of advanced decay, peeling away to expose the many layers of materials used to decorate and insulate the walls over the decades including newspaper, scrim, and canvas, each one adding to the layers of history and stories connected to the building and those living there. In response to this, Mosley has constructed her images through a process of applying multiple layers, using screen-printing, letterpress, drawing and paint. Using a mixture of harakeke, washi and water colour paper, these surfaces became another layer in which to tell the story, being just as important as the objects and patterns depicted in each image.
In keeping with the colour palette of the existing wallpaper, some of the pieces appear to melt into the room in which they’re hung. This is accentuated by the shapes cut out and removed from the image, revealing the wall behind it, bringing the past and present together into a continuum of partially told stories. Playing with this idea of absence is an acknowledgement of the missing or incomplete stories about the buildings, their objects and the people that resided there. In one work, a drawing of a chair sits in the corner of a room, although on close inspection parts have been left incomplete, as is the history of the artefact.
Mosley was presented with a vast archive to draw from, which included the kinds of strange and surreal objects typically treasured in the Victorian era such as an albatross foot, a flattened tigers’ head, and an armadillo fruit bowl. However, the pieces that feature in her work are mainly those that speak to the female experience, such as a hairbrush, a dish rack and kettle. Although this wasn’t done consciously, she was aware that there was a lack of women’s stories connected to the buildings and these works probe at the continuation of male dominated history.
Printed on the Village’s antique, treadle operated letterpress machine are the words History, Herstory, Our Story. This exhibition challenges the viewer to rethink historical narratives from different perspectives, particularly through the female lens.
Howick Historical Village