Matakana clay used by artist Maarit Makela to create portraits for 'Earth-dialogue'

For most of 2015 visiting Finish artist Maarit Makela could be found 'creatively foraging’ rural Northland. Hosted by AUT University and on sabbatical from Aalto University, Finland, Maarit spent her time in New Zealand sourcing natural materials and documenting the making of a body of work.

With local clays and minerals as her raw materials she produced an exhibition that included a series of slip paintings on terracotta. As described by Dr Katve-Kaisa Kontturi (Melbourne University) her 'art grows from the ground – it’s all about the earth’ and as such it seemed entirely appropriate that she call in to see us at Morris and James.


Our Design Manager Nick Charlton who also lectures at AUT facilitated a tour of the pottery and in particular a visit to the adjacent clay fields. In a number of her works this clay became the canvas for her painted overlays of ironstone, sand, silt and clay slips. Her paintings captivate on a number of levels; at first glance there is faded formality to the female portraits, some of which depict painter Helene Schjerfbeck, a Finnish national treasure.



On closer inspection the sensitivity with which the various materials have been used becomes apparent, and the observer becomes drawn into the weathered geology of the work. The pigments run, like water in sand, but ‘seized’ by the heat of the firing process. This is elemental work, but gentle, reflective and deceptively intricate. We are delighted to have helped her during her time here.


All images are drawn with permission of the artist from the Exhibition Catalogue, Earth-dialogue. ISBN 978-1-927184-33-2. The work was displayed between 27th November and 11th December 2015 at the ST PAUL Gallery, School of Art & Design AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand.