Northland Panels

Colin McCahon, Northland Panels, 1958, enamel on canvas  
 
Collection of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, courtesy McCahon Research and Publication Trust. 

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Kate Sylvester ‘Frances dress’ photographed by Chloe Hill

Kate Sylvester

As a kid I spent all my holidays on a farm just outside Whangarei. The Northland Panels transport me back instantly every time - gumboots in wet grass, the tangy sweet smell of cowpats, the dust of old paint on the red barn, carsick on gravel roads.  

I fell in love with the Northland Panels all over again when we collaborated with Michael Parekowhai on his recent Toi Art Te Papa exhibition Detours; I reconsidered and refashioned Marcel Duchamp’s 1961 work Waistcoat [Betty] for the show. As part of the same installation Michael hung the Northland Panels in the middle of the room because the backs of the canvas’ are such a revelation - like ghosts or memories, not just of the work itself but of the man who painted them. 

As a designer with a strong concept behind each of my collections, I constantly look to artists and art history for inspiration. Most recently in my collection Frances, I was given the opportunity by Te Papa to realise some of Frances Hodgkin’s 1920s textile designs as finished prints. I built an entire collection around the modern, pioneering spirit of Frances. I find an affinity to artists as like them, I’m forever exploring colour and how colours work together to generate emotional response. 

CONNECTING CULTURAL LEGACY WITH CONTEMPORARY PRACTICE

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