Elliot Collins’ exhibition From Tourist to Pilgrim comprises a found map, a series of text works, a suite of 4 photographs and a small enamelled brooch. Although apparently disparate, the works may each be read as contemplations of time, connection and our sense of place.
The suite of 4 photographs was made during a journey into Northland and an exploration of historical sites of significant Maori/Pakeha interaction. The 4 expressionist oil-on-board paintings are overlaid with text carved from Pohutukawa wood whose typeface, Obelisk, was designed for Collins by typographer Alistair McCready as a nod to early Colonial European granite plaques. The found map of New Zealand’s North Island, Te Ika-a-Maui, references the instruction invoked by Kupe the great Polynesian explorer during his 10th Century navigation across the Pacific to Aotearoa. May You All Contain Multitudes is an allusion to Walt Whitman’s 1855 poem Song of Myself and to the anthology, Leaves of Grass. One of Whitman’s verses contains the reminder that we are never just one thing … that our quirks, imperfections, and cultural contradictions should be celebrated. “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself; I am large, I contain multitudes.”
Finally, in Collins’ own words, the enamelled badge Pipiwharauroa / Shining Cuckoo “…honours the role of ‘non-native’ or ‘non-indigenous’ peoples who maintain connections to the land, people, rivers and sea; a reminder that there is a role for each of us in this partnership.”
In an essay written to accompany Collins’ 2014 exhibition This is Where I Leave You, Dr Ann Poulsen suggests that “While the works in this exhibition map our landscape, they also map our culture … [and reflect the artist’s belief that] … it is the role of the artist to keep us invested in the experience of place.” It is encouraging that, in 2016, Collins still finds this territory ripe for investigation.
Since completing his Masters degree at AUT in 2007 Elliot Collins has exhibited extensively throughout New Zealand. His most recent public commission was for the Atrium of Tauranga Art Gallery. Collins has also featured in major shows at City Gallery Wellington, Christchurch Art Gallery and The Dowse Art Museum.
Photography: Kallan MacLeod