Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tin men

Years ago, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, we heard a curator describing a painting of an old shed painted by Albert Tucker to a group of visitors. “You can see,” she said, “how the shed is made out of traditional reepleen teen.” It took us a long time to realise she was talking about corrugated iron (rippling tin). The undisputed king of this material in NZ art is certainly Jeff Thomson. His tin-covered car (Holden HQ station wagon) was the pride of the opening exhibition and still stars at Te Papa and a road trip around New Zealand will introduce you to a number of his larger sculptures (you can catch his outsized gumboot in Taihape). We first saw Jeff’s work back in the mid-eighties when driving through the Manawatu. He had been making personalised letterboxes for farm as part of a large roadside project.

Driving down from Auckland a couple of weeks ago, and just before hitting Tirau, we came across the inevitable hi-jack of the signature style Thomson has made his own. Corrugated Creations was started eight years ago by Russell who has been producing corrugated iron signs for the locals and even further afield for eight years. “There are signs in Australia and our iron Pukekos are all over the world.” When we visited the establishment Russell runs with Steve, it was crowded with new projects including a life-size giraffe, giant lettering for MATAMATA and a large silver tree for a private garden. Their biggest commission to date is a 6.5 metre Volcano for, we might have guessed, the Volcanic Centre.

Driving on through Tirau, evidence of Corrugated Creations’ activities was everywhere. There were rippling tin signs on cafes, hair salons, garages, hotels and, in the centre of town, the giant dog information centre that got the whole business off the ground in the first place. Corro Street in the heartland of New Zealand.
Images: top left, Steve, middle Russell. Bottom right the dog info centre where it all began