A note from the Arts and Essays Editor on issue 91

One of my favourite parts about the role of Arts Editor is that not only do I get to choose the artist featured in each issue, but also decide on the cover. This is a task of immense responsibility. It’s the face of the magazine and the first thing that people see. It’s not necessarily just about promoting an artist whose work I find interesting (though that’s a big part of it), or even my own personal aesthetic preferences: it’s also about considering how it reflects the magazine’s contents. Does the art have something to say to an audience of readers and writers? Would it intrigue the casual browser in the book shop? I probably also tend to favour Canterbury artists (though not exclusively), because of the geographical character of takahē. These and a clowder of gut feelings, obscure reasonings, and socio-politco-anthro-historio-cultural considerations flit through my mind when I make these decisions.

Marie Le Lievre’s work ticks all those boxes. I chose the front cover image Charm Lore from her 2016 Bulletproof Falling series for a number of reasons. The works in the series bring together painting, drawing, inkjet printing, abstraction and figuration, in the same way takahē brings together so many different forms, styles and genres of writing. Charm Lore stood out for me in particular. At the heart of the image is the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti of Egypt, wife of the the pharaoh Akhenaten, and thought to have been crafted by the sculptor Thutmose in around 1345 BCE. With the abstract forms weaving around her head like ideas, or pouring forth from her mouth like words, I thought her an excellent metaphor for a writer.

Thanks to Marie, and her Wellington dealer Bartley + Company Art for the use of the images. More of her work can be seen there or through Christchurch’s Jonathan Smart Gallery. Marie is also having a major solo show of new work with Bartley + Company Art in early 2018. Thanks also to Dr Maria Walls for her thought provoking teasing out of Marie’s work.

With my Essays hat on, can I also say how delighted I am that Alie Benge, author of the essay “Immigrant” in this issue, is the co-winner of Landfall‘s 2017 essay competition. “Immigrant” is a remarkable exploration of the history of Croatian migrants to Auckland and the community as it exists today. I was captivated by the language, Alie’s eye for detail, and her ability to paint a picture in words, in a piece of writing that is at once both deeply personal and a thoughtful consideration of the broader social context. It managed to be both a personal essay, and an important snapshot of recent history, but also thoughtfully engage with issues around national identity, marginalisation, assimilation, and the question of what being a “New Zealander” might actually mean.

I am so very happy to be able to offer takahē‘s warmest congratulations to Alie.


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