Wanda Gillespie

The residency at Karekare was a wonderful exploratory time to dream, listen to the turning of the earth and planets, while reflecting on humanity’s unprecedented moment in history.
During walks on the beach, I experienced an elasticity in time through illusive space, not unlike the slowing and speeding up of time in intermittent lockdowns. It prompted me to reflect on previous works using the abacus and look at other devices for counting such as the hourglass and the stone and ceramic counting tablets of the ancient world. The hourglass as a graphic form made its way into the design of a new abacus piece. Another abacus design takes the simplified forms of the Karekare waterfall as a central design element, the waterfall being a kind of naturally occurring hourglass.
Walks amongst the magnificent Kauri sparked ideas on how I could make a link between these precious endangered trees and our reflections on what we value. I created a version of the ancient counting tablet with the female Kauri cone pattern as the central design. Varying levels/layers is a common element in the Mesoamerican counting tablets. However, within my sculptural piece, the layers allude to the pink and white terraces, a lost wonder of the world (let Kauri not find a similar fate). The carved Kauri cone piece created on residency has since been replicated in ceramic at a further residency at Driving Creek Pottery.
What these counting devices speak to is a need to recalculate and calibrate our wider values and systems, while also acknowledging the divine mathematics, such as the Fibonacci spiral, found in the natural world.
The portrait, ‘Mist Dweller’, introduces a narrative element to these works. I envisage her looking on at the abacus, calculating alternative mathematic sequences for this new reality. Her colouring is reminiscent of the Waitākere/Karekare hills. The piece draws its energetic materialism through the use of local timbers, carved native Rata and Rewarewa, while the coconut shell beads and abacus speak of our location within the broader Asia Pacific region.

Wanda Gillepsie describes her artistic practice as motivated by “a belief in the spiritual potency of physical objects.” This belief has led her to work with wood as her primary sculptural medium over a decades-long career. In her work the lively energy of the material coalesces with the artist’s mastery of her craft, which she turns upon forms ancient and contemporary, familiar and phantasmic. 
Gillespie holds a Master of Fine Arts with First Class Honours from the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Intermedia) from the Elam School of Fine Art at the University of Auckland. Recent solo projects include ‘Nests’, Artweek Auckland (2020) and ‘Higher Thought Forms,’ Sanderson Contemporary, Auckland (2019). Her work has been the recipient of several contemporary art awards, including most recently, the Jury Prize at the Wallace Art Awards (2020).