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Mahara Arts Review premier award a ‘home-coming’ for Ben Caldwell

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Mahara Gallery Arts Review premier award winner Ben Caldwell has described his achievement as both an honour and a home-coming.

The premier, John Mowbray Open Award, which comes with a $1,000 prize, was announced along with five others at a Gallery function on Saturday (2 November) coinciding with the opening of the Kapiti Arts Trail.

The event also marked 10 years of Mahara Arts Reviews, launched originally to give Kāpiti and Horowhenua artists the opportunity to showcase the diversity and quality of art being produced across the district.

"It was the idea of a review not a competition that intrigued me," said Ben Caldwell. "I'm not one for competitions - I like the idea of art bringing people together.

"It is an honour and privilege to be acknowledged alongside some amazing work and artists. It feels like coming home to Wellington - Kāpiti Coast is where I'm meant to be."

Ben won the Open Award with his sculpture, My Burning House, which draws inspiration from the whare tapa wha model for Maori health and well-being developed by Maori academic and researcher Sir Mason Durie and also from a proverb from Ghana.

"Proverbs, metaphors and humour are important aspects to my practice," he says. "The relationship between the art object and the viewer is where the magic happens. I try to play on these."

Mahara Gallery Director Janet Bayly describes the work as something of the reverse of Noah’s Ark.

"The burning house sits precariously atop its classic Kiwi wooden post like a washed up relic from a shipwreck. But it is also taking a raft of birds, plants and animals down with it.

"It's visualisation of climate change is presented in a way that viewers of all ages will be able to engage with and understand."

Ben Caldwell was born in Palmerston North, grew up in Titahi Bay and now lives between Paraparaumu and Aotea.

He is in the process of setting up what he calls his "Artspace" - which includes a workshop and small gallery - in Paraparaumu.

He is working as a fulltime artist, although he prefers the name art maker. He is also working as a tutor to share his knowledge and is considering Doctoral studies in the future. Ben Caldwell’s first exhibition was as an 18-year-old at Pataka. He went on to complete a Visual Arts Diploma at Whitirea, a Batchelor’s Degree at Weltec in 2007 and a Masters in Fine Arts (Honours) at the University of Auckland.

"Each year the Review attracts new artists, some of whom return for a solo show, as well as seasoned well-established and senior artists," says Janet Bayly.

"It’s always a thrill to have both ends of the wide and vital spectrum of the visual arts in our district represented in such a show."

All of the 78 entries in the Review are currently being exhibited in Mahara Gallery. Artists’ entry fees and the commission on sales of their work will go towards the Gallery Redevelopment Fund.

"I am going to be optimistic and say this will be our last Mahara Arts Review in our current building," said Janet Bayly.

The six award winners were chosen by an independent panel of curator Victoria Robson and Kāpiti artist Jim Gorman.

Other award winners were: Jean Fleming Highly Commended: Trevor Pye; Barry Herbert Student Award: Carina Toscano; Jane Hyder 3D Award: Judith Le Harivel; Kapiti Signs 2D Award: Kate Hartmann; Picture Perfect Framing Special Merit Award: Nathan Waka Miller.

There is a seventh award to be decided, the People’s Choice Award, sponsored by Kapiti Coffee Company. It is determined by popular vote and be will be presented on Saturday 7 December at 11.00 am. The presentation will coincide with a pop up arts fair in Mahara Place and live music by Shayn Hurricane Wills.

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