'No Town' exhibition, Aratoi, Masterton

Remains of private residence, Denniston, January 2013
Denniston Rhyme Sampler, 2013


‘No Town’ exhibition explores vanished towns

The exhibition ‘No Town’ by Caroline McQuarrie opens on 24 April at Aratoi, Wairarapa Museum of Art and History, Masterton.  Exploring sites on the West Coast of the South Island that used to be towns but are no longer or now only sparsely inhabited, ‘No Town’ utilises photography and embroidery to show the sites as they are, and explore the communities that have been lost.  Incorporating eight areas, which include thirteen towns, the exhibition highlights the economic migration often forced upon communities in regions where jobs are dependent on unreliable resources.

Wellington artist Caroline McQuarrie grew up on the West Coast and has long been interested in the history of the region.  Over the last two and a half years she has been researching and visiting sites where communities sprung up due to gold or coal, and vanished when the resources ran out.  A lecturer in photography at Toi Rauwharangi College of Creative Arts, Massey University, McQuarrie has photographed the sites and combined these images with her trademark craft works highlighting the domestic and community aspects of the history of the sites.

“This work explores the building up and then dissolution of communities when natural resources run out, and what happens to the sites after the people have gone” says Caroline, “the act of imagining the communities as they were while simultaneously recording the sites as they are now both ensures this aspect of our history doesn’t get forgotten, and challenges us to think about communities facing the same difficulties now.”

McQuarrie has photographed the sites using square format, which gives the viewer a narrower view of the landscape than a standard camera format.  “I wanted to concentrate people’s attention into a narrower field of view, often the images are about the foreground – the patch of land that is now empty but hasn’t always been.”  The embroidered samplers give context to the photographs, incorporating maps, statistics, poems and quotes from contemporary newspapers, they give the audience a way to imagine the communities who lived on these sites.  “The samplers are to remind people of the women and families who lived in these communities.  So often the history of these places is discussed through the mining, but those were people in the mines who had families at home building a community around them.”

This exhibition explores the history of sites and the building up and breaking down of communities due to the availability of resources. These sites are now historical, however in 2014 the West Coast is a region still in the media for its battle with how the use of its resources can support its communities. 

‘No Town’ opens at 5.30pm on Thursday 24 April at Aratoi, Wairarapa Museum of Art and History, Masterton, and runs until 15 June.  There is an artist talk on Saturday 31 May at 2pm.

The work will also be shown at the Carnegie Gallery, Hokitika Museum, Hokitika in November.


Further information: 


Contact details: 
Caroline McQuarrie: c.l.mcquarrie@massey.ac.nz

Written by

Caroline McQuarrie

4 Apr 2014