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A Wicksey welcome for Ōamaru Library

Waitaki App

Arrow Koehler

28 June 2024, 12:00 AM

A Wicksey welcome for Ōamaru LibraryWaitaki District Libraries manager Jenny Bean unveils Wicksey’s new mural in the Ōamaru Public Library. Photo: Arrow Koehler

All people are welcome in the library, and now there is a sign to prove it.

An approximately 9-metre-long mural painted by local artist Matthew Wicks, aka Wicksey, was unveiled at the Ōamaru Public Library on Thursday, tying in with today’s Matariki public holiday.

The artwork has geological features from around Waitaki, and welcoming messages in about 30 languages, Wicksey says.

Because it is in a library, he wanted the artwork to have written words, but questioned “what do we want this art to say?”.

It was decided the most important message was one of welcome.

“It's about welcoming people into the space - it's about saying ‘this is our space’. It's ours, it's yours, it's a space we all meet, it's a community hub. 

“So I thought, let's have basically the word welcome, or the equivalent, in pretty much every language we can imagine.”

Wicksey’s new mural in the Ōamaru Public Library. Photo: Arrow Koehler

The library contacted him about a year ago to do something for the space.

“They've done a lot of work on the library to make it look really beautiful and they've done an amazing job.

“We wanted something that was Waitaki, but nice and bright and a little bit abstract.

“It's a reimagining of the Waitaki Valley - things that we're familiar with - so, the wide open plains, the rugged mountains, the snow-capped peaks, the blue sky, and the braided river channel coming down through the middle.”

He says the artwork was “mostly hidden from the public” until the reveal yesterday (June 27).

It is not the biggest work he has painted, but working on it in pieces was a challenge.

“I needed to factor in that this piece was going to be viewed from all over the library, from the street, from a distance, so it needed to be really clear and eye-catching. But I'm working that out from a distance of about three metres, which is about as far away as I could get from it in my studio, so it was a bit of a challenge, but it was fun. And it's come together really well.”

“I’m really proud of it,” he says.

The work, which is yet to receive an official name, is painted with Resene paints and took about a month to complete in total.

Waitaki District Libraries manager Jenny Bean says the mural represents “connecting all the people together”.

“The significance is really about bringing all the community together in the library.”

Mana whenua was involved in the project from the beginning, and gifted the saying “Ko Waitaki te awa kā roimata nā Aoraki i mariki”.

“The mural is grounded in Aoraki,” Jenny says.

The piece was unveiled during a karakia from Te Hā o Maru chief executive Adam Mani Sharplin.

Wicksey holds his favourite artwork, Humpty vs Seagulls, from his newest exhibition, Liminal Déjà Vu. Photo: Arrow Koehler

New Wicksey exhibition 

And not being one to twiddle his thumbs, Wicksey also opened a new exhibition celebrating Ōamaru, earlier this week.

“The series is called Liminal Déjà Vu, so you've got two concepts coming together, which is liminal spaces and deja vu.”

“Liminal spaces are transitional or transformative spaces and they're often associated with an atmosphere that's a bit distinct from reality.

“So that's what I wanted, to take what people are familiar with and put it together in a way that's a little bit quirky and a bit strange. But at the same time, giving them a sense of déjà vu so they look at it and they go, ‘I've been there, I know that, but I can't quite make sense of it’.”

The exhibition is a mash-up of Ōamaru over the past 30 years, with several references to Wicksey’s childhood, including the Majestic theatre, Humpty Dumpty and the elephant slide.

“It takes familiar parts of Waitaki and brings them together in a strange way.

“But I think anyone from Ōamaru is going to come in here and look at them and go, ‘Ah, I know that’.

“It's sort of like Where's Wally but without Wally - it's just finding parts of the town that have been brought together.”

Wicksey spent a few weeks going around the district taking photos before bringing them together.

He intended to have 15 artworks but during the artistic process his ideas were condensed and changed, resulting in the final 10.

Once he had the images the art made itself, he says.

His favourite piece is Humpty vs Seagulls - a clear favourite amongst customers too.

“There's no hidden political messages or agendas going on in any of these pieces. Some people see things that aren't there or they interpret messages, but again that's art.”

The photos have been altered to look like they were taken by a retro camera - an effect achieved with about 40 or 50 treatments.

“There still are these versions of them that are photorealistic and they look real, and to the point of like, the sky is blue and everything looks right. But I wanted it to be a bit surreal and a bit off, which is why I've gone with this dreamy sort of greeny hue over everything.”

He has been told the artworks are reminiscent of Wes Anderson films, and though it was not intentional, he says the influence may have been subconscious.

The exhibition opened on Monday (June 24) and is Wicksey’s second exhibition in his new studio space, located at the back of Art on Thames.

Prints of the artworks are available online and instore.

Wicksey says a few prints have already sold to people around the country, including some ex-Ōamaruvians.