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Pig Face, Hare’s Tail and the New Day – local plants star in new artwork

03 March 2022

#IWD #BreakTheBias Ōtautahi Christchurch artist Melissa Macleod has a dream; to create a mountain of flowers in New Brighton. Her latest exhibition, opening on 24 February at the University of Canterbury, is another step in that direction.


Pig Face, Hare’s Tail and the New Day is a performative exhibition by Melissa Macleod at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts Ilam Campus Gallery.

Macleod opens the School of Fine Arts (SoFA) Ilam Campus Gallery 2022 exhibition programme with Pig Face, Hare’s Tail and the New Day.

The title refers to common names of the plants she has spent the past year collecting among the coastal dunes of Waitaha Canterbury. She describes the exhibition as a quiet meditative work and is the practical process of collecting seeds for the larger body of work.

Macleod has used seven video cameras to capture a 360° panorama of this dune flora. These moving images will then be projected across all four walls of the gallery to create an immersive experience.

Macleod is the 2021 recipient of the Olivia Spencer Bower Award, awarded to painters and sculptors with a ‘clear commitment’ to art, and has spent the past year researching, exploring and gathering for the large-scale work that is destined to bring beauty, and visitors, to New Brighton.

“It is like a dream work. I would love to see a huge monumental field or mound or mountain of flowers. It is about making a place that speaks of the coast and Brighton”, she says.

Her research has drawn her to plants that are hardy, can bind the dunes and operate in a social way.

“The sculpture, or land art, would function to offer an escape. A positive that might then encourage people to come to an area that is dead or unused to reinvigorate a community and bring different parts of the community together,” she says.

“I see art making as important to a healthy world and its role is to make us step out of our comfort areas.”

Growing up in a family of makers and attending correspondence school allowed Macleod time to explore and create.

“I was lucky to be part of a life where making was logical to me; I saw my parents do it. I gravitated to it as what I wanted to do.”

While architecture and dance were her first passions, she describes getting to art school as a ‘bit of a fight’ but something she was determined to do. However, she sees her time completing her Masters of Fine Arts degree at the University of Canterbury’s Ilam School of Fine Arts as a defining moment.

“It was me saying, I’m going to give making and my practice more weight.” 

Macleod divides her time between research, creating, teaching and family. While the award helps her to free up time to dig deeper into her ongoing body of work, she says she still needs to prioritise life, family and work.

“I kept waiting for this clear moment pre-family, like my student days, but then I realised it isn’t there anymore, so I have just got used to ‘this is how it is’.

“Sometimes, you operate in a sort of slight madness. I’ve acknowledged that and tried to make it a positive. Family is a special part of making. It makes it more interesting and your world richer.”

Macleod has been exhibiting since 2016 with works, The Fall and The slow amputation of her protective arm currently featured in Te Wheke: Pathways Across Oceania at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu.

  • Melissa Macleod: Pig Face, Hare’s Tail and the New Day exhibition is at the SoFA Ilam Campus Gallery, Block Two, from 24 February until 25 March 2022. The gallery is open 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday.
Melissa Macleod Ōtautahi Christchurch artist Melissa Macleod opens the School of Fine Arts (SoFA) Ilam Campus Gallery 2022 exhibition programme.

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