Q&A: Mike Hewson's Homage To Lost Spaces

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26 July 2012

Since last year’s devastating earthquake, the New Zealand city of Christchurch has been rebuilding, architecturally and spiritually. Artist Mike Hewson has even found beauty in the ruins, with his large-scale mixed-media installation Homage To The Lost Spaces capturing the imagination of the world and bringing all eyes back to Christchurch - for a different reason.

What has the response been to Homage To The Lost Spaces been like?

“It completely took me by surprise. Every day I get an email from a different country. China, Spain, Italy, South America, it’s been amazing. When I was installing it, I knew it was something significant locally, as there was nothing quite like this happening in the city at the time.

This work, in particular, is hugely personal to locals and to me. Some local businesses helped with the costs as there was really no time to do the proper art grant scenario, which can take months. That’s the strength of it because it has such an organic energy. We just had to make it happen.”

Get to know New Zealand from someone who knows the country best, Kiwi local and 'The Amazing Race Host' Phil Keoghan. 

Your past works are paintings. Why did you opt for photographics for this?

“While my works are traditionally oil on canvas I’ve also always had photography involved in some way, generally to provide context to the work. In my most recent show, Under Standing Loss, I showcased two large canvases (4x6m) from my earthquake damaged studio alongside the inks and the oils. The intention is to recreate the space or environment in which the work was originally created. It seems to spark quite an emotional response.”

One of the incredible things about Homage To Lost Spaces is the illusion of peering into real life, as though someone really is inside working at a table. Some of the images seem to juxtapose their positions, such as the cyclists riding around the rooms. What was your thinking when choosing the shots?

“All the images were taking from inside the studios of New Zealand artists working in our building, which has now been demolished as a result of the earthquake. That’s actually my brother riding the bike and I feel that represents the lifestyle we were living at time. I like how artists can transform drab or boring spaces into something more full of life. That’s actually the most exciting image for me because geometrically it’s in a quite complicated position and having to warp the image onto the building to give the optical illusion effect."

How has art and creative architecture helped the city rebuild?

“At the moment, the city is trying to find innovative ways to rebuild a sense of life, culture and vibrancy. There wasn’t much public art in the year after the earthquake, but this project was a bold move to jumpstart that. The rules are new, now, and things that wouldn’t normally be possible can now be done and are important. They challenge people to rethink not only how the city should appear after the rebuild, but also during the transitional state of the rebuild.
So many buildings have already come down without giving people the chance to appreciate the memories. This building is set to be demolished next month, so I’m glad people got a chance to really appreciate it and its history.”

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