Insignia, Dowse Art Museum, 28 Sep - 17 Nov 1996

Artist Statement

The origins of these badges are to be found in my travel drawings and writing from the early 1980's. I wanted to realise the drawings as objects but at that time my predominant working material was stone which presented various material and technical restrictions. And as I was deriving much of my inspiration for form and surface from alluvial jade stones, rounded and smoothed by the river, I consequently had difficulty with the rectangular format of the drawings. In an early attempt around 1983, I tried making "slides of my work". They had the format of 35mm transparencies, with the slide 'mount' made from copper and the 'film' made from a thin section of material: stone, glass, shell and bone. These did not develop far, and were never exhibited. I continued to record journeys, with drawings and photographs. I looked for ways to record the physical and spiritual states of travel: planning, packing, departure, new terrain, uncertain ways, strange lands, weird maps, nostalgia, remembrance, return.

It was not until 1993 that I achieved a satisfactory synthesis of concept and material. In that year, I travelled to the most southerly point of the South Island, Slope Point, and to the most northerly point of the North Island, Surville Cliffs. On my return from these two poles, I resolved to convey my ideas in the format of badges. At first I thought that they would utilise thin sections of stone, secured to and protected by a metal backing that carried the findings. I prepared the stone sections, miniature constructions of some detail. Then when the backing had been made from copper, it became obvious that various factors such as weight were going to make them awkward as badges. I realised that the copper backs were themselves badges, and the idea developed to use combinations of two different metals to create a design, which was then further enhanced by patination of the metal surfaces. The results were first exhibited in LIGHT RELIEF at Fingers (1994), and then in BADGE at Fluxus (1995).

This latest exhibition continues to record journeys through the land. It identifies my interests in geomorphology, the study of landscape, which has its roots in geology and geography. And it begins to examine the geometric insignia of flags, the badges of identity which nationalise people and place. These badges, which are amongst my smallest works were made this year concurrently with the large granite and marble sculptures of my exhibition CROSS COUNTRY that is currently travelling around the East Cape to show in Gisborne. To work on such extremes of size has been important in the development of both groups.

The metals used in the badges are copper, silver, and brass (an alloy of copper and zinc). The shaped metal sections were soldered together with silver solder and then forged and ground to their final form. After attachments of the findings the badges were individually patinated with a variety of chemicals under different conditions. When all reactions had ceased, the surfaces were allowed to dry completely before being lacquered to seal them against further reaction. I expect some of the patinae will continue to change slightly, and I am interested in following such changes. The patinae are quite robust, but should not be exposed to water, heat or abrasion. Under normal conditions of wear they should last for many years, and should hopefully only get better.


Thanks to Areta Wilkinson for her assistance with fabrication of these badges.

This exhibition continues my long association with the Dowse Art Museum, and I gratefully acknowledge the support of Bob Maysmor and his staff.

John Edgar
Karekare, September 1996

Going to copper mountain
Cross country
Lie of the land
Around the cape
Five-pointed star
Southern Cross
Endless plain

Surville Cliffs
34 23 47 S
173 01 00 E

Slope Point
46 40 42 S
169 00 00 E

Flying the flag
Sign of Occupation

Flags of the world
Maps of the realm
Postcards from a friend
Souvenirs of the journey