4 Sep 2016

Art, Life, Music - Elizabeth Thomson

From The Sunday Feature, 2:00 pm on 4 September 2016
Elizabeth Thomson

Elizabeth Thomson Photo: RNZ/Charlotte Wilson

It’s difficult to define Elizabeth Thomson. She captures dreams: fantastic installations of hundreds of flocked white moths flying on the walls of a blank white background; trails of tiny bronze leaves marching across a blank landscape; glowing, watery paintings which change shape as you come close to them and gradually reveal their secrets under the light. Part sculptor, part painter, part architect, part miniaturist, she uses a multitude of techniques and tools to create works that are described as pushing the notion of ‘beautiful’ into new territories. In the words of Gregory O’Brien, City Gallery Wellington:

Invitation to Oblivion

Invitation to Oblivion Photo: Elizabeth Thomson

North by Northwest

North by Northwest Photo: Elizabeth Thomson

The alluring and perplexing surfaces of her work take us into a tactile, sensual world of roughness and smoothness, hardness and softness, opacity and translucence. The materials she uses, which include hand-formed glass, bronze, zinc, glass beading and fibreglass, attain new and often surprising nuances of meaning and association, hinting at emotional states as well as referencing the forms and processes of the natural world.


Rosette Photo: Elizabeth Thomson

Born in Auckland in 1955, Elizabeth Thomson travelled extensively before enrolling at Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland, studying printmaking and sculpture and graduating with a Master of Fine Arts in 1988. Already she was holding solo exhibitions: and since then her works have been exhibited in galleries around the country and overseas, with numerous site-specific commissions and a major 20-year retrospective touring in 2006, My Hi-Fi My Sci-Fi, referencing her interest in music as well as the order and chaos of Nature. In 2011 she was invited onto an artist residence programme in the Kermadec Islands, an experience that affected her profoundly and resulted in one of her many exhibitions inspired by the sea.

Solaris VII

Solaris VII Photo: Elizabeth Thomson

She also works to music in the vast spaces of her studio, which is a former stainless-steel pressing factory in Newtown, in Wellington. It’s big enough for an apartment on the mezzanine, where the whole family live, including the dog.




Images reproduced courtesy of Two Rooms, Auckland, and Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington.


Music details:

DEBUSSY: Arabesque No 1

Noriko Ogawa

BIS CD 1405


FOURTET: Our Navigation

Kieran Hebden, aka Fourtet

From the album “Beautiful Rewind”

Text Records (2014)


CHOPIN: Nocturne Op 9 No 1

Claudio Arrau

Philips 416440


Art, Life, Music is a series in which Charlotte Wilson explores the connections between music and art, visiting celebrated NZ artists, in their studios, to talk about their work and their life and their love for music – because each of these artists has a connection to music, in some way. Here, they choose their favourite pieces, and explain in their own totally unique and various ways, what makes them tick.