Often the appeal of the everyday in art is that it evokes feelings of familiarity and intimacy. The risk is that it goes unnoticed. Kate Newby’s works frequently follow this line, with interventions so subtle that they risk disappearing into the architecture. But their delicacy is also their strength when they arouse in their spectators a wonder at the world around us, and this was the case with his recent exhibition “Had us running with you”.

In a former Methodist mission hall next to the flagship Michael Lett Gallery, honey-colored light filtered softly through the upper windows along the northwest wall. Newby had lovingly replaced each window with stained glass in semi-opaque shades of mustard, egg yolk, orange and cinnamon brown, their surfaces textured with light strokes or riddled with bubble-like holes, allowing fresh air flowing through the old church, breathing new life into a space that still felt reverent. Each of the ninety-nine hand-made panes was individually titled, in Newby’s distinctive style, with poetic phrases taken from his daily life, such as The thinnest ice you’ll ever walk on, WE THANK YOUAnd No one has to be so strong (all works 2023).

The lobby was apparently empty, with nothing set up or placed in front of the large central wall that rises to mezzanine level, and nothing hung from the high, sloping ceiling. The artist’s only intervention in this main cavernous space was to replace a single section of floorboards with a bronze replica, verdigris forming on its textured surface, teasingly titled I like the way I am. Upon entering the space, one noticed a side door open to a narrow brick alley. For I know the sky is ready, brownstone tiles were laid over the existing brick wall, their surfaces variously rippled by the scraping of human fingers; smoothed with a slightly iridescent lavender glaze; or marked by the dark comets formed when a blast of heat traveled rapidly past the circles of cotton wool on which each tile rested during firing in an anagama kiln at Frost and Fire Gallery in Nelson, New Zealand . In a nod to Newby School of Art in the days of guerrilla puddle painting around nearby Karangahape Road, two potholes in the driveway had been partially filled with concrete brightly colored – a sky blue (Make at home), the other orange clay (This is how the world will end).

Back inside, on the dais hidden behind the central wall, Newby had arranged hundreds of hand-cast ceramic shells and shells in a pattern that was both organic and highly organized, like a whisper of water. starlings or a school of fish. This arrangement was appropriate, as the textures, shapes and colors of the small sculptures that make up this piece, it’s hard to believe there could be anything more than that, also invite comparison with natural forms: barnacles and oysters, geothermal terraces, bird’s nests made of saliva or mud, fossils and stones, any convex place where a pool of water can stagnate or form a tiny ecosphere. But these objects were not the results of natural phenomena; each shell is a material exploration, comprising found glass put into ceramic shells, turned to liquid in the kiln, and returned to solid in a new form. Much of the glass used in these works was collected by Newby from fragments on nearby Galatos Street, the nightlife detritus given a new lease.

In “We Ran With You,” Newby used certain materials as a strategy to help us notice things we might typically overlook. Windows are invisible until their panes are replaced. Tiles – usually mass-produced and uniform – are noticeable as fingers slide, dig and dig into their surfaces. The bronze mixes with the wood until the verdigris blooms. Clinging to the building, glued to the walls and the ground, meshing in the hollows and puddles, Newby’s works were too close to life to escape notice.

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