Weaving, Life

Margery Blackman, From Aramoana 1981-82. Collection of The Dowse Art Museum, purchased 1982. Image supplied

Margery Blackman: Weaving, Life, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 18 May- 13 October 2024

If you have found your way to a blog about textiles and costume in Aotearoa New Zealand, it’s pretty much a given that you will know who Margery Blackman is. For the last couple of decades, Margery has been part of the CTANZ community of textile scholarship and art, contributing over the years to the symposium and Context. She also has a considerable reputation as collector, curator, and of course weaver. Margery Blackman: Weaving, Life which opens at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery on 18 May, is described as ‘a survey of the life’s work of eminent Ōtepoti artist, arts advocate and textiles scholar Margery Blackman’. Its focus is the ‘significant body of woven tapestries that Blackman developed over three decades’, alongside generous material from her archive, collections, and the collection of Tūhura Otago Museum. The exhibition is guest curated by Elle Loui August and Jane Groufsky (like Margery, themselves both artist-curators) and is presented with the support of Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum and Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Margery Blackman’s textiles are held in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Dowse Art Museum. Probably her most viewed work, the 1986 commission Otago Banners, usually hangs in the main entrance to Dunedin Hospital. There’s currently a blank space next to the plaque on the wall where they usually hang, the banners having moved up the road to the gallery for the exhibition, to share the space with other distinctive, precise works exploring abstract geometric shapes.

Margery Blackman, Hon Curator and Dave Rapp, Exhibition Designer with Kahu huruhuru with tāniko border, from Te Ika-a-Māui, given to the museum ca 1930. D32.295, Tūhura Otago Museum Collection. Pictured during the installation of Nga Taonga no nga Wahine Treasures from Maori Women, Tūhura Otago Museum (1989). Image courtesy of Allied Press Ltd.

Margery’s weaving practice is closely entwined with her considerable body of scholarship, curation and other local voluntary work. She’s written on design history and Māori textiles and clothing, and these strands of her interests feature in the opening weekend’s talks by visiting speakers Dr Linda Tyler and Dr Patricia Te Arapo Wallace (Ngāti Porou). Moira White from Tūhura Otago Museum and textile and costume historian Dr Jane Malthus will jointly present on Margery’s local curatorial work and other local voluntary work. This session is being supported by CTANZ and members should have received an email with information on how they can livestream these talks on the afternoon of Saturday 18 May.


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