Leigh Tawharu’s series of ballpoint pen and hand stitched drawings on show in Avant Garden immortalise a snippet of a plant lover’s collection in a time of fast changing popular culture. Like any fashion movement, house plants have been on the merry-go-round of popularity throughout history. From the lush bohemian style of the 70’s, they were then cast into obscurity, making way for the minimalism of the 90’s and 2000’s. A mere twenty years later, just like they had never truly been out of favour, spider plants and tradescantia were making a courageous comeback appealing to a whole new generation of plant lovers. The humble house plants began to take their role in domestic comfort very seriously during the first lockdown in 2020! The combination of time and the social media savvy, saw #plantparents everywhere flooding their feeds with their new #plantbabies. Who knew house plants would become the new supermodels of Instagram?
Being a collector at heart, a newly found love of houseplants was a natural progression for Tawharu who is of Ngati Raukawa, Cherokee Indian & German descent. What started with a bit of healthy competition with a work colleague “I see your Monstera Deliciosa and raise you a Hoya Carnosa”, soon turned into a veritable indoor green kingdom. Early on Tawharu discovered that tending to and nurturing these plants evoked mindfulness – a slowing down from the constant noise and chaos of this modern climate. The same mindfulness soon became part of the drawings. The tranquil action of scribbling and layering ink; the repetitive, cathartic process of stitching – calm, rhythmic, purposeful. The series of ten works in Avant Garden are a meticulous exploration of tonal variety, surface texture and pattern, capturing a plant lover’s obsessive tendencies.