‘TALL WHITE POPPY’
224,000 1mm squares on New Zealand Gormak graph paper make up the foundation for Moxham’s latest artwork.
‘Tall White Poppy’ is a remarkably detailed, information laden and symbol dense artwork, that speaks from the heart about identity, value, and definition.
Moena introduced us to her technique of ‘ink stitch’ grid drawing with her artworks ‘Thought in Formula' and 'Thought in Formula II’ in 2015. Created using different symbols and marks they incorporate her knowledge and techniques in embroidery and sewing with line, composition, mathematics and the use of positive/ negative space and tone, to create depth and layering. In 2016, Moxham developed the artwork ‘Brainstorm’using her handwriting to create pattern and form while expressing a narrative message. This artwork amalgamates all of these previous techniques in order to investigate and unpack the notion of a New Zealand ‘Tall Poppy’.
Talking about the material and process selection Moxham says: "When I was a child, my Father was a cartographer and draftsman and had very special sets of Staedler pens, French curves, set squares, splines and a special drawing table which I loved. I was fascinated with the precision, the skill and the creativity that was required within rules and frameworks to create imagery. Along side my Spirograph, this mathematical way of making patterns and variation fascinated and entranced my mind. Plus, the Staedler pens were off bounds so I didn't muff the nibs, and that’s a sure fire way to draw any curious beings attention!".
Like examining a cell under a microscope, the viewer is taken on a visual journey of discovery, exploration and enquiry. ‘Tall White Poppy’ stands out from the page with poppies growing in the background and the word ‘White’ shimmering as if on fire. As the viewer gets closer, they see that the image is not dense in line rather made up of thousands of marks and handwritten text. The image is playful and requires the viewer to engage their curiosity by changing their perspective- sometimes quite literally to cock their head and follow the text onto strange angles and to find the ends of sentences. Moxham invites us to make our own opinion, to think about different definitions and interpretations rather than the literal. The marks are not by accident, and illicit connotations of gaming, computer programming and digital language alongside cross-stich, embroidery and needlework patterns. Clouds, poppies, change in gradients and lines made from play, rewind, forwards, backwards, up, down, stop, start, kiss, hug, equals symbols, and the relative scale and direction of these, adds another layer of data.
Exploring further the themes of ‘individualism v group’ and ‘beauty in imperfection’ are perfectly suited to this method of drawing. Moxham sees the grid as like the framework of life, the individual squares as us, the picture as the collective beauty and message. Every single square is treated with a mark or character and is unique unto it’s own. What looks like perfection or pattern, on closer inspection has contrast. Her execution is extraordinary in that there is very little planning involved. With the image in her head, she begins to draw while developing the work as she goes along. This emulates Moxham’s life ethos of getting going; getting out, going forwards; no matter how small the step, one millimetre in the right direction builds over time to create a bigger picture and the momentous. It doesn’t matter if one square is different, together they work as a whole.
Moxham notes, "This work belongs to a new passage of my artistic expression. It comes from love, from passion and from positive emotions rather than from being out of my comfort zone, dealing with pain or working through a conundrum. These notions and thoughts are pertinent to my personal identity but are filaments belonging to a greater social and environmental strand. This work is provocative, designed to instigate dialogue and is potentially controversial- and that’s great, because all of that makes us think/ act/ grow and change".
The text ‘Tall White Poppy’ initially confronts and talks of ‘tall poppy syndrome’. It is brazen statement and sticks it’s finger onto a sensitive topic that has conflicting and negative connotations within a culture that promotes achievement yet, has challenges accepting or supporting it. It is a derogatory term primarily used in New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and other Anglosphere nations to describe a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements distinguish them from their peers. This is similar to begrudgery, the resentment or envy of success. A similar saying occurs in Japanese and Asian culture that translates to "The nail that stands out gets hammered down”.
In Moxham’s eyes it is a term we should be proud of and celebrate. However, Moxham is saying far more than provoking a categorisation. A ‘Tall Poppy’ is made of much more than an individual component. Collective merit and credit where it is due; societies affirmation of value; recognition of value in variation, cultural division based on ancestry and appearance, the collective support of our unique identities as New Zealanders- an ethnographic culture unique in its own, and the impermanence of existence are a few of many topics highlighted by this work.
Language is personified; words and ideas are humorously conceptualised and played with through literal and abstract fragmentation. Sometimes intentionally arranged to instigate a mental image or bring the reader back to seeing patterns, repetition or the actual shape and construct of the words and marks. The text is as a stream of conscious from the artist, drawing out ideas, concepts and thinking things over. Talking to herself, talking to others or just stating and re-evaluating ideas- some makes sense, some follows absurd tangents.
Click on the letters above to read and see enlarged
Tall is surrounded by symbols directing up and down and is unpackaged though text:
‘You are so beautiful shortie because you are tall, tall mind, tall heart, tall soul, tall spirit.’
‘Reach higher shortie, I’ll give you a hand, because I am a little taller until you can reach, because one day shortie you will be tall tall tall tall..’
‘…shortie becomes tall tall tall grow baby towards the light tall tall tall tall tall tall keep looking up not down you gotta look towards the stars’
‘…shortie stop worrying, who's measuring? To someone else you are tall tall tall…’
‘…tall tall tall tall in my eyes not tall in yours, tall in your eyes? what are you measuring me against?…’
‘…tall tall tall you exclaim: Too tall!!- Pfft- whatever you wouldn't explode with ‘Too wide!’- hahaha silly tall tall tall…’
‘…tall tall tall you are not going to topple, I have got you grow tall tall tall… tall tall black white wide narrow short tall left right wrong up down tall tall tall tall tall tall…’
‘It’s all perspective. When I am lying on the ground everything looks tall tall tall change your perspective…’
‘…dream think act tall.. make your mind tall…desire to be tall..everyone can be tall. You shortie are already tall tall tall…’
‘Shortie where you get worried you aint tall- you grow baby grow and reach the stars, baby, your time to shine will come- keep looking past the moon tall tall tall..’
Click to enlarge
‘White’ appears to not be marked, but up close the viewer sees that even the absent mark has been created with white ink. It seems as if on fire and yet at the same time as if snow is collecting in the corners; both dualities of fire and ice, hot and cold, rigid and kinetic. It is unpacked initially with definitions of the word which then change to the definition of black. The word itself is made up of both black and white colour and this dichotomy is precisely what Moxham is addressing. War, love, ethnicity, government policy, race, skin colour, identity, heritage, absence, presence, past, future, yin/ yang, language, culture, definition, and division are addressed through comments, poetry and questions.
‘…White, counter-revolutionary or reactionary- contrasted with red…’
‘…I am black, I am white; I am good I am bad; I am love, I am hate…’
’What is my Whakapapa, can you tell from my grey grey grey?…’
‘White, pristine, unblemished, they say it is not a colour. I love white mists and clouds lingering on the mountains; land of the long white cloud. Aotearoa.’
‘What is my whakapapa? White is European? I am not from Europe. Black is New Zealand? White is New Zealand? Aotearoa- the land of the long white cloud. Would you denounce my mana?’
‘I claim allegiance to my tribal roots
I claim allegiance to my homeland
I claim allegiance to my whakapapa
I claim allegiance to my heritage
I claim allegiance to my history
I claim allegiance to my people’
Two poems speak through prose in correlation with Moxham’s concepts:
‘White- Black AWOL- black absent without leave, white where have you gone? Your former presence is undeniable, have you departed or are you yet still to arrive?
Who said white; absent without light was good? Black you got the short end of the stick being nominated the naughty and mysterious, the blanket which underneath allows myself to play and scurry, softening the blow on irises not wanting to absorb the uncomfortable truth. Velvety plush, absorbent and full of layers of subtle complexity. Soft edges, subtle smudging, fluffy focus deliciously encouraging indulgent activities which in clear and defined daylight would be sharply inappropriate and tightly covered. Night you change my perception; broken and expand limitations- opening opportunity for shifts and allowances.
‘White you are an impossible ideal, unmaintainable within the modern world, and perfect in thus being so. I need permanent Nappysan- even then is it ever black to white? The memory of an act, an adventure, an experience always there just need to get a little closer to inspect. I like that. Investigate a little further. Take solace in what is or isn't there. You may see, others may not. Everyone does it differently. Rub, soak, dryclean, remove, dispose, burn baby burn, Quick- get rid of it. Be done with it to be sure.’
‘…white white white black white white…white a fly is in the cream white…’
‘…white white white black white white black…’
And at last being filled with ‘…grey grey grey grey grey…’
Click to enlarge
Finally, ‘Poppy’ is the most playful of the words, the outlines irregular, the centres floating away and the symbols of love X (kiss) and O (hug) playing with the links to opiates ‘ Poppy pop pop pop poppy down the rabbit hole we go’. A snake approaching a prize lives in ‘Y’ - eluding to the game of life and the confines and parameters of this- ‘Why in Y?’ asks the artist for there is no exit from that box…
Poppy is unwrapped through Oceanic identity, colour, the impermanence of life, death, blood, nature, war, drug trade, religious connotations, sleep and dreams, the power of words, positivity, productivity and finally the proclamation to ‘life to the fullest as you need to, to write your life.’
‘Pop pop pop poppy- symbol of war, love and unity pop pop poppy you bring relief, grief, fortune, demise. Wars fought in minds, with money, power and ego. Drugs, camaraderie, community; pressing together and simultaneously pulling apart’
‘Poppy poppy poppy your beauty cant last. I cut you and put you in glass but you wilt and sombrely droop, alone and singled out from the field. You are meant to be enjoyed; fed with light and sunshine. Until when the time is right you return to the earth again’
’…Anzac Anzac Australasian Attitude…’
‘Anzac unity, respect and definition. Poppy you stand for love and war, bloodshed battles, lessons written in lives. So much beauty, so much pain.’
‘…Fragile, temporary, beauty, shine in your time…’
‘…remember, remember, remember…resurrection, resurrection, resurrection…life cycle, cycle life, life cycle, cycle life… ’
‘Death blood on the fields red river of souls. Lessons learnt and not forgotten. Death… lessons important and vital.. lessons written in blood and lives of men and women driven to fight for good and a better life for generations to follow… death death life life life death fight for life, white and black, white and red, death…’
‘We are here for such a short time- make it extraordinary. Make it beautiful, delicate, authentic, filled with passion and life and bolstered by camaraderie and love…’
‘The power of words, of dreams, of opinion, of conversation, discourse; of discussion and re-evaluation; of learning; of respecting opinions where personal views are different. To learn how to be consciously uncomfortable and within this grow and develop through participatory education.’
‘Paint your life with the dreams of your mind. What you desire and how you put the pieces of the puzzle together is painting your existence. Your thoughts drive your actions and they shape your existence.’
‘Why? You owe it to your soul. Follow the Pied Piper of your Heart. Why why why why? Why not? Pop pop pop poppy grow taller you will shine pop pop poppy you are tall tall tall tall tall poppy tall poppy…’
‘You are beautiful just the way you are. Grow as you are meant to and reach towards the sun as you so desire. Tall white poppy…’
‘Red white black green blue pink mauve orange red grey purple pink…’
Ultimately Moxham finishes with the following words:
‘Make your mark on life like blood onto the white page. Your blood, your page, your life, your terms, your decisions, your responsibility- your story’
Photography Sean Aickin Photography
'BEAUTY IS GENIUS'
Beauty is Genius; of Gods and (wo)men.
For me to talk about ‘Beauty is Genius’ in anything but the first person would be to dishonestly hide behind a facade and not give validity to a creation from my heart. This work is personal, raw, extremely intimate and revels one of my greatest challenges and fears. Working through this declaration exposed the inner workings of my mental capacity and comprehension, and broke my ties with former confines both of conceptualisation and conduct. This clarity came through applying myself to cleaning out my thinking, through application of knowledge, through time and love and above all, through accepting and trusting my experiences and beliefs in the sensory and spiritual.
‘Beauty is Genius’ is a declaration of a point of growth; of the recognition of the ethereal and the right to be able to take pleasure from the artistry of existence. It has taken great courage for me to create this artwork and to reveal it for this exposes two facets of my identity which have caused me enormous pain and hostility- from others but most destructively from within myself. For what is life if you can recognise and love all that is around you, but not be able to reflect this inwards?
The competitive nature of humans to prove we are better, that we have the ‘way’, that a thought or process is the best confuses and upsets me, but it is within these restrictions and rigid constructs that I find my true freedom. My curiosity is honed for A way, not THE way, and often this is a much more unusual one. For in my story, to get to clarity comes flying though dark and bumpy clouds, yet this is precisely how empathy through experience by immersion develops. There are so many wonderful ways to experience existing and all of them have value and merit in their own right. Learning how to appraise, respect and understand myself through appreciating my difference has been my greatest achievement. It is within the flaws that beauty resides.
Both Beauty and Genius have caused me considerable pain, isolation, loneliness, confusion and discomfort at times within my life, and this statement sits within a place of great friction for me. We aspire towards these qualities, yet the repercussions of them are greatly underestimated. Hand in hand with these come less virtuous qualities which are indispensable in the understanding of the former, however, these are much less appealing. Yet, this is where the proof in the pudding lies- it is within acknowledgement and acceptance of these attributes that the other values become precious. Vanity + pride, ego + charisma, creativity + madness, dedication + obsession, intellectual dexterity + emotional immaturity, anxiety + imagination, precision + perfectionism, courage + fear, selfishness + altruism, strategy + addiction, constructive + destructive, commitment + denial, perception + unconsciousness, persuasive + manipulative, decadence + depravity, vision + memory, unique + regular, private + extroverted, perseverance + surrender, calmness + turbulence, work + play, peace + passion, loyalty + possessiveness, love + hate; the list goes onnn… Subtle shifts in qualities can have the most profound and powerful effects, all initiated by belief, recognition and evaluated by integrity. Academic and cultural achievements paling in comparison, it was a helluva road to develop my sensitive perceptiveness to encompass the blessings of talents and aesthetics I have been given.
Both Genius and Beauty are not exclusive; they are mental states which though engagement and genuine virtue are accessible to everyone because everyone has them. For if life has not provided the fruits of labour and these gifts are concealed, these revelations lie nowhere else but within.
Action and reaction, as in science, as in nature, as in emotions and behaviour all has repercussions; ripples that turn into waves. Mental waves being as momentous as physical ones for this is equilibrium; this is where invention, imagination and creativity combines with the energies guiding us to search for what makes us happy and what helps those around us.
Genius is clearly recognisable within youth and nature- it is simplicity and purity. Naivety which hasn't been sullied by the infiltration of desire, longing, stress, feelings of lack and of loss and that has been encouraged to romp and relax; to follow seemingly absurd concepts to the ends of rainbows. To explore through participation without an end game because that’s where all the fun lies- in the enjoyment of enjoyment. Hold. The. Horses. Here comes puberty- for humans this is where the scene becomes much more complex- here comes the land of Emotion. In my experience, intelligence can be interpreted as control; as the search and dedication towards understanding, but this hardwired drive doesn't couple too well with elusive and fluid sensations out of balance. Yet, as with all juxtapositions, this too is balanced and diffused by it’s partner- relinquishment.
Adolescence brought many challenges for me and my intellect and looks did not bring easy avenues. However, I wouldn't take a moment back. I am learning more today than I ever have; it only gets better. I have never been interested in being the prettiest, or having my looks sway situations or opportunities for me- I actively seek out developing skills and knowledge where this is not prioritised. However I cannot say how I look doesn’t affect what I do as that is based on others judgements, but I can tell you it is not always beneficial or advantageous and that it brings the recipient challenges with ettiequte, expectations and interaction. I enjoy playing with my appearance and the different characters I can express but my interests lie in learning, in having courage and being kind, and in building genuine relationships. I have always wanted to understand people from every walk of life, more so in turn due to the tribulations, deceit and deception I experienced as a young person. This propulsion; to nourish my intellect and talents, brought me to understanding myself though others, and subsequently developing Mind, Heart, Body and Spirit while helping those around me. I did not have control over what blessings I had been given, but I knew I had control over how productive and valuable I could make them in order to share myself and my expertise.
As with ‘Tall White Poppy’ I have treated 224,000 1mm squares each with a mark to create a bigger picture. Many metaphors lie within in reference to my thoughts of existence and individuality. Curves are made up of boxes with sharp corners; like in life there are spikes in the bends. No line, no mark is flawless, even the shapes that seem so from afar have blips and variation; as too in living and mankind- beauty is imperfect. My handwriting creates form by using script to articulate my personal viewpoints; it is fluid not rigid; only my opinion not a rule or regulation. I supply the definitions of both Genius and Beauty and examples of the uses of them, making statements and talking of experiences from my own life or ideas I assimilate with in order to instigate thought through concepts less literal, but everything is open for interpretation.
Juxtaposing the information are marks, symbols, doodles and the playfulness of the imagery. The process in itself is meditative and gives me lucidity within mind chatter. Space invaders, mountains, tiles and checkerboards; snakes confined within shapes and wayward off paths, changing colour when entering new zones and missing prizes to follow other directions; wonky edges, boarders unravelling and parts not coloured in likeness to the adjacent design are all symbolic illustrations of what I think it is to live and love; to have freedom of choice, to be unique and draw the picture of our lives how we desire.
Welcome to my mind.
Both the definitions of Beauty and Genius are surrounded by references to breathing techniques and encouragement to visualise and focus on goals and aspirations. Herewith follows the transcript of text within the artwork.
Click to enlarge for detail
Genius | ˈdʒiːnɪəs | noun | (pl: geniuses)
1 (mass noun) exceptional intellect or creative power or other natural ability
‘what a teacher of genius’. ‘that person has a genius for organisation'
a person regarded as exerting a powerful influence over another for good or evil.
‘Hitler was an evil genius’ ‘this young person is my good genius; my guardian angel.’
(pl: genii | ˈdʒiːnɪʌɪ | ) (in some mythologies)
a spirit associated with a particular place, person or institution
the prevailing character or spirit of something
‘Tadanori Yokoo’s paintings and aesthetic did not suit the austere genius of minimalist contemporary Japanese art of that time.’
adjective | informal
very clever or ingenious- a genius idea
‘the movie was absolutely genius in parts’
Origin: late middle english from Latin
‘attendant spirit present from ones birth, innate ability or inclination; from the root of gignere ‘beget’, the original sense ‘spirit attendant on a person’ gave rise to a sense ‘a person’s characteristic disposition (late 16th C), which led to a ‘person’s natural ability’ and finally ‘exceptional natural ability’ (mid 17th C)
A selection of the surrounding declarations:
'A beautiful genius walks their own life story. It is not looks, it is not knowledge, it is not recognition. It is simply living life as required by your soul.'
'The only difference between you and me is what we think and dream.'
'Have the courage to take one step. One step becomes two, becomes three, become a genius for our own existence.'
'Let curiosity get the better of you'
'Your ideas are for your journey'
'Breathe breathe breathe breathe breathe…'
Click to enlarge for detail
Beauty | ˈbjuːti | noun (pl: beauties)
1 (mass noun) a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially sight; ‘an area of outstanding beauty’
a combination of qualities that pleases the intellect. ‘the artistry and beauty of football’
a beautiful or pleasing thing or person
an excellent example of something
(the beauties of) the pleasing or attractive features (of something); beauties of the New Zealand countryside
(in sing.) the best aspect or advantage of something; ‘the beauty of growing your own vegetables is that you have the pleasure of experience, skill, availability and supporting conscious consumerism.’
adjective: Aust/ NZ informal: good; excellent (used as a general term of approval) ‘You beauty All Blacks!’
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’
proverb: that which one person finds beautiful or admirable may not appeal to another
‘Beauty is only skin deep’
proverb: a pleasing appearance is not a guide to character
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(main text) Beauty is Genius (follows into the text to the left of G)… and completely subjective; but lets go back a step because I am not talking about what is on the outside. New Zealand, you may take this statement as an ice pick to the face, but stay with me… I am talking about beauty of thought, beauty of creation, beauty of being able to exist in a modern world obsessed with negativity and destruction. Beauty is taking delight in things that make your heart flutter. It is appreciation, gratitude and wonder in the incredible, unique and pleasurable. Beauty is gratifying the existence of experiences and things bigger than self and ego. Beauty is positivity. Beauty is taking enjoyment from being intellectually challenged and being presented with concepts foreign and unusual and allowing space for comprehension, discussion and varied viewpoints. Appreciation of beauty is not being bent out of shape if something is better than another. In our media saturated world our initial connotations of the word beauty are all about body image, identity and competition- often linked with feelings of lack, judgement and negativity. Beauty is character, and character celebrates variation and diversity. Beauty is the slow burner, the sensory and the unforgettable. Beauty is spirit. The hard work, dedication and diligence of beauty should be celebrated and encouraged. Beauty is thinking big. In my country beauty is often misunderstood, judged negatively and feared. Beauty is much more than the package you have been given on the outside. You can't choose it, but you can choose how you share it. Beauty is space, it’s grace, it’s what’s left and not filled. It needs no explanation. It causes conflict, argument and discourse. Beauty is juxtapositions; safety, strength, weakness and vulnerability. Beauty is assurance and wonder. Beauty is a gift from one to another. Beauty is not exclusive. Beauty is a mindset. Beauty is brain power, it’s thought processes and every single person has it! Beauty is honesty; for reflecting and accepting both good and bad and having the courage to choose the best option available at the time. Beauty is energy; it is unlimited and infinite. We live in a world filled with the constructs of our imagination and thoughts- beauty is recognition of the wonder of these. Human beauty does not make life easier. It doesn’t give you an advantage and makes you no better nor worse than anyone else. Beauty is orchestrating the power of the positive. Beauty is black and white, good and bad, love and hate. Beauty is balance. Beauty is not number one, nor is it ‘perfect’ or whole. It changes, is personal and requires no justification to another. “imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring”- Marilyn Munroe. Beauty laughs at itself. Everyone wants something they don’t have- beauty is enjoying and being content with what you do have. Beauty is living to the fullest capacity.
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The difference between genius and madness is honesty. Refracting. Regrouping. Changing. Evolve. Grow. Develop. Beauty is genius? It’s like herding cats. It’s never a crowd pleaser. There is not consensus there is only being or giving up. This statement makes me so uncomfortable because I have been labelled both of these things. Neither of these attributes make me better or more elite than another person, yet societies impression is that that is how I feel or perceive myself. In fact for many years I wanted to hide and not face the obligations I have to make the best of what, by the grace of a power much bigger than me, has been bestowed on me. Beauty, the genius of beauty, I believe is simplicity, authenticity and integrity. It has fuck all to do with the allocation of aesthetic pleasure and everything to do with energy. Beauty is challenging. Beauty takes intellect to manage. Beauty is not always comfortable. Genius is not rational. Beauty is being brave enough to not be the same. Genius is esoteric. Genius is the courage and bravery to see and believe in concepts which aren't entirely tangible. Beauty is removing ego and replacing it with faith- Genius is trusting the voice in your head to enlighten you with answers- Heart is choosing between the paths of good or bad in order to learn. The only thing that differs you from another is what you think about and the actions you undertake in order to achieve them. To be different you have to think different. The only constant is change. You are a beautiful genius constructed for your life and your story. I’m not smarter than anyone, I’m just tuned into my world. I love being imperfectly crazy. An essence unique. Genius is intellectual exploration into the far reaches of the absurd. Human beauty is so dwarfed by nature and the environment and is forever coloured by ego and perspective. Beauty is courage to be what; who you are with integrity. Beauty is not ‘one up manship’. Is it confronting because the concept requires Divine intervention? Because it is intangible, elusive and unquantifiable? Because you can't buy it? Because it comes from an utterly personal selection of skill? If everything was the same, nothing would be challenging to be different. Beauty is not forgetting how to play. Beauty causes friction. Beauty and genius are not harnessed by ego. Beauty is genius? It certainly is extremely complex. Cute - ugly but interesting; Beautiful - imperfectly endearing, Genius = madly creative. Genius is curiosity mixed with drive. Honesty.
Through the information laden, brain chugging context and thought provoking messages perhaps the most uncomplicated revelation sums it all up; whatever communiqué lies within, it is but a pretty picture which brought me much joy to create.
Photography Sean Aickin Photography