Wednesday, 18 July 2018

"Rivers of Gold" - a research print project

Last year I was invited to take part in this art-science collaborative print project, as a member of PCANZ (Print Council Aotearoa New Zealand). I was simultaneously very honoured and very daunted to be invited.

Although the theme was not something I had ever engaged with in the past I was keen to get my teeth into some research and knew that the subject matter was very topical with news of constant threats to our environment from renewed demands to open up mining ventures around the country, often on protected conservation land, risking harm to the local environment and waterways - a VERY hot topic for "Kiwis" (New Zealanders) of all generations.  

The idea that art can "facilitate community engagement" in  highlighting and communicating specific concerns appeals to me greatly so it was too exciting an opportunity to pass up.

First, some background info about the project:

Rivers of Gold International Print Portfolio 
and Exchange 2018/2019: 
An Art-Science Collaborative Project


Jude Macklin along with her husband Professor Mark Macklin are currently involved in a 4 year Australian Research Council project – ‘Rivers of Gold: the legacy of historical gold mining for Victoria's rivers' (, which runs until 2020. Professor Susan Lawrence is the Principal Investigator at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Mark Macklin (University of Lincoln) is the project’s Discovery International Fellow, and Jude Macklin has been invited to lead an art-science programme focusing on printing and printmaking to facilitate community engagement. This will be centred around an international print exchange in which invited artists from around the world will be asked to reflect on a central theme to promote a transdisciplinary art-science dialogue. 

  'Rivers of Gold' involves 4 print groups across Australia, New Zealand and the UK, each country and region has its own goldfield/s with a distinctive culture and history. 

Print groups include: 

  • Aberystwyth Printmakers, Aberystwyth, Wales - organiser Jude Macklin.  
  • Goldfields Printmakers, Ballarat, Australia - organiser Jimmy Pasakos. 
  • Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia (to be confirmed) - organiser Jennifer Stuerzl.  
  • Print Council Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) - organisers Kathy Boyle and Lynn Taylor. 

Each group invited 10 artists to participate and to produce an edition of 5 x A3 size prints (minimum) along with a statement explaining how their image relates to the theme.

NZ artists include:

Jacqueline Aust
Al Bell
Pauline Bellamy
Kathy Boyle
Mark Graver
Toni Hartill
Kim Lowe
Prue MacDougall
Jenny Rock
Lynn Taylor

The prints were all sent to Jude Macklin in the UK where 5 boxed sets of prints were collated and then one box returned to each organizer who will arrange to exhibit the collection in their designated regional gallery/ies. Finally the boxed sets will be gifted into their respective regional collections/ library for archiving and public access. 

Rivers of Gold Exhibition dates

Gympie Regional Gallery, Queensland, Australia
18 July - 11 August 2018

Art at Wharepuke, Kerikeri, New Zealand
16 August - 10 September 2018

IMPACT10_ENCUENTRO, Santander, Spain
5 - 10 September 2018

Queensland College of Art, Project Gallery, Brisbane, Australia
26 Nvember - 9 December 2018

Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales, UK
2 February - 7 April 2019

Lakes District Museum and Gallery, Arrowtown, New Zealand
1 February - 10 March 2019

La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia
 February 2020

The Post Office Gallery, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Dates tbc 2020

"Tears of Hinemuri" 
by Toni Hartill

In preparation for the project I began by researching possible sites of goldmining, past and present, that held particular interest and connection for me. I chose to focus my attention on the Coromandel region as this is closest to where I live and I have spent the most time traveling to and/or through this area. It is also an area that was very much in the news at the time I was working on my research as the government of the time seemed adamant that new mining permissions would be granted despite the fact that this is now precious conservation land and used as a valuable recreational region.  

In order to properly connect with a place/ topic/ theme I feel a need to visit the site. I can't quite put my finger on it but its like I need to "breathe it all in", experience it in 3D, walk the trails, view the various vistas from multiple angles, try to imagine fully what it would have been like at various times in history. 

I managed to squeeze in a couple of field trips and as a result discovered more fully what an incredibly stunning area this is. This added to my resolve to want to communicate the need to protect such taonga (treasure).

I chose to create a montage of images by combining various aspects relative to the theme.
The maunga (mountain) is Mt Karangahake. 
To the left is the early settlement of Karangahake.
The river in the foreground is the Ohinemuri River 
and the smaller river entering the main flow references Waitawheta River 
where the Talisman Battery, Crown Mines and Woodstock Pumphouse 
ruins are still visible.  

Mt Karangahake from above the Ohinemuri River 
and towards the junction with Waitawheta River.

 The buildings to the right are the Waihi Paeora Gold Extraction plant 
of a later era and actually located on another part of the river. 
I chose this because it clearly shows the use of cyanide tanks. 

The Waihi Paeroa Gold Extraction plant on the banks of the Ohinemuri River. The tall, cylindrical tanks are those used for the cyanide treatment of finely crushed ore-bearing quartz, through which air was forced to keep the particles agitated until the cyanide had reacted sufficiently with the ore.

Beneath the fast flowing waters of the river are the longfin eel, (Nz's largest and only endemic freshwater eel, status: threatened), kokopu (NZ native freshwater fish, status: declining), and koura (NZ endemic freshwater crayfish, status:  threatened.)


Below is a series of photos showing the progression of my image from initial sketches through to creating multiple lino blocks, trialing and selecting a colour palette and finally printing my edition.  

"Tears of Hinemuri" 
by Toni Hartill

"Tears of Hinemuri" Linocut by Toni Hartill

My Statement:

"In Maori legend the river* and floodplain were formed by Hinemuri’s tears when she was prevented from marrying.  I imagine the tears of Hinemuri continue, long after her heartbreak has faded, when she sees the damage that is done to the waterways and surrounding land as a result of the booming gold industry of last century.

The world’s first field test of the cyanide process, for recovering gold, was at the Crown Battery at Karangahake in 1889. Due to the success of the process 90% of gold was recovered vs 40-50% with other methods. By 1892 six cyanide plants operated on the Ohinemuri field, plus others at Thames and Waihi.

Much of the cyanide-contaminated sludge ended up in the Ohinemuri and Waihou rivers causing loss of fisheries, flooding and navigational problems. Dredging became necessary and the sludge was deposited on the river banks. In 1895 the government declared these waterways “sludge canals” allowing the continuing discharge of waste until the Martha Mine first closed in 1952. Also, the surrounding hillsides were rapidly denuded to provide timber for construction, and firewood to fuel steam power and the ore-drying kilns.

Today the river is much improved but still under stress. Although now conservation land and a popular and historic recreation site, it is again under threat as New Talisman Gold Mines has been granted permission for sample mining to be undertaken. 

The tears of many join the tears of Hinemuri as this work is currently going ahead despite clear opposition. "            

* The full name of the Ohinemuri River is Te Waitangi-o-Hinemuri: The weeping waters of Hinemuri.

 I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this project.

Artistically it pushed me to step up my lino cutting skills to produce a multiple plate print for the first time and to really explore introducing more types of mark making to communicate the varied aspects of the image.

Personally it connected me more deeply with a region I have "known" most of my life but never really comprehended the history and the value of it in context. Many times have I wandered through gold mining sites in NZ but never actually taken an interest to fully learn about the processes involved, 
nor the consequences and the impacts other than at face value.

If you're still with me... 

Here are just a few pics from my trips to Karangahake Gorge
I also visited the local goldmining town of Waihi  
where I visited the Martha Mine - a huge open hole in the ground, 
and the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum 
where I saw a fascinating model made of many glass plates showing, 
in 3D (old school but oh so effective!), 
the underground tunnels in the many many levels of the mines.

View from one of the "windows" entered from tunnels
inside the mountain on the Windows Walk overlooking
the Waitawhaeta Gorge.

View down to the old Crown Tramway and suspension bridge.

Suspension bridge leading to old Crown Tramway,
Windows Walk, Waitawheta Gorge.

A model of the township of Waikino
at the southern end of the Karangahake Gorge.

Cornish Pumphouse at Martha Mine
Built 1904, MOVED 2006!

Martha Mine

Glass model of mine shafts and tunnels - view from side

Glass model of mine shafts and tunnels - view from above

 and finally, 
for the ghoul in you!

Coincidentally, when we arrived at the museum 
I jammed my finger in the car door which cut it deeply, lots of blood, etc... 
Once I was all bandaged up and dosed on pain relief we continued our visit. 

This exhibit made me feel just a little queasy! 

Short story: Miners would blow off their thumbs or other digits as a means 
of getting compensation money from the government 
to subsidise their meagre earnings.

Thanks for visiting!