Review: Dave Marshall's Terrestrials

Dave Marshall, Terrestrials, Enjoy Public Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand, 28 September - 21 October, 2017

In the beginning there was darkness Te Kore, Ranginui (the sky) and Papatūānuku (the earth) were fused together along with all their children, including Tāne Mahuta (god of the forest). It was very cramped. Tāne wanted to let light into the world, Te Ao, so he violently split Ranginui and Papatūānuku apart into the world and brought his siblings along with him, who became gods of the natural world. In this world of Te Ao (light) and Te Pō (the darkness), Tāne became the ātua of the forest. Tāne and his siblings were male, so he created the first woman, Hine-ahu-one by moulding her from the red clay of his mother Papatūānuku at Kurawaka. He breathed life into her by touching his nose against hers via a hongi. They mated and had a child, Hine-tītama or Hine-ata-uira (maid-of-the-flashing-dawn), he took Hine-ata-uira as his wife. Eventually Hine-ata-uira  realised Tāne was both her husband and Father and fled to the underworld becoming Hine-nui-te-pō, goddess of the underworld.

When considering Dave Marshall’s Terrestrials at Enjoy Public art gallery in Te Whanganui-a-tara, Aotearoa, I thought of this story of creation and of the artist stumbling upon and digging up the clay of Papatūānuku and transforming these mounds of earth through the fire of Mahuika (the goddess of fire). Terrestrials reflects on the process of pottery and its relation to location and Marshall’s body, rather than just considering the final product. Terrestrials, like its name considers how as inhabitants of the Earth we are distanced from these ancient processes and the wasteful nature of mass production under late capitalism.

Marshall is a potter. Terrestrials acknowledges the way culture has been formed around pottery in Aotearoa. Pottery is one of the most ancient human inventions, originating from the Neolithic period, yet as a process we are often distanced from these origins. Most ceramics we use now we have simply bought from a mass produced store like the Warehouse. Terrestrials centres Marshall’s process, from the discovering of clay around various places in the lower part of Te Ika a Maui (North Island), the firing process and the results. Marshall builds his own wood fired kilns. The physicality of how these are built is the first thing you encounter, with the smell of wood permeating down the stairs on to Cuba Street. In the centre of the gallery is a pile of wood with a tubed fluorescent light hovering over the pile inferring the process of firing the kiln. This tubed light is black, red and yellow and hangs on an angle.The artist uses sculptural means to describe or give evidence to the process by which he makes, but also how no one object ever comes out in the same, uniform manner that you might expect. On the back wall was an aluminium lump remoulded through the process of firing. It’s clearly an experiment.

By the windows in the gallery sit a number of pots, bowls and vases, oddly reminding us of how strange it is that pottery is often exhibited, given its functionality. Often we see pottery put on plinths, in Terrestrials Marshall has not centred the finished product of his labours, but rather the traditional means of production. These pieces are not perfect. By these pieces of pottery is a poster, a collage of different images including a person carrying a wheelbarrow, and other images alluding to the histories of pottery, both locally and internationally. This is suspended and printed on translucent paper, it also served as the poster for the exhibition. The amount of wood used by the paper is the same required to produce the amount of pottery displayed in the gallery. For so much wood there is a surprisingly small amount of pottery that is produced. The fire shapes the texture of the clay and this is also how the glaze forms. Lots of the glazes drip and the colours differentiate slightly. 

Along the walls is a line of clay that is a muted grey colour. The line is not straight, it weaves up and down like a walking trail. It’s coarse and bumpy and often seems like it’s been splattered onto the wall. When you follow the trail around you come across a hand drawn map Marshall has made in pencil of different places he has found clay around the bottom of  Te Ika a Maui. He finds these deposits purely through chance. Having this map hand drawn onto the wall called attention to the way we use clay now, which is generally store bought. We don’t think to collect clay in this same way. Marshall collects these materials locally, he is also a part of and invested in his community, Wellington Potters’ Association. Marshall is not only invested in the sharing of resources, sourcing locally and finding strategies for his firing processes to be less wasteful, but he’s consistently engaging with the histories of pottery in Aotearoa, whether this be through his meaningful investment with a community of potters in Te Whanganui-a-tara or whether it’s through contemplating these histories via publications like New Zealand Potter magazine.

Terrestrials offers a chance to reflect on the transformative nature of gathering and moulding clay into something for a functional purpose, a vase for instance. It is a process we often overlook or forget about in an age of mass production. Marshall invites us to slow down and contemplate these processes and evaluate the natural environment around us and how these materials can be transformed via Mahuika setting them on fire and shaping them into something new. Terrestrials reminded me that some objects are made via a process that spans thousands of years and that not everything is from a mass produced factory. The bumps and curves of the pottery and the trail of clay made me feel deeply embodied. As I touched the grain of one of the vases it reminded me that every part had been made with someone’s hands.


Te Kore - energy, potential, the void, nothingness.

Ranginui - Ranginui, the sky father, was torn away from Papatūānuku, the earth mother, and formed the vault of the heavens.

Papatūānuku - Papatūānuku is the land. She is a mother earth figure who gives birth to all things, including people.

Mahuika - Mahuika is a Māori fire deity.

Tāne Mahuta - Tāne is the god of forests and of birds, and the son of Ranginui and Papatūanuku, the sky father and the earth mother, who lie in a tight embrace.

Te Ao-Marama - emergence, light and reality, dwelling place of humans.

Te Pō - form, the dark, the night.

Hongi - A traditional Māori greeting, the Hongi is done by pressing one’s nose and forehead, at the same time. In the hongi, the ha (or breath of life), is exchanged.

Ātua - A god/goddess.

Hine-ahu-one - The first woman.

Te Whanganui-a-tara - Māori name for Wellington.

Te Ika a Maui - Māori name for the North Island.

Aotearoa - Māori name for New Zealand.


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Dave Marshall, Terrestrials, 2017, one cubic metre of chopped pine, hand painted neon tube, Pukerua Bay clay, cast aluminium. Image courtesy of Shaun Matthews and Enjoy Public Art Gallery. 

Shaun Matthews


Dave Marshall, Terrestrials, 2017, collage from New Zealand Potter Magazine and the books of Bernard Leach. Image courtesy of Shaun Matthews and Enjoy Public Art Gallery. 


Shaun Matthews


Dave Marshall, Terrestrials, 2017, Pukerua Bay clay, map. Image courtesy of Shaun Matthews and Enjoy Public Art Gallery. 


Shaun Matthews


Dave Marshall, Terrestrials, 2017, map (detail). Image courtesy of Shaun Matthews and Enjoy Public Art Gallery.  


Shaun Matthews


Dave Marshall, Terrestrials, 2017, cast aluminium. Image courtesy of Shaun Matthews and Enjoy Public Art Gallery.  


Shaun Matthews


Dave Marshall, Terrestrials, 2017, pots (detail). Image courtesy of Shaun Matthews and Enjoy Public Art Gallery.  


Shaun Matthews


Dave Marshall, Terrestrials, 2017, pots (detail). Image courtesy of Shaun Matthews and Enjoy Public Art Gallery.

Shaun Matthews

Hana Pera Aoake is an artist and poet based in Te Whanganui-a-tara, Aotearoa. Hana primarily works collaboratively within the indigenous art collective Fresh and Fruity with Mya Middleton, which initially started as an ARI based in Ōtepoti.  Hana is currently studying towards a Master of Fine Arts degree at Massey University. Hana is a Pania of the digital reef #online.

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