B.

A gift!

Behind the scenes

Just when you think there's something to celebrate, there turns out to be something else to celebrate.

The first something we're celebrating, as daily readers of this blog will know, is the launch tonight of Julia Morison's exhibition Meet me on the other side in our new Outer Space in the NG Building on Madras Street.

The second something has also come from Julia's direction – but unexpectedly. It's a gift to Christchurch Art Gallery, and no ordinary one.

Do you remember the amazing 'grass dress' that greeted visitors to Julia's 2006 survey show at the Gallery, like a slice of Christchurch lawn sustained by the warmth of the body within?

Or the towering white one with blood-dipped 'tails'?

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Or the gold-leafed tailor's dummy and cascading skirt of weighted chains?

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Or the dark room with an elegant pair of shoes left behind, as if a chanteuse had spontaneously combusted?

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Or this classically cut piece of couture, with its very un-classical and embarrassing stain (hidden in this photograph)?

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These garments, and five others, make up the installation Material evidence: 100-headless woman, which Morison created in 1997 in collaboration with Australian couturier Martin Grant. It's a dream-forest of fantastical dresses for the very tall and mysterious 'headless woman'. The title comes from Max Ernst's Surrealist collage-novel of 1929, which used the art of cut-and-paste to conjure disquieting new scenes from the pages of banal Victorian engravings. Matching Ernst at his own game, Morison and Grant used the art of haute couture – itself dependent on accuracy with a pair of scissors – to coax the '100-headless woman' from Ernst's pages and into soaring, three-dimensional life.

And here's the thing. Julia has gifted the dresses, all ten of them, to Christchurch Art Gallery. Which deserves an exclamation mark: !

Of course, with the Gallery closed, they'll have to stay in the wardrobe for a while. But we're already thinking about how good they might look in the arcade of the Christchurch Art Gallery's permanent collection spaces, reclaiming the long-empty space like divas on a haute-Surrealist catwalk.

So thanks, Julia – twice. You made our day, and then you made our day.

All images are installation views of Material evidence: 100-headless woman 1997 in the exhibition Julia Morison: A loop around a loop at Christchurch Art Gallery te Puna o Waiwhetū, 2006.

All images are installation views of Material evidence: 100-headless woman 1997 in the exhibition Julia Morison: A loop around a loop at Christchurch Art Gallery te Puna o Waiwhetū, 2006.

Related

Exhibition
Julia Morison: Meet me on the other side

Julia Morison: Meet me on the other side

Julia Morison's evocative post-quake sculptures and 'liqueurfaction' paintings return to Christchurch for a special showing in a gallery space overlooking the inner-city 'red zone'.

Exhibition
Julia Morison: a loop around a loop

Julia Morison: a loop around a loop

Sensual, complex and arresting, the work of Julia Morison is an intellectual order made physical.

Collection
Material evidence: 100-headless woman
Julia Morison, Martin Grant Material evidence: 100-headless woman

A series of ten dresses, each made for a woman three metres tall, that were created as a collaboration between Julia Morison and the renowned Australian fashion designer, Martin Grant.

('Lead' currently not illustrated)