Treasures show the art of illusion

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Megan Huffadine’s artistic creations are not what they seem at first glance.
The Bannockburn artist moulds medium-density fibreboard (MDF) to portray bone and bronze objects, crafted to resemble archaeological treasures.
It is a clever concept Ms Huffadine has mastered, allowing her creations to portray old and new.
‘‘It’s a type of sculpture,’’ she said.
Her creations are crafted either as individual works to feature on a wall or embedded in painted panels, which she calls niches.
‘‘I’ve always worked this way because what I’m interested in is how people collect objects and display them in their homes, or in museums as a means of telling stories.’’
The larger works in her collection are Wunderkammern, or ‘‘cabinets of curiosities’’.
Wunderkammern was developed in mid-16th-century Europe as repositories for ‘‘wondrous and exotic’’ objects.
Creating niches is the style of work Ms Huffadine enjoys most.
‘‘I like working with the panels because I can really use paint and colour a lot.’’
Acrylic paint, when used in different ways, could depict one object as bronze, while another might be portrayed as bone or copper, she said.
Ms Huffadine has also mastered the art of taking a complex object and simplifying it to become something new, using various tricks of the trade — starting with MDF, which she describes as her ‘‘blank canvas’.
‘‘I use MDF because to me it’s like paper or clay — it’s got no personality, so I paint it and give it a new life.
‘‘To get the quality I’ve got, it requires painting and sanding at least three times before I put the final layers of paint on.’’
Each of her works evolve in its own good time.
‘‘Because I’m working on multiple number of works at one time and they are complex . . .it’s hard to say,’’ she said, of just how long one project can take to complete.
‘‘Because of the way they are constructed, it means they have to be painted and made simultaneously.’’
Ms Huffadine, who completed a bachelor of fine arts degree at the University of Canterbury 30 years ago, adopted her current style of artwork 10 years later.
She also has a postgraduate diploma in anthropology, which she gained through the University of Otago as a school­leaver.
Today, she works from her Bannockburn home, where she has established Studio Red.
Her works have captured the attention of many admirers, including visitors to Hullabaloo Art Space.
‘‘[People] are often surprised when they find out the work is made from MDF.’’
Ms Huffadine will showcase her works during an exhibition, alongside other members of Hullabaloo Art Space, when the Lakes District Museum & Art Gallery in Arrowtown hosts a new exhibition in August and September.
Her artworks will feature in another exhibition in Christchurch in September — a collaborative display of works by both Ms Huffadine and jeweller Lynn Kelly, who will provide inspiration for each other’s work throughout the exhibition.