Stephen Ellis’ newest body of work Headforemost is a suite of four large scale, intricate ball point pen drawings that capture and comment on local history. Ellis’ works are awe inspiring. With a commitment to both process and the research grounding the work, he layers meaning and technique to create works that intrigue. Working in the humble ball point pen, Ellis’ large scale works are truly unique and have to be seen in person to understand his mastery of line, light and composition.
On 26 November 1841 the small boat containing William Cornwallis Symonds and four others sank “headforemost” into the Manukau harbour. Symonds was the impetuous deputy to Governor William Hobson. Symonds had a private scheme, the Manukau Land Company, the aim of which was to entice Scottish migrants to his proposed capital city of Cornwallis. A proposed city to be built on land that he was negotiating but had not yet confirmed the purchase of, at Cornwallis.
The Company had oversold the land and its prospects; the Scottish settlers arrived in 1841, after 300 days at sea, to no town, no facilities and no land title. Auckland had meanwhile been established on the Waitemata as the capital city.
Wharves are barometers of economies, populations and migrations. The wharf is also a locus of transition: sea to land, danger to safety, old life to new. In a world on the move from war, famine and climate catastrophe, the wharf is a metaphor. And the story of the unbuilt settlement of Cornwallis has its modern echo in the disappointment and unmet hope at the end of many modern and arduous journeys.
The Cornwallis wharf has been rebuilt, but it remains the last survivor of 16 timber wharves that once served shipping on the Manukau. Harbour currents no longer deliver human cargoes (alive and dead) to the Cornwallis wharf, it no longer receives migrant ships, or the drowned from the Manukau Bar, but it sits under the Western approach to Auckland Airport, the inheriting vector of migration.
Free Kids Drawing workshop with Stephen Ellis Saturday 13th October 10 - 12
As a part of ArtWeek Auckland 2018
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