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EST. 1949

Richard Orjis

I work intuitively, and I don’t consciously go out of my way to make things dark and melancholic, it’s just what I’m attracted to and what I think is beautiful.

Tell us what you do in 50 words or less.

I’m an Artist, Creative Director of design projects, Teacher, and Gardener.

How was your trip to Latin America?

Amazing, recently returned from three months of traveling around Mexico, Cuba and Argentina. It was part research trip, holiday, post divorce sojourn and time to catch up with old friends. I stayed a month in each country’s main city with a weekend trip here and there. I like slowing down when travelling, getting a routine going, meeting people, finding a place to have coffee every morning. The main highlight was the architectural works of Mexican modernist, Luis Barragan. His Tlalpa Chapel was breathtaking. A very small, simple space in an urban Monastery. I loved his lightness of touch, even though he was making use of bold colours, course materials and heavy forms. Buenos Aires is one of the most beautiful and elegant cities I’ve been to, with the added bonus of an economy in turmoil, your dollar goes along way. Argentines eat very well and I happily adopted the custom of putting ice in red and white wine. Cuba is a surreal and often unsettling place, with the extreme beauty of a crumbling Caribbean dynasty - it’s film set like surroundings, beautiful inhabitants and vintage cars juxtaposed against the realities of a communist country in decline, horrible food, sparsely stocked supermarkets and the ever present shady hawkers.

Sculpture or Photography?

I use so many mediums in my art, sculpture and photography are just two. I’ve been involved in performance, creating gardens, ceramics, fabric works, painting and drawing. I began art school at a time that the discipline areas were really beginning to merge, sculpture students were using photography and vise versa. As a creative, the mediums I use are fluid and are influenced simply by mood or the concepts I’m wanting to explore. I have an allergic reaction to any unexamined loyalties to a particular medium, I see how dangerous that is in society and want to avoid it in my art. Some people are so quick to create artificial divides between men and woman, gay/straight, art/commerce, racial and spirituality grounds and so on.

Tell us about the Hauora garden project.

It’s an inner city medicinal garden in Auckland Central I’m working on with artist A.D Schierning. The idea at the heart of the garden is the desire to use New Zealand plants for what they were traditionally used for: healing. We want it to be an educational resource and haven for storing plant based knowledge. It’s located against Studio One in Ponsonby Rd. The building began its life as the local police station just over 100 years ago. And we’re basically gardening on a site that has been used for dumping for about that long. The initial stages, which we’re in now, are like an archeological dig, discovering these handsome locally made Avondale bricks along with used condoms and syringes. It adds a certain frisson to the act of gardening. ‘Gardening in the Ghetto’ as we lovingly coined it.

What was the last thing you bought from Gubb & Mackie and why did you choose it?

A beautiful red linen short sleeve shirt, it was the best thing I packed for my travels. I’ve been using a lot of linen in my artwork recently, making flags and quilts from it. I love how you can see the texture of the fabric and it always looks natural and relaxed. Linen is perfect for travel because you can just go with the creases and it has an amazing quality to keep cool and fresh. I read something about how linen fibers repel dirt and are much more eco friendly than cotton because fewer pesticides are used in its production. It was the sort of shirt I could wash in the bathroom sink at night and it would be ready to wear again in the morning.

Richard Orjis is represented by Melanie Roger Gallery