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Ophelia & Ryder Jones at Sherwood

Northland artists and partners, Ophelia & Ryder Jones, and their baby boy Emanuel,  have spent the last week at Sherwood Queenstown creating a body of work for the award-winning hotels first artist residency. 

The couple, who both hold  a Master of Art & Design with First Class Honours, are multidisciplinary in their art form; photography, painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture. They recently created the visual roll out and album cover for Lorde’s Solar Power, as well as Benee’s cover album, Lychee. 

QT Magazine caught up with the family over breakfast at Sherwood ahead of their exhibition opening tonight {Wednesday 22nd March}.

What sort of brief were you given for the art residency?

Ophelia: We were given a lot of freedom. It’s kind of the dream as an artist to do whatever we are inspired by and are drawn to so we knew the landscape would be informative of the work along with what we discovered by chance in the hotel or stumbled across on the street.

For Ryder he came across a copy of Ram Dass that’s in each hotel room that he has a strong connection to through his grandfather who recently passed away. So, it was quite amazing to be in front of this book and he has made some works in response to the image and text within that.

Did you have initial ideas around what to create here in Queenstown?

Ophelia: We had a little bit of a plan to make some cyanotype’s. Because I usually shoot on film, I didn’t want to have to take all the photos in the first few days of residency and then send them away to be developed – that was not going to be time friendly or allow me to discover what I wanted as a subject to photograph.

The cyanotypes allowed us to take photos at our own pace, make our own negatives by printing them on OHP paper upstairs here at Sherwood and then develop them outside in the sun or in a little darkroom we made in our bathroom. It was really cool, and nice to have an excuse to explore this new method of making using different materials and processes rather than the same routine. Living here at Sherwood brought some fresh innovative energy to the work.

How did you approach working on Lorde’s Solar Power album cover – was it an exclusive project or were you multi-tasking?

Ophelia: Definitely the later. We always have multiple projects happening including our own practices. When we started on the work for Ella, she is a very good friend of mine and one of my dearest, we didn’t know where the project would end up or even that we were working on the album cover. She wanted to take some photos of her at home, in New Zealand, and we just all went on a road trip. There was no specific aim or goal which I guess probably took pressure off and sort of made the photos as joyful and light as I think they turned out.

Its always lovely working with friends because there is that intimacy and especially capturing someone so close. It was a really beautiful project that expanded from the album cover to quite a lot of the Solar Power story including album imagery and merchandise that Ryder hand drew – airbrushing and drawing seascapes and flowers which is extension of his love for the ocean and his practice around making and surfing. 

What are some of the unique outcomes of working in residence at Sherwood?

Ryder: Being here sparked a lot of conversations and ideas around the surroundings. We hung a set of sheets up over the window in our room, so the light was shining through, and I spray painted, and hand drew on them which was fun. The way the paint goes into the sheet is almost like a stain that impregnates the fabric. I loved that and think that’s why I enjoyed working on cotton so much where the paint is sitting inside the textile rather than just on the surface.”

The bed sheet just made sense while we are here at Sherwood, and I like the idea that a bed is being made with this crazy installation thing. The nature of the situation is unique and making things on the fly while Emanuel was running around or asleep in this beautiful yet unorthodox bedroom studio that we didn’t want to mess up too much was cool.

How did you collaborate on the cyanotype photography for this exhibition?

Ryder: I trialled some cyanotypes about a month ago, to test the technology out which is quite basic to work with because you’re making your own negatives which is just blue. It’s old technology from the 1800’s using UV light to develop the photos. I bought this specialist light bulb from a place in Palmerston North, which apparently people buy to have little raves with, and the bulbs also kill bugs – it’s really strange. On sunny days we just worked with natural UV placing the works outside laying the negative on top of the page which results in a painterly kind of look – you can play with it.

We just started to figure it out here with Ophelia giving me a photo that I would paint on the surface and work out what paper to print on – that was the intersection. It was just natural interplay. For the most part Ophelia has taken the photos and then we have made the selection, and both worked on the development. Sometimes she is the driver of the work and then I kind of help out or vice versa – its fluid.

Ophelia: It’s been interesting to make a body of work to this specific time frame and how it sort of lives on its own here at Sherwood. I really like thinking about the cyanotypes in terms of this space, the decisions that have informed what we have done with them, even the way we have framed them has been a response to the dark, charcoal wood here at Sherwood.  

What impact has the Queenstown environment had on you?

Ryder: I really love it here. Walking up the street to take Emanuel to the little park made me nostalgic for growing up in California – smelling the alpine air with a desert style clarity. We went swimming in Lake Wakatipu and the water was more alkaline, smoother and fresh rather than the acidity of the coast where we live up North. The colours are ashy and the impact of these different blue tones shows in the work we have created here that is related to this beautiful landscape.

The exhibition will be on show from Wednesday 22 March, for two weeks, and available for the public to come and view at Sherwood Queenstown.