Exploring life’s meaning through art

Three-dimensional work created from clay, marble or stone is the result of a primary association with the material that forms the basis of aesthetic experience. The artist or craftsperson works directly with the material and is guided in part by its intrinsic nature.

Debbie Templeton-Page immerses herself in the process feeling at one the material. She is of Australian aboriginal descent and like many indigenous people feels a connection to place and time that is difficult to explain other than through art. Artists that work with clay and stone often talk about an embodied feeling a haptic sense where the mind and body work together to create the work. In creating a work in this way the viewer or owner of the finished work can also find this connection through touch and observation. It is a mysterious process whereby the work is never completely finished because at each stage, whether the material is inert in the ground, in the hand of the maker or in the possession of an art lover, each brings their understanding and experience to the work.

Debbie says that once introduced to sculpture and carving work from rock she felt driven to work almost obsessively. Like many sculptors, Debbie enjoys the blue stone, New Zealand basalt on which Timaru her home sits. This black grey rock with seams of bubbles formed in the heat of volcanic activity creates the basis of much of her current work. She is however a versatile artist and also creates sculptures from marble and bronze.

Her subject matter – guardian figures and multi-headed women –shows a complexity of thought both philosophical and spiritual. This interesting work, where two heads or more appear in one sculpture, explain the multi-faceted nature of life. They demonstrate how as individuals we can have a face we show the world, another we show our loved ones, and maybe even another that only we know.

Her guardian figures feel like a link to our past maybe ancestors or those that walk with us. Grouped in threes or more they provide a presence wherever they are placed, reminding us of the interconnections we have with others and with nature. Debbie was looking for the meaning of life through reading, travel and meditation but in her vocation as a sculptor she may have found that meaning.

Debbie has energy and a zest for life and an enthusiasm which can be described as eccentric or as her daughter describes her, “quirky”. She works in her York St Gallery in Timaru, and has won several awards and commissions.

Each year at Art in a Garden, Hawarden, Debbie exhibits a diverse range of sculpture and is always popular with buyers. When you see her work next, remember that there is more to the object than how it appears. At the hands of the artist you are being given a link with nature and the world around you. Good sculpture endures.

In the October edition of Style, photographs of work by Debbie Templeton-Page were incorrectly attributed to Doug Neil. Both artists were justifiably upset by this misrepresentation. Both work with the NZ basalt or blue stone but their artworks are quite different. We apologise to Debbie and Doug and have included photographs of Doug’s work to make this clear.

Doug Neil: