SCAPE Artist Talk: Wayne Barrar

This exhibition is no longer on display at the Museum.

Artist Wayne Barrar talks about his major photographic exhibition In/Visible Landscape 2017, part of the SCAPE Public Art 2017 Season.

Wayne Barrar InVisible Landscape 2017

Wayne Barrar InVisible Landscape 2017

Barrar's work explores the fascinating links between art, science, history and imagination; nothing - from grand panoramas to the tiniest microbe – is safe from his lens.

Focusing predominantly on diatoms, fossil remains of tiny algae, Barrar has produced images for the exhibition using a range of microscope methods.These feature in his work inside and outside the Museum, and on seven billboards in Hagley Park.

Barrar will also talk about samples he has sourced from the internationally-reknown diatomite deposit in Oamaru (see below).

Wayne Barrar is an Associate Professor at Whiti o Rehua School of Art at Massey University, Wellington. His photography has been widely exhibited and published internationally since the 1980s and his work is held in major national and metropolitan collections. Publications include Shifting Nature (University of Otago Press 2001), An Expanding Subterra (Dunedin Public Art Gallery 2010), Torbay tī kōuka: A New Zealand tree in the English Riviera (University of Plymouth Press 2011) and Wayne Barrar: The Glass Archive which accompanied his 2016 exhibition at the Forrester Gallery, Oamaru.

Oamaru Diatomite

In 1886, the director of New Zealand’s Colonial Museum and Geological Survey, James Hector and Canterbury Museum founder and geologist, Julius von Haast, arranged for samples of New Zealand geological deposits to be displayed at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London. In among the rocks, minerals and fossil samples was a small piece of light, chalk-like material from Oamaru. This unassuming-looking material proved to be diatomite, and it caused a sensation among professional and amateur scientists around the world.

Oamaru diatomite was notable for its tremendous diversity of diatoms – more than 700 species identified to date, many unique to the area and many now extinct – which had been laid down as strata in the warm seas that once encompassed the region.

Samples sourced from deposits on Oamaru farms and rail sidings with the help of locals Thomas Forrester and Harry De Latour, were soon being studied, identified and exchanged internationally. Microscope slides of diatoms were sold to amateur microscopists, and slides of artistic arrangements were produced to entertain a Victorian public obsessed with new ways of visualising the world. Even today these remarkable specimens are still researched and held in some of the great natural history collections around the world, including Canterbury and Otago Museums.

Images: © Wayne Barrar, All Rights Reserved

Reference: Hocken Library, University of Otago, 2017. Wayne Barrar, The Glass Archive, Dunedin [Internet] [accessed 14 September 2017]. Available from

This exhibition is no longer on display at the Museum.
12 November 2017 11.00 am – 12.00 pm Register
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