Artist In Residence - Michael Tuffery

June 25, 2021 at 3:54 PM

The College would like to extend their thanks to renowned artist, Michael Tuffery, who spent a week at the College working with our Year 11 NCEA Level 1 Visual Art students, guiding them through a woodblock cutting  and monochrome printing process. 

Mr Tuffery is a New Zealand based artist of Samoan, Rarotongan and Ma’ohi Tahitian heritage. His art practice is broad and spans printmaking, sculpture, performance art, painting and design, new media and animation. His work deeply reflects his Pacific heritage, and his engagement to the region, its people and the environment. Reflected in his motifs and materials are both traditional and contemporary markers of culture. He exhibits worldwide and has undertaken research and community residencies throughout the USA, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Asia, India, Australia, as well as Aotearoa and the Pacific. In 2008 Michel was appointed as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to art—his ongoing rewards come from enriching communities through his practice. Acquired some years ago, three pieces of Mr Tuffery’s artwork hang in the Jack Paine Centre – the letters JPC, ornately printed from woodblocks.  

Mr Tuffery is a passionate educator who openly shares his kauapapa and knowledge through residencies and workshops for school-aged children both in New Zealand and abroad. We were delighted to welcome him to Saint Kentigern. 

This was an exciting opportunity for our senior visual art students to work alongside a professional artist of this calibre. He began by explaining how to best handle the chisel when cutting lines into the wood. He reminded them that this was an art workshop, not an agriculture class, so ‘don’t dig for potatoes!’ He was encouraging them to keep their cuts shallow. As they practised, Mr Tuffery moved amongst them offering words of encouragement and ideas to improve their technique. He had a wonderful manner of demystifying the process and encouraging them that, with practice, they would perfect the techniques.  

Students began the week by working a test piece to understand the cutting technique, before moving on to cutting their own personal design that they had earlier worked on in preparation. These final designs combined aspects of portraiture, architecture and pattern, all chosen by the student for their personal significance. During this process, they came to understand that the woodblock cuts will appear in reverse once printed and so they needed to keep this in mind. Similarities can be drawn with photographic principles and processes and it was great to see students combine their creative skills with the technical processes of printmaking.   

The prints the students worked on will form a critical part of their second internal assessment this year. In this Achievement Standard, students are required to ‘Use drawing conventions to develop work in more than one field of practice.’ Having already produced drawings and paintings leading into this work, following the workshop, students will regenerate their ideas back into a further painting. This will give them the opportunity to include their new understanding of printmaking into these works.   

In addition to working with the Year 11 Art students, Mr Tuffery also had some great conversations and discussion with other senior students including a Year 13 Sculptor who is exploring ideas of colonial impacts in the Pacific and a Year 13 Product Design student who is also interested in including carved motifs into his project. In addition, some of the College teachers came down and had a chance to experiment with carving techniques and produce their own practice print.  

Printmaking combines the creativity of drawing, the technical skill of carving and the logical steps of a clear process to complete the work, and in this instance the woodcut print can be printed multiple times to create a series of artworks as opposed to a singular drawing or painting as is usually the case. On the final day, the students inked up their blocks, coming to understand how to roll the printing ink until it was the right degree of ‘tackiness’ before rolling it across their woodcuts.  With a clean sheet of paper applied to the surface, these were then passed through the printing press – it’s always an exciting moment when the paper is finally peeled back from the block to reveal the print! 

We offer our sincere thanks for the time that Mr Tuffery spent in the classroom engaging with our Year 11 students. This was a truly valuable opportunity for students who are passionate about art to learn new techniques and gain insight through critiques of their own work. It was enormous benefit for our students to learn from Mr Tuffery’s extensive experience. 


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