Multi-coloured, life-like, corrugated iron animals; cleverly decorated letter-boxes, origami-like iron birds and an HQ Holden car clad in corrugated iron, these are just some of the quirky objects created by Westlaker and Kiwi Icon, Jeff Thomson. A well-known artist and sculptor these days, Jeff started at Westlake in 1971 and in his last year at school in 1975 received his merit in Fine arts and built a concrete sculpture in the Westlake grounds. Most components are still positioned outside the library but the sculpture is now minus the cables that originally connected the various elements.)
Jeff completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Elam in 1981 after travelling around the South Island in 1980 and gained his DipTchg at the Auckland College of Education. He spent a year teaching at Westlake Boys followed by two more years at Dannevirke High School before becoming a full-time sculptor. It was during his walks around rural New Zealand that Jeff started observing and collecting paraphernalia found on our roadsides. This culminated in the rural letterbox sculptures that gained national recognition, and it was through this letterbox series that Jeff came face to face with his chosen material – corrugated iron. He released a herd of corrugated iron elephants into Albert Park, and later the elephants, and other corrugated iron animals and objects, were seen in Wellington’s Civic Square. His sculptures created a great deal of media interest as well as an amazing range of public and private commissions and solo exhibitions throughout New Zealand, Australia, the USA and Germany.
One of Jeff’s well-known works is the corrugated ironclad HQ Holden Station Wagon, permanently displayed in Te Papa in Wellington. This artwork has become one of the icons of our national Art Gallery and Museum and many of his other works have changed the face of small towns and rural New Zealand and closer to home in the Milford Village Square and the Birkenhead Public Library.
Over the years Jeff has experimented with different materials and techniques and more recently has attempted to extend the boundaries of iron, using an industrial roller to produce rounded and 3D forms. He still walks and combs the beaches for treasures to add to his multi-coloured library of corrugated iron, which he stores in his 90-year old corrugated iron warehouse and home.
Other well-known Westlaker artists are Chris Doherty (Musician, Painter, Designer), Bob Steiner (Potter), Rob Marsh (Painter), Charlie Seakins (Potter), Tony Ogle (Fine Art Prints) and Dean Buchanan (Painter) and no doubt with the large pool of artistic students at Westlake there will be many more to make an impression in the national and international art industry over the years to come.
If you hear any news about Westlake Old Boys or former staff or if you are interested in supporting Westlakers events and activities, please contact Christine O’Dowd at school on 09 410 8667 or by email [email protected].