Hawke’s Bay: Martin Poppelwell

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Artist Martin Poppelwell in his Napier studio designed by Ashley Cox.

Artist Martin Poppelwell in his Napier studio designed by Ashley Cox. Image: Jeff Brass

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A working drawing for a painting of a tree in Poppelwell's garden.

A working drawing for a painting of a tree in Poppelwell’s garden. Image: Jeff Brass

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A corner of the house.

A corner of the house. Image: Jeff Brass

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Poppelwell at work in his studio.

Poppelwell at work in his studio. Image: Jeff Brass

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Ceramics made in a pottery on the property.

Ceramics made in a pottery on the property. Image: Jeff Brass

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Poppelwell at work in his studio.

Poppelwell at work in his studio. Image: Jeff Brass

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Tools of the trade.

Tools of the trade. Image: Jeff Brass

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Exquisitely messy, human and scaled accordingly” is the way Martin Poppelwell describes his art. The potter and painter, known for his grid-like decorations and exposed, work-inprogress aesthetic, returned to Hawke’s Bay in 1998 after years in other parts of New Zealand and overseas. He’d grown up in Hastings, but these days he lives in a 130-year-old cottage in Napier with his wife.

“Auckland is where most of the work is,” says the 44-year-old, who works out of a large, light studio that was built on the property in 2009. “But here it’s just connected enough to maintain contact with dealers and galleries. Sometimes you miss being around the more active spaces, but you can hunker down without getting too wound up about the fiscal side of your art practice.”

Currently a small part of Poppelwell’s practice connects him to the winemaking industry that employs so many Hawke’s Bay locals; he creates the distinctive wine labels on vintages made by The People’s Wine.

“When the wine industry was trying to build itself into something in the early ’90s, people were running these businesses by the seat of their pants,” says Poppelwell. “A lot of the land was being opened up and these men and women were trying to work out how it would work out. Since then, every season the area’s new and refreshed by a different vintage. That’s a very special part of the culture.

“I like to be near the beach and I don’t really drive much,” adds Poppelwell, who is currently making work for a show at Cecil Veda Gallery in Wellington. “I like being here but I don’t know exactly why. It’s quite difficult to put your finger on it.”

Poppelwell recommends:

  • A visit to architect John Scott’s St Mary’s Church in Havelock North
  • Fish and chips at Haumoana Beach on a Friday night
  • A visit to the Hastings City Art Gallery

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