An expert of his craft, John Edgar is perhaps one of New Zealand’s finest self-taught artists. His skill and practice echo his strong connection and passion for the environment, for thirty years he has worked with stone to produce work that reflects this. His practice brings into balance the components of concept, material and process.
“For thirty years I have been trying to make good sense in my art. I have attempted to imbue my work with both the essence of the mountain, the river and the vast array of knowledge that is available to us in the 21st century. It’s a difficult task to teach a stone to talk. But if you listen carefully you might just catch a word or two. (John Edgar, 2006)
Internationally renowned, Edgar has travelled to China, Korea,Taiwan and India to study the ancient knowledge of stone carving methods and techniques. Travelling annually, Edgar has physically prospected and chosen singular stones from the great quarries of India, Scotland and Australia, as well as locally. Working consistently with Coromandel granite, as well as regular New Zealand river stones, Edgar has in recent times began working with Indian limestone. Always present in Edgar’s work is his captivation with duality. He inserts bands of contrasting stone or glass in the form of crosses and lines, which imitate mathematic symbols. Immense technical accuracy is crucial for Edgar’s pieces, the complete control he has over his medium allows for a faultless union of materials. Reassembling what has been separated, Edgar turns these naturally occurring forms into artefacts.
Imbued with a sense of simplicity and modernism, Edgar’s works almost dispute the technical practices required to create them. Edgar’s works are not a product of a studio production team. From the choice and collection of the stones to the final honing; the artist himself operates all facets of his work and practice. Especially sought by collectors of his work, are his small and beautifully inset ‘lightstones’. Greywacke, serpentine or granite stones are used as the body of these works, which are then inlaid with bands of glass. Though a solid object, they give a brilliant play of light.
Edgar has been exhibiting since 1979 in both New Zealand and Australia. He is well represented in both public and private collections in New Zealand and overseas, including Australia and the United States. His work has been included in several curated exhibitions, which toured nation-wide. In 2008 Edgar had a major exhibition in Edinburgh with his works made from stones sourced in Scotland. In 2009 he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to art in New Zealand, particularly sculpture.
In 2012, Great Britain’s Crown Estate inaugurated ‘Lie of the Land’ in the Savill Garden, in The Great Park at Windsor, UK. Edgar is currently living and working in Auckland.