A FRENCH CONNECTION
WAIHEKE ARTIST, OLIVIER DUHAMEL HAILS FROM PARIS,
admittedly a long time ago but one wonders why he would transplant himself from
a sophisticated city to a small island in the South Pacific. As far as he’s concerned the
mores of Western Europe are not much different from the way of life down under. We
drive the same cars, wear similar clothes, watch TV and so on. Originaly he and his
wife left for a month’s holiday in Australia. A move to New Caledonia was the next port
of call and then they spent time in Tahiti
They finally arrived in New Zealand and gained a working permit with the intention
of using it as a stepping stone to Australia, but have stayed here ever since. They
first settled in Glen Innes and coming from Tahiti, felt very at home in a Polynesian
suburb. Over the years there were moves to other suburbs, from early on they had
a strong connection with Waiheke and eventually bought a place there. The weekend bolt hole gradually stretched to Monday and Tuesday so they decided to make it their permanent place of residence.
Life drawing had always been Olivier’s longtime hobby and one day he decided he’d
had enough of being a stressed out executive in a big corporation and that he’d fulfill his dream of living as an artist. With encouragement from his family he set up a studio and attended a bronze casting workshop which ignited a passion for the medium.
He experimented till he mastered the craft and as soon as he had produced some
good pieces he put them in galleries where they sold fairly quickly. This encouraged
him to continue and his aim is to eventually be exclusively engaged in crafting small
Whew! But there’s more! He also operates a modelling agency for painters, art
schools, art classes and drawing groups. Life models are sought after and anyone regardless of age, gender or body shape can apply.
Many artists are introverts but not Olivier. He is nothing if not gregarious and admits
he misses some aspects of his life when working as a computer engineer, the
camaraderie, bouncing ideas off other people, working as part of a team. This is why
he enjoys visitors to his studio and they are welcome any day of the week and can view
whatever casting process he is working on at the time.
Many artists make sacrifices for their oeuvre and lead very frugal lives. Olivier is no
exception but he has a family to support so he goes down all sorts of other avenues
to generate extra income. One has to admire his energy and innovation and his
enjoyment in sharing the knowledge he’s acquired. He runs regular bronze casting
workshops, teaching the lost wax technique used by art foundries. His students are
taught a simple and easy way to cast a small fist size figurine.
He also runs life drawing classes, publishes
articles, does commissions, draws portraits, gives tutorials and has published two
manuals on bronze casting that can be found in specialist book shops or bought online
Artists on Waiheke are trying to promote the island as an art center rather than a wine
destination and Fullers is sponsoring the second Waiheke Winter Arts Festival to beheld over two days Queen’s Birthday weekend. This is a great opportunity to visit the many artist studios and galleries and meet award winning artists who will be on hand to welcome Festival goers. Tickets and a Festival map will be available at the Waiheke Community Art Gallery or the Fullers Ticket Office, also on Waiheke.