Artist Profile

Jeff Thomson

Born 1957

Jeff Thomson is rather like a modern day Abel Tasman or Captain Cook. He sails freely into unknown seas, making important discoveries en route. "Simply by working with a new material he has enlarged our world." He has almost single handedly taken corrugated iron off the roof and put in on the wall and the pedestal.
Born in Auckland, a rather shy but outdoors orientated youth, left handed and mildly dyslexic, Thomson has become without doubt the Corrugated Iron Man of Australasia. From an early age he showed considerable promise, developing an ability to draw images quickly with pencil rather than using the written word. This artistic flair was soon picked up and nurtured. When he went to one of Auckland's most adventurous secondary schools, with a strong "Education through Art" tradition, it was clear that the next step was the Elam School of Art. Here the young Thomson was exposed to a series of horizon-expanding situations that culminated in a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1981. Curiously his major focus as a student was not sculpture but painting and printmaking.

While taking a break from his art studies in 1980, Thomson found himself at Portobello, 20km out of Dunedin, living in a small seaside crib. It was during this time that a profound change occurred in Thomson's approach to life, art and environment. It came about through the discovery of an ancient pursuit - walking. While walking the rural and urban miles Thomson started observing and collecting the wealth of highway paraphernalia that he found on our roadsides.

These highway experiences culminated in the rural letterbox sculptures, the first body of Thomson's works to gain national recognition by a diverse range of New Zealanders. And it was through this letterbox series of works that Thomson came face to face with his chosen material - corrugated iron. Literally out of the letter boxes emerged the large body of work for which he is now known on both sides of the Tasman.

Corrugated iron animals, birds, cars and people: these works have established Jeff Thomson fairly and squarely in the memory banks of most New Zealanders and many Australians. (John F. Perry Director, Rotorua Art and History Museum)

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