Manchester Museum’s exhibition about the statues of Easter Island Making Monuments on Rapa Nui: the Stone Statues from Easter Island has been receiving some good feedback from the public and is even inspiring some visitors creatively as the image of the hand-decorated envelope above from a Belgian enquirer shows. In this respect the exhibition is stimulating people in a similar way to the Lindow Man temporary exhibition a few years ago. The latter prompted an artistic outflowing of poetry, drawings and even 3D models that showed people’s deep-seated need to respond in very personal ways to topics that either inspire or move them.
Since opening in early April visitors have left a lot of complimentary and constructive comments about the exhibition and many of them, especially but by no means always children, have added drawings and doodles showing the moai. The drawings perfectly capture the enigmatic quality of Easter Island statues and I am now kicking myself for having used lined paper in the visitors’ book. We only touched briefly upon the inspiration that Rapa Nui’s statues gave to a generation of modern sculptors, including Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), Henri Gaudier Brzeska (1891-1915) and Henry Moore (1898-1986). One visitor to the exhibition commented “The heads remind me of Anthony Gormley’s statues on Crosby Beach in Liverpool – very interesting. Fab exhibition. Keep up the good work.”
Perhaps the strong appeal they make to our artistic taste is because we have already been influenced by seeing European works-of-art inspired by them. They reflect back onto the statues the aspects of modern art that grew out of exposure to the so-called ‘primitive’. This would explain why some visitors embellish their drawings of the statues by adding a surrealist moustache with curled over tip or show the statue smoking a joint.
It is perhaps not so surprising that there are so many sketches of the heads: lots of simple line-drawing profiles express the visitor’s appreciation of the Museum’s work.
Some children who have been to the exhibition on a school trip have since come back with their families. Take the Davies family who left the comment: ” McKenzie visited with school on Friday. He loved it and so he’s brought us back to teach us what he has learnt” (25/05/15).
It’s not just about the statues, however. The exhibition explores the deeper meanings the different kinds of stone had for the islanders and we show samples of volcanic rock. This clearly struck a chord with one visitor, as the photo below shows.