Annabel Menzies-Joyce grew up on a farm at Menzies Bay on Banks Peninsula. She gained a Diploma of Fine Arts from the University of Canterbury (1978) and a post-graduate Diploma of Landscape Architecture from Lincoln University (1980). She has been exhibiting since 1992.
Menzies-Joyce first established herself as a painter and exhibited in a number of galleries in the South Island. Around 2005 she moved from painting on canvas to casting glass. It’s a technically-demanding process which finds her continually experimenting and pushing the boundaries of her medium to achieve unique results.
The natural environment and animals are her primary source of inspiration. Found bones and animal skulls are carefully cast and mounted in curiosity boxes (made by the artist) to draw attention to the exquisite beauty, and ugliness, in the everyday, and to the fragility of all organisms. This presentation method elevates the status of commonplace specimens, like barracuda, perch and kokopu.
In vitrines, they become museum exhibits. They are contemporary, yet reminiscent of our colonial institutions. Past practices and our continued blindness, or reluctance to acknowledge the truth threatens the natural habitats of our aquatic life. Their lives are in constant jeopardy. While not all are listed as endangered, their future is unsure. The ethereal specimens behind frosted glass are particularly ominous. The opacity hints at ambiguity, muddied waters, politics, pollution, dissolution, the obscured past, an indistinct existence. They are ghosts of the future – eerie spectrals – reminders of our own impermanence.
In addition to cast glass methods, Menzies-Joyce utilises the pate de verre method - another form of kiln casting, using crushed glass which is mixed with a binding material. These works – typically skulls and bones are bold and yet delicate. They subtly place an emphasis on the interconnectedness of nature and how easily upset the environment and ecological systems can be.
In her triangular works Menzies-Joyce attempts to capture the effects of falling and frozen water and the delineating, sometimes harsh, Pacific light. The resultant sculptures are glacial blue pyramids. While they are inspired by the physical landscape, such sculptures are not merely beautiful for their own sake. Again they hint at dependencies – they rely on light to reveal their beauty just as millions of organisms (phototrophs, for example) use the energy from light to carry out various cellular metabolic processes. Ultimately, these processes shape our Earth.
Visiting Campbell Island on a Bicentennial Scientific Expedition with artist Ben Reid in 2011, Menzies-Joyce was confronted by the way in which, over time, humans have either deliberately or accidentally introduced a range of animals into new environments with disastrous effects. Her work continues to explore these ideas and to present them in ways which may make us reconsider our motives and future actions.
In her spare time Menzies-Joyce enjoys tramping and visiting remote landscapes such as Fiordland, Campbell Island and Antarctica.