The title of the work in this show takes its cue from the 1960s era of the British television series Coronation Street. A resident of that street, Ena Sharples would appear in each episode wearing a fishnet piece on her head and could often be seen sitting in the Snug Bar of the Rovers Return. For Braunias there was always something strangely familiar about the medium of quilts and 1960’s New Zealand provincial life. A fuddy-duddy world of Val Doonican and Nana Mouskouri on television and somewhere in the background a fat cat sitting on a copy of that week’s Women’s Weekly, positioned atop of a crocheted or quilted sofa covering. Hovering within a woolly frame an open-mouthed lone tooth head channels an alternative Ena and snuggles up.  

This is the sixth quilt that Mark Braunias has collaborated on with Brenda Ronowicz since 2011. Primarily known as a painter, Braunias saw the potential to translate his work into fabric materials when by chance he saw a quilt by Ronowicz in 2010 at the Kawhia Town Hall. It was of an elephant floating in a blue sky, its trunk attached to balloons. For Braunias it was an epiphany. He thought the graphic sensibilities of his own anthropomorphic cartoonish forms could be ideally suited to the edge to edge pictorial structure of fabric and quilt methodologies. While his images appear contradictory to historic quilt designs, it was this notion that probably excited him the most. Braunias has knowingly built his artistic career on the premise of trying to make what was wrong seem right. Ronowicz with her highly skilled quilt making background is able to provide the technical rigour to make the image and intention manifest itself with an odd gravitas.

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Mark Braunias is a New Zealand based artist who graduated from Canterbury University, Ilam School of Fine Arts, Christchurch in 1988. The artist was the inaugural winner of the James Wallace Art Award in 1992 and received a Wallace/Fulbright scholarship to San Francisco in 2011. Braunias has also completed artist residencies at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery (2002), William Hodges Fellowship, Invercargill (2005) and Tylee Cottage, Whanganui (2007).

His work is held in public gallery and private collections including Te Papa Tongarewa Museum, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Sarjeant Gallery, Tauranga Art Gallery, Auckland University, Canterbury University, Lincoln University, Fletcher Trust Collection and Wallace Arts Trust. In 2019 he completed an artist in residency at the Dunedin School of Art.

Mark Braunias in collaboration with Brenda Ronowicz, Ena Snuggles (quilted fabric) 2600mm x 1760mm, 2019. Courtesy of Anna Miles Gallery, Auckland.