And this also is the Point of Saying Goodbye
part of a BA at The University of Auckland,
and published his first illustrations (done to
accompany "Paris", a poem by C.K. Stead and
published by Auckland University Press) in 1984.
After graduation that year, he published his own
poems in literary journals in Australia, including
Meanjin and Scripsi, as well as in Island, Sport
and Landfall in New Zealand. These poems were
brought together with drawings in a single book,
Location of the Least Person, which was
published by Auckland University Press in 1987,
and led to him winning the Frank Sargeson
Fellowship the next year. This award brought
with it residency in the flat above the George
Fraser Gallery, and occasioned his first meeting
with the Hungarian photographer Mari Mahr,
who exhibited there in 1988.
This drawing is from his 1989 picaresque
novel Diesel Mystic, which was also published by
Auckland University Press. Using the rapid
changes that he was undergoing in his
emotional and spiritual life in his late twenties as
the stimulus for the creation of imaginary
tableaux, O’Brien transformed the descriptions
of topography of land surrounding the Kaipara
Kumara capital, Dargaville, where he used to
live, into a magic realist landscape. The
publication of this book preceded his
migration south to Wellington where he has
lived since 1990.
Like his writing, Greg O’Brien’s drawing style
is very graphic, with abbreviated symbols and
shapes which are shorthand for states of mind.
In this image, it is possible to see the white horse
of the imagination galloping away from a lone
hand, which waves forlornly behind it. Other
marks seem like runes, or are reminiscent of the
patterns left carved into stones by wayfarers as
they made their pilgrimage from France down
into the top of Spain. Like a stained glass window
in a medieval cathedral, the heavy outlining
seems to divide the drawing into sections of
land, narrative and sky, with koru-like spirals
giving emphasis to the local character of the
mark-making. Indeed, the tradition of pages of
medieval illuminations which appeared
alongside pages of text, to draw out the religious
significance of the written word with pictorial
and symbolic imagery, are inspirational for him.
Greg O’Brien’s book on the work of another
illustrator, Graham Percy (coincidentally, the late
husband of Mari Mahr) is shortlisted in the
Illustrated Non-Fiction category for the New
Zealand Post Book Awards. Ahead of the awards,
Greg O’Brien will be reading from the book at
Gus Fisher Gallery as part of an all-day event on
Saturday 28 July at 12.30pm. The day is styled
as BAM: a celebration of books, art and music,
and includes performances by international jazz
hero Roger Manins from the School of Music.
with readings by poet Karl Stead at 10.30am,
and a conversation between photographer Marti
Friedlander and her husband Gerrard
Friedlander and author Len Bell at 11.30am.
Copies of the Auckland University Press
signature and sale.
In the afternoon, David Veart author of
Digging Up the Past: Archaeology for the Young
and Curious and First Catch Your Weka: A Story
“speed date” at 1pm, followed at 1.30pm by a
reading by Fiona Farrell, who is shortlisted in the
General Non-Fiction category for The Broken
Book, her book of essays and poems about the
Christchurch earthquake and then at 2pm, it’s
Dame Anne Salmond, whose book Bligh: William
Bligh in the South Seas is also a General
Non-Fiction finalist in this year’s book awards.
At 2.30pm, Associate Professor Peter Simpson
will appear, followed by architectural historian
Dr Julia Gatley at 3pm.
For more details, visit the Gus Fisher Gallery