On a Thursday before Easter in 1992, photographer Mark Adams put his large format camera up on a tripod in the wettest place in New Zealand. In three parts, he re-created the well-known panoramic view of Milford Sound looking northwest from Freshwater Basin. But something is missing from the resultant images. The centrepiece of this glacier-carved fiord (and its quintessential geological feature) is obscured by mist. Gone is the distinctive marker which elevates this landscape above the picturesque to iconic status as a World Heritage Site. The sublime Mitre Peak has become a haunting absence.
Interviewed for the May 1966 edition of the Barry Lett newsletter to coincide with his Auckland Festival exhibition, Don Binney responded affirmatively when asked if there was a peculiar sort of light in New Zealand that influenced his way of seeing. The interviewer was summarising Auckland Art Gallery director Peter Tomory’s introduction to a catalogue of painting shown at the Commonwealth Institute in London in 1965: “in these islands, the Pacific light burns and bleaches, so that in high summer, black and white predominate”. Don had only been out of the country a few times to Australia, but he reported “seeing New Zealand for the first time after two weeks away…one had the impression of an iron land, strong and clear in this light.” As a fiercely nationalist painter, Don Binney laboured to try and convey the power and simplicity of that vision.
Décor often says a lot about people’s social position, their taste, their interests and perhaps what they do for a living. The creator of the Peanuts cartoons, Charles Schultz, once exhorted people to dress up their living spaces: “Decorate your home”, he said, “it gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.” Painter Graham Fletcher has chosen to explore the connotations of the use of South Pacific elements in interior decoration for his recent Doctorate in Fine Arts, and the Lounge Room Tribalism series is the result.
New Zealand painter Max Gimblett, based in New York since 1972, spent his childhood living above a shop in Grafton and exploring the paths and gullies at the bottom of the Auckland Domain. The site of many of those boyhood haunts is now the home of The University of Auckland’s Owen G Glenn Building where a magnificent mural by Gimblett was completed in January.
Challenged by Art Collection curator Michael Dunn to make his best work for the Engineering atrium in 2002, Elam-graduate Paul Hartigan surpassed his earlier, multicoloured forays into neon. Named the best public sculpture in Auckland in 2006, Colony has its origin in the artist’s memory of drifting in a long boat beneath the vaulted ceiling of glowworm lights on a childhood visit to Waitomo Caves. Despite the quotidian nature of the commission, Paul's sculpture still impresses with its energy and impact, the hectic squiggles of persimmon-coloured light miraculously produced by bent glass tubes mired in cement.
A childhood in Dunedin gave painter Frances Hodgkins a life-long aversion to cold weather. The south of France was her usual destination as soon as dreary English winters began to bite, but in the middle of the Depression she ventured instead to Baleares, the third largest of the Balearic Islands off the coast of the Spanish town of Valencia in the West Mediterranean. Better known now for the dance parties and rave culture that made it iconic in the late 1990s, the Balearic capital of Ibiza was fascinating to Hodgkins for its Roman, Phoenician and Carthiginian remains, and its famous whitewashed architecture.
Painted the year after Douglas Robb was knighted for services to medicine, this work shows the maverick medico at ease in his study, surrounded by his precious book collection. Light falls on his facial features and creates a kind of halo effect behind his head. If the painter seems to have visualised this medical statesman as the patron saint of the New Zealand health system, it was with good cause – he had been campaigning for better public health for over 20 years.
Deriving her name from the Korean word for a rabbit, TOKI is the creation of 49-year-old Elam graduate Hye Rim Lee. With her huge, limpid eyes and tiny mouth, TOKI borrows her looks from the world of cartoons and computer gaming, and is herself an animated creation. Despite her associations with Western bunnies, she is less Thumper than Bambi, suggesting not goofiness, but a cutesy innocence and vulnerability with her wide open gaze. The impression of sweetness in TOKI’s expression can be quickly dispelled by some of her behaviours, or by a cleverly subversive accompanying soundtrack. At the Gus Fisher Gallery in the exhibition Powder Room, for example, TOKI appeared in a short animation entitled Lash, blinking to the accompaniment of the sound of a whip cracking each time her lids closed.
Helensville-born folk singer - and erstwhile editor of Craccum - Peter Cape was as famous for his beautifully produced art books as he was for the classic kiwiana songs “Taumarunui on the Main Trunk Line” and “All Black Jerseys”. In the last decade of his short life he published four surveys of New Zealand painting and crafts based on interviews done with artists as part of his job as arts and religion editor at Radio New Zealand. Prints and Printmakers in New Zealand was published in 1974, during the heyday of printmaking in New Zealand.
The success of Roy Alston Lippincott (1885-1969) and Edward Fielder Billson (1892-1986) in the competition to design Auckland University College’s Arts Building in 1920 was undoubtedly assisted by the contribution of Marion Mahony, one of the most gifted architectural renderers of the twentieth century.
Born in Sydney in 1951, Auckland-based artist John Lyall became a New Zealand resident in 1983 after a three-year period in the late 1970s working on archaeological digs in the UK.
McCahon’s left-handed writing wins no prizes for neatness. In Let us possess one world, lower case letters crowd together, shuffled by punctuation into a tripartite scheme so that one world is hoisted proudly on a stem above the mirrored halves below. Whereas the staid pronouncements of his earlier word paintings (I Am and I and Thou) were freighted with significance by the use of cubist capitals, this looping script dips into the sensuality of the source, John Donne’s seventeenth century love poem.
Google noted New Zealand artist Roger Mortimer’s name and you will disappear down a rabbit hole into a tale of medieval manoeuvering. His 14th century ancestor, Roger de Mortimer, was an English nobleman who was strategically married off at 14 to the equally youthful Joan de Geneville. She later had the good fortune to inherit property in the Welsh Marches and Ireland as well as the 11th century Ludlow Castle in Shropshire. With this wealth behind him, Baron Roger started the Despenser War, leading Marcher lords in a revolt against King Edward II. Unfortunately for him, the attempt to overthrow King Edward failed, and Baron Roger found himself chained up in the Tower of London. Helped by his mistress Isabella, King Edward’s queen consort, he managed to escape to France where he rallied troops to invade England and depose Edward, having him murdered at Berkeley Castle. Three years later in 1330, Edward’s eldest son got his revenge, and Roger de Mortimer was taken to Tyburn where he was hung without trial at the age of 43.
In June 1949, the School of Architecture hosted Milan Mrkusich’s first-ever public showing of paintings and drawings. Sixty years later The University of Auckland is again the venue for a new milestone in Mrkusich’s career. The exhibition Trans-Form: the abstract art of Milan Mrkusich has been curated for the Gus Fisher Gallery by Ed Hanfling and Alan Wright, research associates of the Art History Department, to mark the publication of their Auckland University Press book, Mrkusich: The Art of Transformation.
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.
Journeys have been a constant theme in the work of John Pule, who arrived in New Zealand at the age of two from the village of Liku, Niue, and has gone on to exhibit extensively around the world. A self-taught artist, Pule draws his influence as much from poetry as art history and a variety of Pacific traditions, partly due to his parallel practice as an accomplished writer with three published novels and much poetry to his name. Painting grew out of his practice as a writer and language continues to play an important role in his art, which is often interwoven with his own autobiographical texts.
The daughter of a realist painter, Jude Rae was enrolled in art classes at the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney at the age of 11 years. Despite the school being located in The Rocks, near the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Julian Ashton approach to art education is traditional, with strong emphasis on drawing skills. Introduced to the work of the Old Masters there, Jude Rae went on to study for a degree in Art History at Sydney University which she completed in 1981. Soon after, she returned to painting, working in a style influenced by the artists of the Northern European Renaissance and seventeenth century French still life painting, as well as by the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s ideas about the phenomenology of perception.
Lisa Reihana is a New Zealand pioneer of media art, utilising technology to create new ways to explore Mäori culture. Reihana graduated from Elam in 1987. Her practice has encompassed video, animation, storytelling, sculpture, textiles, performance, sound and photography, increasingly with a digital emphasis. In 1997 she created Native Portraits n.19897, a large gateway comprising 11 video monitors, commissioned for the opening of Te Papa Tongarewa and forming the waharoa of her ongoing Digital Marae project. From these 11 videos, Reihana created five projected dramas and six granite portraits, which form part of her Memoranda project, first shown at the Singapore Art Museum in 2003.
At first blush, this painting from Ian Scott’s Authentic Traditions appears to be textbook postmodernism. Combine “low” art (beer advertising) with “high” art (a photograph of Colin McCahon, twentieth century New Zealand art’s biggest gun) with a conventional painting of iconic South Island scenery and a cluster of punga trees for ironic effect.
As well as meaning a destroyer of religious images or sacred images, the word “iconoclast” can be used to describe a person who contravenes established or traditional principles and laws. A champion of vernacular design in architecture who has lived in Massachusetts since 1958, Maurice Smith has been described as “too radical for [New Zealand’s] conservative establishment” by his former colleague Tony Watkins.
With a background as a commercial photographer and shop assistant in a wig salon, Yvonne Todd is well versed in artifice and masquerade. She completed her BFA at Elam School of Fine Arts in 2001, the year before she won New Zealand’s art world’s highest art accolade, the Walters Prize, awarded to her by Venice Biennale curator Harald Szeeman. Her Sea of Tranquility series from that year posed beauty consultants collected up from Auckland department stores against black backgrounds like so many Stepford Wives. She has continued to foreground the performance of femininity ever since, although her practice is centred more generally on the business of image-making itself.
Two Auckland brothers, John and Charles Tole, are the northern equivalent of Rita Angus. Neither of them had any formal art school training although they both associated with the Elam painter John Weeks (1886-1975). The Tole brothers lived together at 12 Seaview Road in Remuera and developed their own credo in art which they revealed to University of Auckland’s Kurt von Meier in 1964: “We have always been intensely interested in modern developments in style and technique, yet we think these elements should not be arbitrarily or consciously striven for but should emerge and flow freely from the subject matter and from the artist’s creative intuition towards the expression and communication of his message.”
It was in the mid-1960s that Barbara Tuck studied at the University’s Elam School of Fine Arts. And during her time at art school, Tuck developed her skills and stylistic approach to art. Fifty years on, this style combines multiple narratives, aerial perspectives and eye-catching, dreamy colours. Her heady landscapes are magically mystical, glinting at magpie onlookers.
Established in 1964 by Auckland gallerist Kees Hos and philanthropist Dr Walter Auburn, the New Zealand Print Council flourished for over a decade before slowly going into eclipse. Guaranteed exhibitions in the nation’s major public galleries as members, artists quickly joined. Mervyn Williams, a Whakatane-born artist who had studied painting at Elam part-time in 1957 and 1958, but who never completed his diploma, was one of the first to take up membership. Working as a dinnerware designer for Crown Lynn in West Auckland alongside Frank Carpay, he had met immigrant artist Ted Dutch who taught him how to make serigraphs or silkscreen prints.
As part of the third Auckland Triennial, Chinese art collective the Long March Project has raised questions around the importance of having a Chinatown to create a sense of community and identity for a growing community of Chinese migrants living in Auckland. But New Zealand also has a significant community of Chinese people who were born here and for artists such as Wong Sing Tai (aka Harry Wong) and his younger brother Brent Wong, cultural identity never played an obvious role in their work.