For artist Billy Apple® (born Barrie Bates in Auckland) the mechanics of art, usually kept behind the scenes, have long been a focus for his work. Throughout the 1970s he executed activity and installation works that highlighted the significance of exhibition spaces to the work exhibited, cleaning windows, painting walls, adjusting lights. In contrast to the grandiose paintings made prior to the pop art movement, Billy Apple was more interested in everyday things and activities, such as shaving. He was particularly interested in the fact that it is the artist’s role in the work that gives it value, just like a brand name. In 1962, while studying at the Royal College of Art in London, he changed his name to Billy Apple, effectively making his own life a work of art, undertaking a re-branding that included bleaching his hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. In 2007 Billy Apple became a registered trademark and then a registered brand in 2008.
After studying at the Elam School of Fine Arts in the 1970s, Stephen Bambury travelled to North America. There he encountered paintings by the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich who had undertaken “a desperate struggle to free art from the ballast of the objective world” by using basic motifs: the square, the circle and the cross. This last shape was a loaded sign but also an exercise in pure geometry, dividing the canvas into nine squares. As many geometrical abstractionists have observed, the cross is the mother of all grids.
Although Wayne Barrar’s ongoing exploration of the landscape is primarily executed through the lens of a camera, it is from the vantage point of both science and art that he pursues his ideas. Barrar first graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Canterbury in 1979 before later completing a Postgraduate Diploma of Fine Arts at Elam School of Fine Arts in 1996 and an MDes (2005) from Massey University.
Often using photographic processes to make her installations of images, Joyce Campbell has long been concerned with representing scientific knowledge in her art. While resident in Los Angeles in 2002, she made a series of images titled Marianas and Mindanao, referring to the submarine trenches situated in the north-west Pacific. Whereas the name Marianas derives from Queen Mariana of Austria, widow of Philip IV, as a reminder of the area’s seventeenth century Spanish colonists, Mindanao comes from Maguindanaons, the largest Sultanate historically.
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.
By the time Gavin Hipkins staged his exhibition The Colony at The Gus Fisher Gallery in 2002, he had become well-known for his distinctive technique of printing entire rolls of film uncut in continuous strips, known as falls, hung together to provide a dense grid of images.
Liverpudlian by birth, William Mathew Hodgkins followed the goldrush from Victoria to Otago in 1862. His marriage in Dunedin three years later produced six children, including a daughter, Frances, whose fame and artistic success have eclipsed her father’s accomplishment. Yet in nineteenth century New Zealand, Hodgkins senior was an artistic colossus, exhibiting widely at art societies throughout the country and publishing his lectures on art in the daily newspapers. As a self-taught watercolourist, his concern about his lack of drawing skills led him to concentrate on atmospheric effects, taking his cue from Joseph Mallord William Turner whose work in the National Gallery in London he described as “a mine of artistic wealth”.
Made out of bitumen-impregnated paper, this cruet set of concertina fans won’t cool anyone off. Hanging like three little piupiu on the wall, patterned by kowhaiwhai shapes and titled after an American torch song, the installed work gives a wave in the direction of the artist’s Ngai Tahu ancestry while fanning the flames of land loss grievance. Contributing to a content trickling down from the Māori love story explaining the origin of the Waiau and Clarence Rivers in the South Island, the artist works the construction association inherent in her material. Once called tar paper, the basic black builder’s paper cut-out is simultaneously doing steel-capped heavy duty and pirouetting as lightweight decoration. It is meant to form a waterproof membrane in a roof or walls but, carved up by a stanley knife, it makes an alluring play of light and shadows.
Teaching him at the Elam School of Fine Arts, Colin McCahon noticed that Richard Killeen’s compositions seemed assembled from separate parts, like jigsaw puzzle pieces. This one even takes its title from the three significant features in it, and orders them in a descending hierarchy of importance. Richard’s subject matter is both realistic and abstract, and his work allows a reading of both modes. Yet if painting in the Realist tradition was once considered a window onto the world, Richard is showing in this work that the opening is now closed. His stylised figure has become a flattened shape pasted over the background, casting little shadow. Is the Realist mode just the alibi for the investigation of figure and field with image and pattern, or does narrative linger on?
The University of Auckland Art Collection was quick to take an interest in the work of Richard Killeen, purchasing two paintings from Barry Lett Galleries in 1969 and a monotype print-on-canvas from his first solo exhibition at Barry Lett the following year.
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.
Andrew McLeod is renowned for his magpie eye with complex compositions combining eclectic images into detailed arrangements. It is the sort of eye that can be richly nourished in the digital era of Wikipedia and Google image search, where anyone can be an instant expert and new obsessions can be quickly sated with a wealth of visual material, although all this is little use without the finely honed sensibilities of a mature artist. Combined with this ease of information accessibility is the ability to cut-and-paste or manipulate a variety of sources using computer-aided design programmes. All this may make it easier to be an artist with an eclectic set of influences, from children’s book illustrations to the gothic visual culture of black metal music, although an everexpanding set of options does not necessarily make work any easier.
Thousands of renowned (and aspiring) artists, curators, writers, collectors, and anyone else significantly interested in contemporary art recently converged from around the world for the opening of the 53rd Venice Biennale. In addition to the main international exhibition, Making Worlds, which features 90 artists, there are 77 countries with their own pavilions and 44 collateral events from a range of organisations. Included in the collateral exhibition Glasstress is Elam School of Fine Arts graduate Hye Rim Lee, who appears alongside such international luminaries as Louise Bourgeois and Mona Hatoum. This year Creative New Zealand has selected two artists to represent New Zealand: Francis Upritchard and Judy Millar. Millar’s project Giraffe-Bottle-Gun will be installed in Santa Maria Maddalena, the only circular church in Venice, which has existed on the site in various forms since at least 1222. Giraffe-Bottle-Gun, named from oddly-shaped long-necked canvases leaning against the walls surrounding the large looping installation at the heart of the installation, interrupts the spaces between the viewer, the architecture and the art.
Unlike with many of Alex Monteith’s other video projects, the critically slow pace of the event that forms the subject of her video work, 1020 metres in 26 minutes Waitangi Day Auckland Harbour Bridge Protest, grounds the viewer in familiar territory, allowing the location and the subject of the video to be immediately unravelled. Simultaneously however, the viewer is also drawn into the curious and somewhat dizzying landscape that is formed where the adjacent screens meet. Passages of the Harbour Bridge, segments of land, sky, clouds, sea and automobiles roll across two disparate yet intimately connected fields of vision.
When Mäori-Chinese artist Buck Nin died aged only 54, the high-ranked turnout of representatives from many tribes, along with a who’s who of the contemporary Mäori art movement, was testament to the larger-than-life presence Nin had established in the community. Renowned as an artist, entrepreneur and teacher, he was not only among the first generation of Mäori artists to make their mark in the Western world of contemporary art; he actively nurtured the talent of many more who followed.
Pregnant with mystery, this huge image of a hei tiki glowing against a dark background is magnetically attractive. It is one of a range of Cinderella artefacts – those deemed by curators as too imperfect to exhibit – brought to light by Ngai Tahu photographer Fiona Pardington. Working towards her MFA at the Elam School of Fine Arts in 2002-2003, she trawled through collections of her iwi’s taonga at Auckland Museum and Okains Bay Mäori and Colonial Museum on Banks Peninsula. It took her up to 18 months to seek and obtain permission from each relevant hapu to photograph their taonga for this project.
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.
Compelled to begin this contemporary history painting when war broke out in the Middle East in July 2006, Jude Rae also used this painting’s scale as an opportunity to explore a new, more liquid, painting technique. Israel was retaliating against a Hezbollah missile attack on border settlements by launching air strikes and artillery attacks on Lebanon, extensively damaging infrastructure and killing over a thousand civilians, and wounding many more. Jude Rae had arrived in France to take up the Moya Dyring Memorial Fellowship at the Cité Internationale des Artes directly from Dunedin where she had been painting large architectural interiors as the artist-in-residence there. She was planning to make similar studies in Paris, but coverage of the July war in the French media was extensive, and, absorbed by the imagery, she began to make drawings and watercolours of the conflict from the internet coverage.
Artist and 2017 Distinguished Alumna Lisa Reihana is currently representing New Zealand at the 57th Venice Biennale in Italy with a panoramic video installation entitled Emissaries. It is her most ambitious project in a long, illustrious and innovative career with digital media. Ten years in the making, Emissaries is a remarkably complex digital animation that has undergone a number of modifications for the Biennale since it was last shown in Auckland, including incorporating Aboriginal figures.
Printed by Theo Schoon in Kees Hos’s studio in Auckland in 1965, this collograph was made by gluing the cut-out patterns onto wood, and then applying ink with a paintbrush before pressing paper down on top. Captured by Bauhaus ideas which emphasised the equality of art and craft, Schoon had studied only briefly at the Rotterdam Art Academy and Canterbury College School of Art, before beginning his own journey of intrepid exploration of artistic media.
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.
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.
The emergence in the 1950s of Gordon Walters as one of our most important pioneers of abstract art, along with the likes of Don Peebles and Milan Mrkusich, signalled an important cultural transition in New Zealand. As critic Francis Pound has argued, it was a shift away from the literary influences of the nationalist landscape painters towards the flat planes of architecture and design, from the rustic countryside to urban modernism.
Recalling Stephen Spielberg’s 1977 science fiction blockbuster Close Encounters of the Third Kind with its title, this large acrylic painting in ice-cream colours seems spookily familiar Maybe it is the vapid expression of the neatly coiffed fellow at centre? Resplendent in his walk Denys Watkins, Encounter of the Third Kind 2008, acrylic on linen, 1825 x 1525mm, The University of Auckland Art Collection shorts, sweatshirt and oversized sneakers, he seems proud to show off his hosing styles in the foreground. With his oversized head and tiny arms, he seems an earthly manifestation of something weird and otherworldly. He is way too alien to belong to the same species as the legions of smiling Dads who deploy garden equipment in the hardware store catalogues that populate the mailbox around Father’s Day. Despite his attempt to win us over with a grin, we can only pity him his lack of water pressure, as the thick sinuous snake of green that he grips overpromises and underdelivers.
Dame Robin White’s portrayals of New Zealand and the Pacific are instantly recognisable. Although the word is often overused, these are iconic images, especially because her subject matter is usually anything but. Rather than grand buildings and sweeping landscapes, she prefers quiet unassuming structures like the Maketu Fish’n Chip Shop or the Portobello Pub; simple architecture that is ubiquitous. But they’re always specific settings that bring a personal response to a place, usually including a local occupant, such as the painting of Sam Hunt at Bottle Creek that hangs in the General Library, or the more autobiographical This is me at Kaitangata. They remind us that these are social places used by people and bring a human scale to the landscape. Mana Railway Station continues in this vein and perhaps pays homage to the famous painting of Cass railway station by Rita Angus, an artist whose clarity of depiction was an important influence on White.
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.
Living and working in Italy for six months in 1984 immersed Jane Zusters in the NeoExpressionist works of the Italian artists of the Transavant-guardia as well as the triptych format of the Renaissance altar painting. In particular she admired the success that Mimmo Paladino had in establishing the connections between disparate elements in the same painting.