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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
As a child, Julian Hooper spent nine months living on Fakaofo, the main atoll of the three that make up the tiny country of Tokelau. His parents, anthropologist Antony Hooper, and linguist Robin Hooper, took Julian and his brother Matthew with them while they worked on a study of Tokelauan health for Ian Prior, Director of Epidemiology at Wellington Hospital.
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.
As a teenager, Shigeyuki Kihara was sent in the late 1980s from the balmy climes of Samoa to the Marist school, St Patrick’s Silverstream in Upper Hutt, for secondary education.
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.
Along with a substantial number of fellow art students such as Seung Yul Oh and Hye Rim Lee, Jae Hoon Lee (no relation) arrived in New Zealand to study at Elam School of Fine Arts as part of a new generation of South Koreans migrating to New Zealand in the late 1990s.
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.
Creating her largest art work to date, a huge 104-part painting to cap off her survey show, a loop around a loop, at Christchurch Art Gallery in 2006, Julia Morison titled the behemoth “Gargantua’s petticoat” after the garments mentioned in Francois Rabelais’ 1534 novel. Rabelais describes how the men and women of the religious order Theleme were appareled: “next to their smock they put on the pretty kirtle or vasquin of pure silk camlet; above that went the taffety or tabby farthingale, of white, red, tawny, grey, or of any other colour.”
Mixed media artist Alexis Neal is consistently drawn to depicting objects of taonga as she sees them possessing a wairua or spirit beyond their physical presence. The treasures included in the semi-circular mezzotint entitled Treasured (1997) include ear pendants, a carved piece of bone and a shell necklace. These are not cheap, throw-away items of jewellery purchased from a ubiquitous mall jewellery store but are objects to be worn, treasured and adored.
Developing an abiding love for the natural and life sciences during two years of medical intermediate studies at Otago University in 1961 and 1962, Peter Peryer moved back to Auckland and finished his bachelor’s degree majoring in English and Education.
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.
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.
Constituting a system that became a style, Ian Scott’s lattices remain his signature works. His “basic over-and-under pattern” paintings went into production in 1976, after a decade of Girlie paintings. Like an industrial product, each lattice suggests a limitless number of colour ways, but Scott drew the line on the series in 1982 after making over 200 sequentially numbered variations on the idea. Now that he is again investigating the pictorial possibilities of scantily-clad girls, Scott rarely makes a lattice painting. When he does, the resulting interlace is like a puzzle solved: a two-dimensional Rubik’s cube. The compositions are tricky but seem deceptively simple: a few bands of pure acrylic colour laid down over a square white canvas ground.
There is a lot that is familiar in Peter Siddell’s landscape paintings. Long horizons, Victorian architecture, waterways and volcanic cones. They all look like bits of Auckland we know, although you can’t quite finger where. Probably not the suburb you grew up in but possibly one you visited a few times. Perhaps it was before the old mansion was pulled down, or the new tower went up? Even the way the light plays across the landscape. This is the artist’s city and his scenes have become so familiar that the real Auckland sometimes looks a lot like his paintings.
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.
Drawn from material gathered over 14 months between 10 January 2004 and 4 February 2005, the snowflakes in Overcast are digital collages. There are 15 in total, and each one is made up of images harvested from the newspaper on a particular day.
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.
DISTURBING AND ALLURING "Envy Log" is example of the way Yvonne Todd's photography can draw you in with the promise of a scandalous story but leave you with nothing more than unresolved plot twists. Here she presents us with a young girl sitting slumped and resigned in a wheelchair, looking towards us with an inquisitive, rather sullen gaze. Behind her stands a woman whose eyes we cannot meet, her face veiled in dark shadow.
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.
Variations of the curving stem and bulb form of the koru made their earliest appearances in Gordon Walters’ work in the mid-1950s. Joining the Government Printing Office in Wellington in 1954, he prepared gouache studies after work and at weekends. A decade earlier, Dutch Indonesian artist Theo Schoon (1915-1985) had introduced him to Ngai Tahu rock art and invited him to South Canterbury to view the drawings in Weka Pass. What he saw there inspired the later Mäori designs in Walters’ work.
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.
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.