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.
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.
The unlikely pairing of wine and filament light bulbs has long been a recurring motif in the highly sociable work of Bill Culbert, as has the fluorescent tube, all of which act as metaphor and evidence of the ways we think about light, energy and materials.
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.
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.
In 1986, Merimeri Penfold, Senior Lecturer in Māori, had just published the groundbreaking Penguin book Women and the Arts in New Zealand with Elizabeth Eastmond in the Art History department. Reproducing works by forty women, of whom six were Māori, this influential book took an unashamedly feminist approach, redressing the absence of women (and Māori) artists from previous histories of New Zealand art. The authors’ statement on the imprint page stated the political intent of the project explicitly: “We should also like to acknowledge the crucial importance of the women’s movement for the basic conception of this book and for many of the perspectives adopted.”
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.
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?
Established in 1998, the Elam International Artist in Residence programme has often chimed in with exhibitions and events around Auckland. The first Triennial, Bright Paradise, curated by Allan Smith, brought Justine Kurland to the city in 2001, and she made this art work during her stay.
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.
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.
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.
After two years in New York, preceded by study at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Richard Orjis returned to New Zealand in 2004 and began a Master of Fine Arts at Elam School of Fine Arts. Flower Idol featured in his 2006 graduate exhibition but was already familiar, having appeared on the invitation card for that year’s postgraduate information evenings. Purchased for The University of Auckland Art Collection in 2008, Flower Idol continues its close association with the University, hanging prominently in the NICAI Student Centre.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
The iconic upturned boat form of the Fale Pasifika is a landmark on campus. Designed by Ivan Mercep of Jasmax Architects at a cost of $6 million in 2004, the Fale has won several architectural awards. Collaboration with architectural theorist Albert Refiti ensured that Pasifika artists were involved in its construction adding layers of cultural meaning. Traditional Tongan lashings in brown and black coconut coir from Fiji by Filipe Tohi conceal steel plates and bolts at the main intersections of the roof structure on the interior. Outside the building, the work of Tongan artist, Tumoi Kaloni, forms a high archway entrance to the malae or greeting area, which is paved with a grid of tiles with applied arrows by Tania Euruatua Short to form a work entitled Accidental and Deliberate Voyages in the South Pacific. Described as a cartographically inspired pattern, this treatment of the malae’s surface was intended to evoke the presence of the ocean connecting Pacific peoples.