During 2006, Edith Amituanai visited France and Italy as part of a Creative New Zealandfunded five-week project to photograph professional rugby players. Each of her subjects had a Pasifika background, and many of them were her relatives or friends. The theme for her work at that time was “third wave” migration, as the children or grandchildren of people who emigrated from the Pacific Islands to New Zealand in the twentieth century, started to move back out into the world to seek new opportunities.
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.
As a young science teacher living and working on the Auckland volcanic field, Len Castle made great use of lava tubes and caves, and took field trips to Rangitoto. He was delighted when Ruapehu’s boisterous activity for several months in 1945 briefly eclipsed war reports from the Pacific theatre. Like the painter Colin McCahon who was studying the line drawings of landforms produced by Charles Cotton at this same time, Len married aesthetic sensibilities with an interest in geomorphology.
Lisa Crowley practises a peculiar type of landscape photography, one concerned with place, but place laden with human experience. She chooses politically charged sites with significant histories, yet her images offer little or no discernible evidence of locality, past events or current tension. Instead she invokes the conventions of romantic landscape painting and 19th century scenic photography, directly raising the question of the medium’s real ability to document a place and expose its history. A picture of a heap of felled trees can be simply a picture of piled natural debris; its significance can only be materialised by human experience, she suggests.
In 1986 Auckland University Press published (jointly with Oxford University Press) a collection of ten poems by Allen Curnow titled The Loop in Lone Kauri Road (poems 1983-5). The cover illustration echoes the title and features a circular gleam of blurred metal in motion. The image is in fact a photo of Len Lye’s kinetic sculpture Roundhead, which includes a whirling wedding band at the centre.
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.
Believing that fruit depicted on tomb walls would become real in the afterlife and give the hungry inhabitant something to feast on, the Egyptians inaugurated the still life tradition in painting. It endures to the present day. By the early twentieth century, bowls of apples, oranges and pears had become the testing ground for new ideas about flattening pictorial space for the Cubist artists Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris. Waikato-born Frances Hunt follows their lead a half century later, deconstructing a few wine bottles into a tangle of geometric forms, planes and black outlines in this excursion into Cubism.
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.
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.
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.
Sarah Munro completed her Doctorate in Fine Arts at The University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts in 2005 and was the Frances Hodgkins Fellow at the University of Otago the following year. As a multi-media artist, she oscillates in her work between two and three dimensions and encompasses several art disciplines including painting, sculpture, photography and digital technology. Bought for the University of Auckland’s Art Collection in 2003, Socket successfully embraces many of these diverse facets of Munro’s art practice. The subject is a painted portrait of the artist’s half-brother, yet the materials and techniques employed by Munro leave Socket as an art object that lies far from the traditional notion of what constitutes a portrait. The shaped support of the work is constructed from finely shaped blocks of polyester foam overlaid with fibreglass that Munro applies by hand. The surface is then painstakingly ground back, puttied and sanded until it reaches a smooth, lustrous perfection. The painted representation of the subject’s face is applied to the shaped ground in a similarly technical but time-consuming manner with the assistance of a digital painting machine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.