Archive for January, 2008

The Art of the Review

Firstly a second-hand review. Someoneiknow took a few hours off work to go to the Bill Hammond exhibition “Jingle Jangle Morning”at the City Gallery on Wednesday. It must have been good because he has talked about it A LOT and spent 2+ hours there without even realising what the time was. It closes 10 February so I doubt whether I”ll get there (Grrrrrr).

gangland.jpg Gangland

So I can’t give it a review which is probably just as well because I am not the best reviewer. I think I get to personal. I have been reading a few NZ Art websites and blogs (there aren’t actually that many) and I simply wouldn’t use the “right” language when it comes to an art review. It brings to mind the Crash Test Dummies song “When you go out with artists“. It shouldn’t have to be pretentious drivel and plain speak is possible – see Justin Paton’s book but still…I guess I have bad memories of writing reviews for my University newspaper. I used to do Film Society reviews but then someone complained because I wasn’t a film student (I think they just wanted the free tickets). I also wrote restaurant reviews until I got into a fight about a bad review I wrote. Apparently someone had made a deal that by giving “poor students” a free meal the restaurant would get a good review. Well the service and the food were awful and I tactfully wrote that. My review didn’t get printed and I didn’t write anything else for the newspaper again. So if any artists out there want to send me an artwork to keep and review (oh yeah sure that’s going to happen) – I just want to state that it WILL NOT automatically assure you of a rave :-)

Quote of the day – about Rudi Gopas, although who knows if its true…

“Rudi also told another student to mix more turps with the paint so the painting would burn easier.”

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Growing up – with Art

We had a family trip to Te Papa on Sunday. As usual I left with a hollow feeling and slight disappointment. I was also annoyed as it seems that introducing children to art in a gallery environment is not appreciated by some of the staff. Now if you can’t do this at Te Papa where can you? I mean part of the reason I always feel a little cheated there is because much of the museum appears to be “dumbed down” to a child’s level. I plan to have a bit of a moan to the director and will post the letter here if I get around to writing it.

On the positive side the “Inspiration Centre”, which was aimed at kids, had a ‘real’ peice of art hung in it. It was brilliantly protected from little fingers behind a shield of perspex and I can only hope they change the work every now and again. Here it is – Dancing Chicken by Dick Frizzell:

chicken.jpg (click for larger image)

I can’t see them doing this with a McCahon though.

The whole trip made me think about how I was introduced to art. I remember going to openings at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery with my mother and oldest brother in the 1970s. I distinctly remember a large painting of a falling concrete block that I was very impressed with and my mother hated. She liked traditional landscapes of the Ray Melhop/Peter Beadle type. We also went to the annual spring exhibitions at Anderson Park art gallery. That was better because when we were bored we could run around outside to the playgrounds. On a recent return trip (with my children) I discovered that they have a small but representative collection of New Zealand Art. I was quite impressed. Although our home didn’t have very much in the way of art on the walls, my grandfather’s house was full of original artwork from the Banks Peninusula area. He had also discovered that if you hammered an 8 inch copper boat nail through the wall, you can hang a picture on both sides.

Art was obviously valued by my family in some respects, but artistic talents were not really encouraged as a serious enterprise. Interestingly all of my siblings are now artists in some (part-time) form. One brother has exhibited paintings in both the galleries mentioned above, another sells his photography internationally and my 3rd brother is a craftsman in wood. So I guess some of our early introduction has stuck.

So I take my kids to galleries and expose them to what I can. This doesn’t happen often, maybe twice a year, but its important to us. They are resonably well behaved, however I squirm when I think of what my pre-children self would think about loud, busy children ruining my quiet reflection on a Sunday afternoon. What can I say about my nearly-5-year-old skipping down the gallery excitedly yelling “mummy, mummy we have that painting at home” (Clairmont’s Scarred Couch) or my nearly-3-year-old correctly identifiying a Rita Angus (Rutu) and then finding other Anguses in the museum going “I painted that, and that”

Rita Angus Rutu Rutu

For myself, viewing the exhibition of Art of the Nation again, was like meeting old friends (entry to come)

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three New Zealand artists. All very different and only ‘showcased’ here because I have links to all three – albeit somewhat tenuous ones.

Crispin Korschen

Crispin used to weed my garden for me. I guess it was a crummy job to support her burgeoning return to art and I was most likely not a good employer. I wish I’d bought some of her art then (around 2005), but circumstances didn’t allow. Her stuff then seemed to be a little darker than the more recent works, which I liked better.
temptation.jpg Click for larger image

Matt Hunt

Matt is the cousin of a friend in Palmerston North where I lived for a while. I first met him when we went to his flat to pick something up – I think he was moving. He is the only person I’ve ever met whose filing system was based around the seven deadly sins. We played touch rugby together for a while. That is until I decided they were all too serious and I’d never played ANY sport before, so I sucked at it. I saw some stuff of his I really liked at Pataka in the “It’s a Small World” exhibition (2003). As an aside, I have to mention Ronnie van Hout’s McCahon works in the same exhibition are really worth a look. Matt’s work is clever. Some of it I like, some is well… meh. This one I like.


A few years ago I saw a painting very similar to Matt’s at a gallery in Eastbourne (the Rona?) I have no idea who the artist was, so if anyone knows….

John Walsh

Well John is the husband of someone I studied with. I drank wine with friends in the studio once and lurked at their place drinking coffee on occasion. I loved their house, so FULL of artworks. I miss my friend now I’ve moved away. At the time I didn’t understand the materials John was painting on and liked his older, more conventional, portraits better. Then I went to the Parihaka exhibition and changed my mind.


Relevance – well its about art and my life right?

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Everyone has a story

This blog is meant to be about Art and Literature. The definition of “art” has been bugging me. For example, I have been ruminating about the classification of sculptural textiles, but I guess all-in-all, art like many things is about telling a story. I saw the movie “Atonement” in the weekend and it illustrated to me how the same story can have many viewpoints. My reading lately has also been in this area, Norman Lewis’ essays, some political journalism from Africa circa 1981 and the inevitable children’s picture books. What is truth? What is myth? All I know is what I learnt in bars years ago – talk long enough to a person and you will find that EVERYONE has a story, and an interesting story at that. I wish I had the skill to write them, but maybe I can take solace in that I come from a family of oral storytellers.

So here’s a story. I wish I could put the pictures up here because they are important. In the meantime take Martin  Edmond’s book ” The Resurrection of Philip Clairmont” and turn to the first lot of photographs. Look for “Philip Clairmont on Waikanae Beach (1976)”.

Last week I took my kids to Waikanae beach. As far as I can estimate, I stood almost exactly in that spot and at some point was probably gazing towards the dunes as well. Today I took the kids to the zoo in Wellington (see the next picture on this page). I parked my car in the only free spot, which happened to face directly on to the back of 36 Roy Street. The top window was open and pink and gold gauze curtains were billowing out in the wind.

Not much of a story. New Zealand is a small place.

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Arts and/or crafts?

Firstly a quote for the week from my father-in-law. Not known for his interest in art, although owning some Evelyn Page prints (maybe the ex-wife’s?) he said “I saw that Rita Angus thing on TV. It was good, I thought she just painted hills”. Again yay! for the charter.

I have been a bit slack on the blogging front lately as being home with the kids 7×24, I’ve become immersed in domesticity and slightly fanatical about bread making – which is an art isn’t it? However it has led me to think about art vs craft.

I have some friends who are very ‘crafty’ and I am quite envious of what they produce. While it is craft eg can a needle holder be anything else? Much of it is art in my eyes. It brings to mind Rosemary McLeod’s wonderful “Thrift to Fantasy” book and the associated exhibition at the Dowse. See also this commentary by Douglas Lloyd Jenkins which is really worth the read. Craft seems to be the new “in thing”, well for my demographic anyway, but I can see the association with art and liked this from Kris Herbert “It’s pretty hard to undercut The Warehouse, so craft has a new role – relief from mass-produced sameness” So isn’t that art – “relief…from …sameness”. It also describes what was behind the “Arts and Crafts movement”, which was supposedly a reaction to industrialisation. Interestingly, I tend to associate this movement with James Chapman Taylor’s houses which are often finished in concrete and which is of course, an industrial material. Maybe the current resurgence in craft is a reaction to our techno-age? Of course the ‘craft blog’ is a similar paradox

So what is Art and what is Craft? Well on trusty Wikipedia, Visual arts seems to encompass the whole, fine arts and craft arts. Although they probably mean jewellery etc as craft rather than embroidered doilies. I think its just one of those gray/grey areas that probably doesn’t really require definition. But I’d love to know…

So rather than trying to define it I though I’d provide some examples of what I consider Art/Craft crossover. You may of course disagree…

brooch.jpg Buttons and brooches made from doillies by Helen


Bayeux Tapestry

There were the knitted vaginas too but I couldn’t find a good photo :-) There are also many things I don’t consider art. I have to say my latest ‘bug bear’ is interior decorating art where people just stretch a piece of curtain farbric and hang on the wall. I am sorry but to me this is “mass-produced sameness”.

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Firstly, I have fixed all the broken links on former posts (I hope). A little editing trouble with my new blog.

Well the holidays have brought some amazing TV viewing amongst the usual dross. “Lovely Rita“, the final episode of “The Big Picture” and “Being Billy Apple” were a few and so good to see (yay for The Charter).

Lovely Ritawas a fantastic Gaylene Preston doco about Rita Angus. Preston does great documentary work and there were some wonderful moments. I love the bit where they discussed the portrait of Betty Curnow angus037.jpg and being all theoretical about the ovular nature of the work and how it was a pregnancy portrait and then Preston just blew the interviewee away by saying it was Angus who was pregnant not Curnow. I wish I could remember the name of the interviewee/artist who had recreated the fabric of Curnow’s shirt (I want some!). EDIT – It was Anna Miles – See Wyston Curnows comments. Gosh and another major artist who lived in Waikanae (for a short time)

Being Billy Applewas also intriguing. I have seen a few Apple’s (I like NFS and Sold) but I didn’t realise he doesn’t actually paint them himself. See you can tell I have no education in this area. His work is so clever. It was interesting to see his personal evolution as an artist and artwork. You have to love the scrubbed floor installation and I finally clearly understand the meaning of ‘conceptual artist’.

I guess I was a little disappointed in Hamish Keith’s final episode of The Big Picture. Maybe because I’d read the book or seen a critique of his braided river analogy. It left many questions. I wondered if John Walsh was excluded because of his association with Te Papa. Someoneiknow was also disappointed that he didn’t provide more context on the Militant Artists Union. We both disagreed with Keith’s issue with bi-culturalism. Although I agree New Zealand is definitely multi-cultural, the Treaty of Waitangi (our founding document) is between Maori and Tau Iwi (everyone else – or ‘other’).

I am happy to say I recorded all of them but our TV reception is terrible so hopefully they will be out on DVD at some point.

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