Archive for April, 2008

I am, almost by default, a feminist. I think its just the era I grew up in and thats the way it is. Mostly its not something I think about, its just how I live, but today I was looking about for stuff about women in the visual arts and feminist painters etc and realised that I know almost nothing about it in relation to NZ art. I tried to write down a list of NZ women artists and the list was tiny compared to a easily made list of males. Is this just because I ‘know’ of the men or there really aren’t so many women? Do the women just fall prey to “the pram in the hallway” unless there is a conscious decision not to take that path? Should we even be considering the gender of the artist? Then there is the issue of feminist art and/or women’s art. Well these questions are too big to be answered today, I shall keep researching. I did note there are several whole art history papers (and probably specialities) dediciated to gender issues in art.

Another thing I have been pondering is the phrase “the art of…” – as in “Zen and the Art of Motocycle Maintenance”. The use of the word ‘art’ in this context intrigues me. I used to work in a profession that was supposedly “the science and art of…”. Artful also meaning skillful…but at an arcane kind of level???? hmmmm. Then there is artifice – “subtle but base deception”. Seems to me that some ART is artful and can involve artifice.

Then there is “artsy”. The context (oohhh that word again!) I found it in was in relation to Annie Liebowitz’s controversial photos of 15-year-old Miley Cyrus “the naked back, the satin sheet, the damp hair … how dare the innocent heroine…look so provocative?…Aksed about the picture of herself taken for the current issue of Vanity Fair…she thought it was ‘really artsy’.” Possibly more accurately, a reader commented “she looked like she is freshly f**ked“. Germaine Greer (and others) take a thoughtful look at this issue from various angles including the artistic one. I have written before that Leibowitz can take great photos, but I don’t think that much of her celebrity ones. I think this comment got it spot on in answer to why celebrities pose for her. “Leibovitz held up a mirror to their smug narcissism and it refused to crack, damn it. No wonder she can get her subjects to do what she wants“. So is it art?

What ever it is, its a million miles away (and then maybe not) from say Alexis Hunter.

Dialogue with a Rapist (1978) Detail of ten panels with text 

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A small life

Today a friend came round and we watched some of the Lovely Rita ‘extras’ – Betty’s Blouse and the piece on the Angus House and Dane Mitchell’s ‘Thresholds’ work. Mitchell’s work was not really ‘up our alley’ even though the subject matter held potential. I looked up some of his other stuff and found “In past works he has collaborated with mediums and psychics to explore the phantom inhabitants of art galleries and museums. In his meddling with the unknown, Mitchell has commissioned witches to curse Starkwhite Gallery, Auckland; created a portal to the spirit world in the Auckland Art Gallery; and summoned the spirit of famous New Zealand painter Rita Angus, interviewing her via a medium.” Hmmmmm – while the idea of cursing Starkwhite has promise, is it really art?? :-) I guess it is, as I read Mitchell has just been awarded a one-year residency at the international DAAD artists-in-Berlin programme.

My friend and I were saying that we felt our interest in Bette’s Blouse is female reaction though, as perhaps was that lovely huge curtain of Anna Miles’ installation The style of address, (1994). Wystan Curnow says “My mother fashioned this jacket out of two identical aprons she bought at Woolworths.” Maybe because we are both have an interest in ‘homely arts’? It just intrigues me that someone like Rita Angus, a woman but not other/homemaker/50s housewife blah blah blah – in fact possibly the antithesis – painted in such detail and with such care this wonderful portrait of Betty with the centre piece being this rather flamboyant homemade blouse. Such a dichotomy (maybe not the correct word?)

Portrait of Betty Curnow (1942) Rita Angus

It got me thinking about the maleness and femaleness of some art and how we identify with some things/images (more on this in another post methinks).

I was reading a blog recently which said the author was living a small life just now and I think that’s a very good description of mine too. The internet (and this blog) is a window to the world for me and some days there just isn’t much ‘art in my life’. And so I was thinking how it might be nice to join one of those ‘blogger get-togethers’ in Wellington sometime, but none of them are really ‘a fit’ for me (you know – too old, too young, too hip, etc etc) Well I guess I might bump into people at the City Gallery this weekend – must organise that T-shirt….

Lastly – how do NZ Blog ratings actually work and why do they only rate political and news sites? Not that I care too much about ratings, as I note that some of the highest ratings site can be rather tiresome rather than informative and that’s not what this blog is about anyway. Mind you, I’ve apparently stepped on few toes already – not intentionally but probably via ignorance and clumsiness.

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A bad influence

Some days I wonder if I unduly influence my kids – especially now my 5-year-old only draws lights in a Clairmont fashion.

3rd Panel of Staircase Triptych– Philip Clairmont

However the following “takes the cake” so to speak.  “[the party – for a 5 year old] had a gallery opening theme, at her insistence — each guest had to bring a work of art they’d made to put on the wall, and the cake was decorated to look like a Jackson Pollock canvas in progress“. I have to say I am impressed by the cake but I simply can’t imagine a kid asking for a Pollock cake (although maybe that’s where I am going wrong).

The Pollock Birthday cake (sure beats my Dora one)

I have to note that the whole context of art thing has taken on a life over at ArtBash. I like this simple little line “ART = context+art+viewer”. And I’d also reccommend “Privatising Culture” although its quite a tome.

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An interesting thread has developed in the comments on a post of a few days ago but I thought I’d raise it again here (as blogs are not always the easiest platform for a ‘forum’ discussion).

I suggested that under previous governments I thought there had been tax incentives for corporate art collections and alibi had an idea that “there was a percent for art kind of scheme attached to new building projects in the eighties, where spending 1% of the project budget on art attracted tax benefits.”  and asked “anyone got any examples of quality artwork being produced via percent for art schemes in nz? a corporate collection that wasn’t interior decorating oriented?”

Well I know of the “BIG” collections (BNZ, Rutherford, Fletcher) of which my understanding is that they developed during this time as corporate tax write-offs but I did work in a building on The Terrace in Wellington for a long time that had some scary ’80s neon going on in the floor of the foyer which I hope wasn’t an ‘artwork’.

On a brief internet search I found this from a Christchurch Art Gallery exhibition in 2005 Boom: Banking on Art in the 80s“. “The idea of art as investment exploded in the 1980s as bull markets and swift economic growth encouraged the century’s greatest corporate spending spree. It was a timely moment for the Bank of New Zealand to establish its collection” . I do wonder if this is only part of the story but at least some of these works are ‘getting around’ these days e.g. the Southland Museum and Art Galleryin Invercargill.

[and here I would insert an image of Billy Apple’s “From the BNZ Art Collection”]

And this “Whipping the Wind,a neon sculpture by Paul Hartigan…fills 10 windows in a turret topping the podium of the Sybase Building on the corner of Lambton Quay and Ballance Street. The sculpture was originally installed in 1988…The building developer funded and installed  Whipping the Wind under the City Council’s Art Bonus scheme – in return the Council allowed the height of the building to be increased by two floors.”  Well that’s an interesting trade-off, but I gather quite a common one.

As you can see from this. “For most people, the phrase corporate art summons up images of permanently installed minimalist sculptures, such as the huge generic ball that was toppled from its perch in the movie Fight Club. Much of this kind of work is the result of “art percent” schemes, which were popular around the world in the mid to late 20th century and resulted in indifferent artworks being plonked into large marble voids begrudgingly set aside by architects so a developer could stretch planning regulations. Streamlined and solid enough to resist the most stringent of OSH requirements, these monolithic abstracts are hardly likely to disrupt the monolithic structures they occupy.

Now I know there are one or two people who read this that may have some insights – so I hope they’ll share. In the meantime I will be checking out “Privatising culture : corporate art intervention since the 1980s” by Chin-Tao Wu tomorrow.

BTW – today someone suggested I get this shirt. I can think of a few situations where it might be useful :-)


BTW – wordpress has started adding stuff to the bottom of my posts (related blogs) I hate it

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I could be terribly predictable and put up some war art but I am sure you can all use google. There is a ‘good’ site here of War Art from the NZ archives.

All want to say can be heard below, so I will leave you in the safe hands of Shane McGowan.

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Jumping on the band wagon

This morning I’ve seen read several entries on an experiment about art and context. I blogged on this topic a while ago in Art Transformation Zone – and probably made a few people think I really was ‘witless’. As Tyler Green put it “Context matters — and that’s OK”. I have been wrestling with the “That’s OK” bit, I am still not sure.

Over the Net said “If you put a pile of road working equipment in the middle of an art gallery, would people stop to consider it seriously as art?”  The thing is they probably would in at least the same percentages as the experiment reported above. I would estimate at least 4% would seriously consider it art because it was in a gallery. EDIT: Maths is not my strong point but probably much much more than 4% would think its art. So context does matter then?… I’d love to see this tried out actually, dumb idea or not.

Again I reiterate I have no problem with art that requires a gallery context (or not) – it just gets you thinking – well me anyway.

I saw this over on eyeContact. What does it say about context???

Layla Rudneva – McKay from Tell yourself you’re OK

Oh – and I just love that phrase “jumping on the bandwagon” For some bizarre reason it makes me think of climbing aboard Don Driver’s “Ritual”.

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In the doldrums

Well it really has been the doldrums around here. I like this word – and its defintion “an unhappy listlessness” and the alternative seafaring meaning its much better than “The Intertropical Convergence Zone” isn’t it? 

As I have said, I am a collector by nature (others may say its OCD) and I also collect words. Frame’s book has got me pondering words even more. I came across ‘resplendance’ the other day and an associated poem by Mark Young. “There/is a colour/ that moves”  – wonderful stuff.  I was thinking of this in terms of a Milan Mrkusich painting I saw in Elva Betts “New Zealand Art: A Modern Perspective” today. Also Dragan Stojanovic’s work. Of course they don’t show up well on the web but there is definitely movement there.

Bought a small print today as I need some focus for some work I am doing. I don’t know if its art – so much symbolism maybe its simply illustration. But I was looking for symbolism – it was a purchase requirement. There seem to be some who object to symbolism in art – not sure why that is. Isn’t art in itself symbolic? And so we are back to that old “what is art?” question.

I’ll give a little example. Here is the type of work that inspires “that’s not art” comments. Saw it at Te Papa a while back. Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it. My then-4-year-old was mesmerised and drew pictures of it ‘talking’ to her for days after. Maybe she ‘got it’?

Bruce – deranged  Sean Kerr

Well the brain is a fried after finally getting out an academic article for peer review. I think tomorrow as a treat I need to resurrect some art work from the Tardis (my garage). They say you don’t know a work until you live with it for a while, so for me when its gone, I miss it like a absent friend.

Question for the day: Labour appears to have done a lot for the arts over their term in government – what was it like under National?

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