Archive for April, 2008

A little light reading

I’ve been reading “Towards Another Summer” by Janet Frame (posthumously published) and I am surprisedly impressed. It is easier reading than some of her other novels and is an intriguing ‘alternate reality’ of material found in her autobiographical works. I keep finding phrases and paragraphs I want to write out and keep. For example (and particularly relevant to my situation):

Ah, if only she lived for ever in a world of correspondence, writing (she thought) daring, imaginative, witty letters that revealed nothing of her social stupidity!

Any one who has actually met me in person would probably confirm that :-) Maybe its a little true of some other bloggers..?

The posthumous thing concerns me. All the material that comes out after someone has died. Well I guess it doesn’t worry them any more but there could be many reasons why people don’t put everything out into the public eye – especially if it just wasn’t good enough. Don’t know too much about this where artists are concerned, apart from stories of the reverse where major works have gone missing, but I am certain it has happened. All those studies and trial pieces (and shopping lists) out there being displayed and/or auctioned off.

EDIT: Here’s an example. Dmitri Nabokov, son of Vladimir, has decided to publish The Original of Laura, the novel his dying father commanded be destroyed.

Actually the shopping list thing could be very funny/revealing. I was standing in line at the supermarket the other night with some ‘out of place’ stylish looking people in front of me and I started comparing the contents of our trolleys. I won’t bore you with the details (although I didn’t have any Whitestone brie in mine, mores the pity) but I am sure it could be configured into a semi-reliable form of social identification. These people looked more ‘buyers’ really, as there are some who imply that the shopping trolley of a true artist would contain only bread and water (or maybe cheap red plonk). Of course this could all be judgemental crap from a bored housewife.

And so, true to form I bring you ‘Supermarket art’

Sainsbury’s and Arts Council England have teamed up to produce limited edition re-usable shopping bags designed by well-known artists. The three new reusable shopping bags feature specially commissioned work by artists Michael Craig-Martin, Anya Gallaccio and Paul Morrison.

Richard Lea writes “But maybe it’s something about the way the project is literally cheapening art. Maybe it’s the prospect of self-satisfied shoppers loading up their Chelsea tractors with a bunch of original Craig-Martin’s, consciences duly salved. …How about a Warhol-esque portrait of French anti-globalisation protester José Bové instead? Or deserted high streets in the manner of Dorothea Lange? Or a Goya-style watercolour of workers at a Kenyan bean-trimming plant? “

And just on the shopping theme I am considering buying a light wedge. Any one got any comments on these?

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Tour of the cages

I had another trip to the Mahara Gallery today which was rather unplanned. The Seraphine Pick work was still there but they have an interesting show in the new space which I think has been created by boxing in the lovely 1970s central staircase. “Conrad in the Black Room” consists of clay icons and a short film by Christina Conrad (content may offend some viewers). Nice to see something a little different and challenging. The whole place continues to bemuse me though – further investigation required I think.

Female Christ

It must be difficult for small public galleries to survive and I get the impression they have to either position themselves for a specific subject or try to please everyone in their catchment. Although much bigger, some galleries that have gone for specialisation appear to be Hawkes Bay (design), The Dowse (decorative arts) and Govett-Brewster (contemporary). There are obvious reasons for that, but I think maybe its the way to go?

The hunt for a few works supposedly held around the country has got me intrigued by the concept of collections and collecting, so much so I am thinking of taking a uni paper on the topic (I need to take just one more paper and can’t decide what). I am a collector by nature (someoneiknow says hoarder) but I don’t follow proper collection rules, a basic issue being that I love imperfection so I guess I get an “F” for that. Also the notion of a collection evolving over time fascinates me, so I have to say I am really looking forward to that Collectors tour of ‘Reboot‘.

Oh, I think I wrote a while back that street art is possibly the most political – maybe because of its immediacy. Well check this out.

Anti-Olympic Graffiti On The Streets of Milan, ITALY. Artist – Satoboy

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Curiouser and curiouser

I feel like I have been “advertising” things a bit here recently (no kickbacks – honest) however, I was very pleased to have the DVD of “Lovely Rita: A Painters Life” arrive today (thanks to Viv!). Get this – just for the extras even !!! I especially enjoyed an expansion on ‘Bette’s Blouse’ and Dane Mitchell’s ‘reading’ of the Angus cottage. It must be the year of Rita Angus and I do wonder how this intensely private woman would make of it all – perhaps relief?

I noticed there are several new arts programs on TVNZ6 including New Artland hosted by Chris Knox. Unfortunately I don’t get this channel but programmes are available at TVNZondemand.

“For the series, 13 of New Zealand’s leading contemporary artists were invited to choose a region or community anywhere in New Zealand that they have a personal connection with, and create a new artwork with participants from that chosen community. New Artland documents the journey from the artist’s studio to the final unveiling, capturing both the artistic process and the impressions of the general public as they become involved with the work. The show is fresh, diverse, epic, wondrous and, most importantly, accessible to everyday New Zealanders.”– well lets hope so! I haven’t seen it yet because I have to do some fiddling with my firewall to get it to play, but the first episode featured Ronnie Van Hout.

The outcome of any serious research can only be to make two questions grow where only one grew before. Thorstein Veblen (1857 – 1929)

So in this spirit…

Do Galleries with collections “weed” them now and again – like libraries? I have been trying to track down various works and it would appear (although not yet confirmed) that they are not held where the used to be.

What do curators do? Yes I can use Google, but for example the wikipedia entry is not really answering my questions. I can grasp ‘guest curator’ to a degree, but does a curator for example take charge of logistics of mounting an exhibition (eg loans, budgets etc)?

Feel free to comments or use the contact page for an offline discussion if you can help.  Chocolate fish may be awarded for useful answers.

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Today I had the pleasure of visiting Cobalt, the studio gallery of artist Christopher White and his wife Thérèse Greenlees at Paraparaumu Beach. The gallery presents emerging and established contemporary artists from the Kapiti Coast region and beyond in group shows several times a year, but is quieter over winter, running weekend hours and currently has a selection of White’s works on show.

The galley takes up a floor of White’s art deco home on Manly street and has gallery space in two rooms, although the back room is only open for larger shows and in summer. The beach-facing space at the front has the most amazing light and the typical stark white gallery walls are warmed by native timber flooring and original ornate deco light fittings.

White was born in the United Kingdom and has lived in New Zealand since 1998. He graduated from the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in London with an honours degree in illustration and graphic design. He has worked as an illustrator for various magazines including the Sunday Times, the World Wide Fund for Nature, and Thames and Hudson and has recently returned to illustration with the his work on the children’s book Dad’s Takeaways. Since moving to New Zealand he has completed a masters degree in Fine Arts at Elam, Auckland University. Chris now teaches drawing, printmaking and painting at Whitireia Polytechnic in Wellington.

The works on display were a variety of media and styles. For me the most striking were Lazaret and Marine Passage both encaustic oil paintings on board from 2005. The latter in heavily textured white and cobalt blue was very reminiscent in tone of the Antarctic works I’d seen at the Dowse on Friday.

It was a great opportunity to sit and have a cuppa with Chris to discuss the galleries aims and ideas and life the universe and everything…:-) I was looking for something different from the rest of the galleries in the area and Chris and Thérèse seem to be providing it here by keeping things simple, not over commercialising and providing carefully selected high quality shows. Chris is passionate about art, community and participation while being cognisant of issues of innovation, retaining a high standard of work and fostering promising young artists and local talent.

One such artist is Dwaine Aiolupotea. Inspired by faasamoa (Samoan way of life) and Christian imagery, Aiolupoteas work explores the Spiritual elements of Christianity and his cultural identity as a New Zealand born Samoan. Most recently, much of his work aims to question sacred things or objects that relate to religious and cultural issues.

Sermons on the Wall (2006)

I look forward to seeing what Cobalt has to offer in future shows and nice to meet people so committed to the arts.


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I had a little spare time today so I stopped by The Dowse in the Hutt Valley to see ‘Sinfonia Antartica’. I haven’t been to the “New Dowse” (since the upgrade) and I am sorry to say I’m not overly impressed. Firstly I hate the pink and really what’s with the entrance way – that isn’t? You have to check out what Over the Net had to say about it starting with “someone once said that the sign of a great building was a lack of signs”  Well the Dowse is not only over-run with signs but I still had to ask someone where Sinfonia Antartcia was AND I had a floor plan as well. Maybe I have limited spacial abilities or was still trying to get my bearings relative to how the gallery USED to be. Oh and the Dowse is NOT the really the place for the gallerina attitude ok (or whatever the male version is).

The Old Dowse

The New Dowse (ok it IS more stylish)

Enough grumbling – after I found it, I was very impressed with the exhibition. “Sprinkled with snippets of poetry, hung with gargantuan prints of ice caps and filled with an atmospheric soundtrack, Sinfonia Antarctica, showcases this great white continent as seen through the eyes of painters Dick Frizzell, Nigel Brown and Grahame Sydney, ceramist Raewyn Atkinson, writers Bill Manhire and Chris Orsman, jeweller Kirsten Haydon, textile artist Clare Plug and photographers Anne Noble, Andris Apse and Joyce Campbell”

I have to say firstly that I am a bit of a Nigel Brown ‘fan’ so I enjoyed his paintings, special because he tried to actually paint ‘on the ice’ and has stories to tell about that! I was particularly impressed with a textile work by Clare Plug, a medium that you might not think lends itself to the subject but it was great. Apse’s photograhs were quite amazing and caught an unexpected granduer but Joyce Campbell’s long prints of the Barne Glacier were quite amazing. The photos of white ice on the white gallery really worked better than you’d think and they were so cleverly hung. “Her intention in full scale exhibition display is to induce a sense of human insignificance”.  It was not over-curated either but to the point when I asked for accompanying literature – there wasn’t any (‘well not that we can just hand out”). When I got home I had a good look on the web and found that this exhibition is part of the NZSO ‘Exploring Antartica’ programme and there are a whole lot of related events, artists talks etc and further information at that site, including the Artists to Antarctica scheme

At the Dowse they were selling the book I am reading “The Wide White Page” in association with the exhibition, but here’s a tip – I got mine for $5 at a remainder sale at Whitcoulls.

However the highlight of the trip was “Assume Nothing‘portrait photographs by Rebecca Swan, and award-winning documentary footage by Kirsty McDonald, reveals both the extraordinary, and often very ordinary worlds of New Zealand’s transgender community.‘ I was stunned by the photos – not because of the content (in fact I know more than one of the subjects personally) but because of the essence Swan has managed to capture on film.

Merge – Rebecca Swan

I wish I’d had more time to look about. Definitely worth going to see and there are a lot of events on related to both these exhibitions.

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I was at my favourite cafe today when I noticed that a painting I really liked that had been there for an age (and I was quietly thinking of saving up for) had gone. I didn’t think so much of the replacement. Anyway the painting I liked was called “Motu Motu” and by the artist Jon Stevenson
Jon in front of Motu Motu

The thing that is good about a regular cafe is that they almost have your long black waiting as you walk in the door – or a Romano in the weekends! Casa Java also serves fair trade coffee which totally blew my cutting down plan by drinking only fair trade. Now if only they had fair trade Ethiopian Yirgacheffe my life would be complete.

I’ve been reading some design books this week. Firstly “Crown Lynn: New Zealand Icon” by Valerie Ringer Monk. I just keep thinking that I grew up with this stuff and some of it is gross. My mother would be amazed that it is now so collectible. She got a set of ‘Autumn Splendour’ as wedding gift I believe or maybe a little later – anyway it was slowing disappearing when I came on the scene and replaced with Fleurette.


The other book is 40 Legends of New Zealand Design by Douglas Lloyd Jenkins and its a bit of a revelation. Again its very familiar territory but the significance of some of these people had been a bit lost on me. Another book to add to the “must buy one day” list. I might have to start another page here for that – or at least a link to an Amazon wishlist. Actually forget Amazon – I’m trying to buy books via Goodbooks if possible now but to be honest, I don’t buy very many books at all. Thankfully my library has accepted another list of recommendations from me recently (including the new Angus one).

Speaking of books I picked up two good 2nd hand ones today Below the Surface: words and images in protest at French testing on Moruroa  and Landfall 208. Both have inscriptions, which is something I love. I suppose unless its from the author they devalue a book, but don’t you ever wonder who “Ethel, Christmas 1947” was? Anyway the copy of Landfall had an inscription on the cover from Fiona Kidman which is funny considering the contents.

My recent obsession with Plischke houses (still haven’t located Eve Page’s) led someone to point out to me the latest “Home New Zealand” magazine which features two quite amazing mid century houses – worth a look!


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Grumpy old woman

Warning – I am not having a good day…or week really. It didn’t get off to a good start today when I made a total fool of myself commenting on a widely-read blog. I am not linking – it was stupid and I should know better. Got me thinking about information overload though and also how much of the ‘conversation’ I have is web based, in fact far too much. Also reminded me of the pitfalls of having several identities and OpenIDs on the web.  I also almost posted something here from my alternative blog/journal because a mix up, and the details of my battles with my oven, my latest pumpkin soup recipe aren’t exactly ‘arty’. Although maybe my obsession with collecting 1960s pyrex could sneak through under ‘design’ though. Someoneiknow thinks I am Nigella Lawson in reverse which I am taking as a compliment even though it probably wasn’t.

So the art in all of this?  Some days it seems so futile. There is a lot about the art world that rankles me, mainly the monetary aspects and I find myself questioning the millions that some works go for at auction when they are so ephemeral. I keep thinking how much better the money could be spent and the ethics/priorities of people with that kind of money. On that level art is superficial and the politics of globalisation, poverty and sustainability seem overwhelming. On the other hand I take a lot of comfort from looking at and living with art. And this seems an incredibly white, middle classed and minority-world thing – but I guess that’s what I am – almost middle-aged even!

There are few drops in the ocean like this which make everyone feel better don’t they. “Rock star and humanitarian activist Bono and British artist Damien Hirst raised $42.5 million for HIV/AIDS relief in Africa at an unprecedented art auction Thursday in New York. Hirst’s piece entitled “Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way,” which uses fake pills to represent life-saving drugs for people in Africa, sold for $7.15 million.”

Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way –
Damien Hirst

I did read this today in my internet wanderings which was a lighter moment.
I am often asked ‘what exactly is art?’ I usually reply, ‘Well, that’s a good question, but i’m afraid you’re too stupid to understand the answerTo the average person, art is something they see on the lid of a box of mixed biscuits. To them, shackled in the yawning deserts of ignorance, a picture of a steam train and a jumping dog is the pinnacle of artistic achievement. To those of us who do not buy our rugs from Ikea, however, art is much more, in the same way that Mozart’s concertos are much more than the tinny rasp of a tramp sucking on a rusty harmonica.”

Mt Egmont Biscuit Tin

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