Archive for May, 2008

Poetry Break

For ages I have been trying to track down a poem I remembered by Sam Hunt about Wellington. Initially I thought it would have been in “Big Weather: Poems of Wellington” but I think that book is a bit well mannered. So I have finally found it on my book shelf (!) in “Running Scared” (1982) which I’ve had for ever.

Wellington Farewell

A proper old bitch, this town. Like,
when I was young I used to hike
four hundred miles south to be with her.
Because they were hers, I liked the people here.

Like that for years, happy together.
Guests would moan over the weather
just as they would the wind rain and sleet,
our drunken friends, our steep dizzy streets.

We laughed when they left, like we had the shakes
TV news would report Wellington quakes
7.5 on the Richter Scale.
I called up heaven once, demanding bail

Then she one day turned sour on me. ‘Dont ever think
love lasts forever’ said my shrink
‘To survive’ he said, ‘you must learn to hate.
learn that, boy before it’s too late.’

Friends assure, her bite’s as bad as her bark.
I stalk her streets, Sundays take my son to the park.
A northerner is urging, come on home,
return to the north, leave the old bitch her bone.

And that’s where I am, resting half way between,
looking face-down over a stream
that moves under weed, like looking for cover.
What love must be like when it’s over.

Personally I think there is a lot of “a proper old bitch” about this town, but like a distant relative I will decline to name, I quite admire that.

And in the “interesting art” basket, Belgian artist Benjamin Verdonck brings his oversized nest to the Weena in Rotterdam.

Also I have FINALLY got around to watching the first episode of New Artland online, which was about Ronnie van Hout erecting a plaque outside his childhood home. It was terrific!

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Money changes everything

But does it?

I have been challenged recently about being an “art lover” while at the same time holding liberal/socialist views, art appreciation seen as some sort of elitist activity. I can understand this viewpoint particularly with the big news recently (not only in dollar terms) of Lucien Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995), selling at Christie’s for $33.6m. She will be taken home (I guess) by London-based Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich who I think also bought the Bacon triptych last week.

These dollar amounts ironically are symbolised by Freud’s painting of excess and interestingly, the subject of which, Sue Tilley is/was broke. All extremes,  but in context the money paid probably is like a Kiwi investment collector buying a Hotere or a McCahon. Still you have to wonder if the wealth involved in such hugely inflated figures could be better spent finding a vaccine for HIV/AIDS or something.

The thing is you don’t have to spend a great deal (if anything) to appreciate art – even to take it home you could at basement level buy museum prints and with a bit more maybe local limited edition multiples. ‘New Collectors’ sales have shown me that the art I love could be in my home one day and aren’t completely out of reach. Of course we have the wonder of public galleries and even with my grouch about public art, it at least gives us unlimited access. My current passion for street art is also free for the most part.

I guess I am trying to justify it. Its like trying to figure out people who donate to animal rescue but not to ‘people’ welfare. And at least most art isn’t about mass production of “stuff” or if it is, its a wry commentary on it. And even in marginalised places, art works to nurture and reflect culture.

An entry at Over the net connected the dots (no not the Hirst ones) for me when quoting James Wallace “To live without art is to miss out on a vital dimension of life” . And if I wanted something like the Freud in my home, I could always look in a mirror.


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I’ve had a lot of questions answered in the last few days. So far, a highly entertaining , informative and readable take on the contemporary art market in The $12 Million Stuffed Shark has given me a good background to the Damien Hirst Heart and Dagger  fuss here, while I felt a little silly in the realisation that my personal goddess Nigella Lawson married THAT Saatchi (but oddly has her own house to relax and to hideout in). It also makes sense of the ridiculous prices paid for some works – equating the highest prices to just a few days salary for some of the buyers out there. Still the amounts discussed seem a little obscene (more on that in another post).

Also the whole Wellington public art issue and the corporate art bonus scheme was fully explained in “Wellington: A City for Sculpture” definitely worth a read and also makes some more sense of the proliferation of art works on the city streets. However I believe someone in planning needs to have this repeated to them “The aim should be to ensure that sculpture does not become a gratuitous and irrelevant embellishment to urban sites“. The book also reminded me of a time when my office on the Terrace looked out through Philip Trusttum’s “Northern Lights”

Further to my last post on guerilla art, the Wellington Sculpture book also had a section by Christina Barton on less sanctioned public art, particularly “Interventions City Reclamation Project” and Barry Thomas’ “Vacant Lot of Cabbages” (a brilliant piece IMHO). But also the official, “The Concrete Deal” in the James Smith Carpark, which I remember well, beautiful in its transient format . 

CK Stead’s Kin of Place certainly cuts to the chase and has inspired more of my writing on truths and untruths and “the lies that bind”. I love how many photos of Mr Stead are marvelously grumpy looking, but I have a soft spot for his writing due to early discovery of his poetry – “Scoria” encapsulating my Auckland experience at that time. His novel “All Visitors Ashore” also introduced me to a whole new NZ literary world.

Finally, over at Bookman Beattie he talks of Peter Simpson’s lecture on Colin McCahon, The Titirangi Years. “At the end Linda Tyler proved as good a questionner as she was in intoducing the speaker by asking (among other things) why McCahon the commuter never painted Auckland city or any part of it, or (and I thought this the question of the week) why did he never paint Rangitoto?”

My thoughts on this is maybe Rangitoto was too obvious, or too symmetrical (which is what I find irrittating about it). However my own landscape is dominated by an island and in talking to a local artist recently they said it was very hard to resist.

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Guerilla Art

I have been thinking of writing a post about the gentrification of Street Art for the forthcoming Youthweek and Hoodie Day – their slogan “It’s what’s under the hood that counts” makes a lot of sense to me. I upset a few people by bemoaning the lack of street type art in a recent youth art exhibition and also in my area there seems to be very little tagging let alone an major work so I was mulling over the idea of bringing some “good examples” inside for an exhibition and/or providing a legal area for some ‘youth’ to develop their work. (Of course it won’t fly but I like thinking up these schemes). My problem with this idea was that simply the fact that old/white/middle-class/educated me wants to do/see this, mainstreams it.

Also, while doing some research in this area, I found an article that does a great job of commenting on gentrification and what is or isn’t wrong about ‘gallerising’ street art.

“It’s a cycle that has become all too familiar. Anything subversive, anything meant to disrupt the status quo and challenge traditional models of thought and behavior is eventually adopted into the mainstream it is swimming against. Once caught in the currents of convention, it becomes powerless. Just another commodity to be traded in the system…It’s not enough that it exists, it must be owned. Street art grew out of a resistance to this fact. It was a fuck you to the fastidious little gallery owner and his 50 percent cut. A rejection of the exploitative nature of the collector. It was democratic rebellion. Art for everyone. But then we started buying it. And now we, as a culture who demand ownership and insist that art be hung on gleaming white walls, are the ones being splashed.”

And yes – I have considered buying – on one hand Otis Frizzell’s Geishas (an ‘older’ established exhibiting artist) and also  Component who does amazing stencil work. I’ve written on this topic before and I still am divided over what it all means. However I know that there are some definable reasons I like graffiti. First its immediacy (for example Satoboy’s flame bearing Dalai Lama) and the surprise factor but also the fleeting nature of it – which ‘gallerising’ totally defeats.

Which brings me to guerilla art, the term brought to my attention by a friend today (hat tip Showyourworkings). I absolutely love the concepts involved in this. “Guerilla art is a fun and insidious way of sharing your vision with the world. It is a method of art making which entails leaving anonymous art pieces in public places…My current fascination with it stems from a belief in the importance of making art without attachment to the outcome.” which I think stands up very well to public art ‘by committee”. Also it brings us wonderful things like this….

by Dan Witz – worth checking out!


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In the interests of actually getting a post up today we are reduced to the contents of my book bag. Life is getting in the way of blogging right now but hopefully something more meaningful tomorrow.

So a great haul at the library today when two books I requested they buy came in for me at once plus some others I had on reserve.

Rita Angus: An Artists Life. Yay I don’t have to furtively read it bit by bit at the bookshop anymore. And I see the exhibition catalogue is due out.
the $12 million stuffed shark

Kin of Place by CK Stead – just so I can get background on some literary bun-fights
Wellington a City for Sculpture – maybe an explanation for the littering of the streets with 3D artwork

Also got the video “Peter Peryer. Portrait of a Photographer” which is interesting but something of an ‘elephant in the living room’ viewing experience for me – not sure why though.

In other news happily I have located a source of polaroid 600 film which may last a while since it is not being made any more. More interesting is an exhibition of Polaroids by Mapplethorpe. “The beloved instant photograph could not have hoped for a better sendoff than the Whitney’s exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe’s Polaroids. During his 20s, between 1970 and 1975, Mapplethorpe made more than 1,500 photographs with Polaroid cameras.”

Robert Mapplethorpe’s “Untitled (Patti Smith),” a 1973 Polaroid.

Speaking of Patti, I think her song “People have the Power” has special meaning today when we lost Poneke’s voice of sanity on the blogosphere.

That the people have the
power to redeem the works
of fools

Upon the meek the graces shower
it’s decreed
the people rule.

The people have the power

 I *think* I remember her reading this as a poem (on Jools Holland’s show?). very powerful – would love it if anyone could locate it on Youtube or something.

EDIT: Poneke is Back – and blogging about art :-)

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A series of coincidences led me to being emailed an fantastic photograph this week from artist Bruce Mahalski. This photo was a finalist in a competition that Te Papa had a few years back to promote a show of Magnum photographers. It looks great when blown up.

The Happy Couple– Bruce Mahalski

Apart from the sheep masks (made of fibreglass and cast off a real sheep) it reminds me a Marti Friedlander photo. Bruce – I want to see MORE!

So of course this sent me off on a tangent about NZ having been fairly much an agrarian society and how this has been reflected in our art. Photographically there is a lot about. Peter Peryer’s dead cattle beast, possum in traps (which personally I think would look GREAT on a calendar) among a wide range of rural subjects. Marti Friedlanders gothic sheep, and more from say Robin Morrison perhaps.

As for ‘other’ art, I remember somewhere some really creepy cow paintings but I am mortified that I can’t remember the artist as I am fairly certain it was a “name” (help me out anyone?) and there were the pastoral landscapes as per usual in of the Kelliher competition type. Doris Lusk’s Tobacco Fields, Toss Woollaston rural scenes.

I feel now that art is more urban oriented, because I guess, people are. I dont’ have much knowledge of contemporary art in the ‘now’ sense but you probably don’t see too many ‘installations’ involving drench and cattle yards. I would have thought a milking shed would be ‘fertile ground’ (haha) for artistic inspiration of the assemblage type. Braying donkey’s aside – can anyone point me to something in this line?

In Other News: The City Gallery is on YouTube

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I have been lacking inspiration in the last few days but while flicking through the Google reader today and vaguely trying to redo my blogroll, I came across this article from the New York Times. Nothing very remarkable really, you know “strange bag lady turns out to be great artist” but it made me think about the Chelsea Hotel “a rest stop for rare individuals“.

Works by Bettina Grossman

“Owing to its long list of famous guests and residents, the hotel has an ornate history, both as a birth place of creative modern art and home of bad behavior. Bob Dylan composed songs while staying at the Chelsea, and poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso chose it as a place for philosophical and intellectual exchange. It is also known as the place where the writer Dylan Thomas died of alcohol poisoning on in 1953, and where Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols may have stabbed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, to death on October 12, 1978.

Visitors and residents of the Chelsea Hotel include Eugene O’Neil, Thomas Wolfe, and Arthur C. Clarke (who wrote 2001: A Space Oddyssey while in residence). Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and the Grateful Dead passed through the hotels doors in the 1960s.  Virgil Thompson, Larry Rivers, William Burroughs, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Patti Smith, Arthur Miller, Dylan Thomas, and many, many others stayed here too.

Makes me wonder what it is about the place and brings me back again (!) to the artists residences question. I guess in a place like the Chelsea it is the reputation that attracts and so it builds over time. Still if I went to New York it would be fun to stay there and check out “the ghosts”. From what little know of New York I assume it can’t be too far from the Chelsea Gallery area (beware – there be gallerinas).

And lastly, I think it was horribly indiscrete of Leonard Cohen to ever mention who he remembered well.

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