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Archive for October, 2008

Creativity is me

I am no artist, or crafter and only really manage to sew in a straight line if I concentrate so today’s big challenge was homemade Halloween costumes for the kidlets. Luckily bat wings are easily made from a $2 shop umbrella (even if you have to paint out the tartan pattern on the nylon) and an old sheet = a happy 3-year-old ghost.

However this got me thinking how cool Halloween costumes might be made from some of our ‘darker artists’ – actually take your pick of any artist. Although this sprang to mind pretty instantly. Ronnie van Hout I hear you say? Well some things are just too disturbing for children.

I am not big on the whole Halloween event really though because its so American and at completely the wrong time of the year for us in the Southern Hemisphere. I mean really its Beltane here and dancing around a ‘may’ pole seems more seasonal. Also isn’t Guy Fawkes so much cooler?


The Magic Circle(1886) by John William Waterhouse

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Slugbuckethairybreathmonster

It occurred to me today, while a dealer was going through my vinyl collection that maybe my partner thinks I am silly to be so attached to it because he is of the CD age. For example when I bought my first CD (which I still own), he had not long started school. As it turns out I could not part with the few items the dealer would have liked except for the one he’d already bought and I was quite happy to let that one go because I’d never liked it.

I was saying to the guy that I like albums because they were big and tangible and although I’ve got used to CDs, I missed the artwork. My partner’s music these days is almost solely relegated to MP3s and so the art is completely lost (and you just can’t hold on to it).  I mean who wouldn’t miss such artistic gems as this (a chocolate fish if you can tell me the artist):

I guess one advantage of digital music is you can have an e-conversation about a song (eg Marianne Faithful’s version of Madame George) and immediately find it on the ‘net to share.

I have now instigated a policy that I will not get rid of any vinyl that is NOT available on CD, because its about the music and really I can live without the cover-art, especially when I don’t even own a turntable right now.

 This week has been a total voyage of discovery though – who knew that obscure Chris Knox LPs are worth more than 150+ year old funereal ceramics? And Knox himself did some pretty cool cover art – see “Song for Cleaning Guppies” and did he do the Tall Dwarfs EP with “Nothings going to happen” on it?

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Gothic NZ

My dear friend Helen came around today to help me separate emotion from inanimate objects. It was very ‘cleansing’ and we managed to get rid of heaps of stuff*. However at one point, looking out my front window onto the 1970s beige neighbourhood, she said something like “you really are deep in suburbia here…”

I have just re-read Janet Frames “The Carpathians” and have decided it captures suburban gothic very well. This is also funny because of Helen’s recent birthday trip to Levin where the book is unmistakeably set. Frame’s snapshot of Kowhai Street is so real that the unusual events don’t seem so unusual, and knowing Levin well myself, quite believable.

So it was serendipitous that the book Gothic NZ arrived from the library today. A great essay by Mischa Kavka “Out of the Kitchen Sink”  completely encapsulated the feeling of darkness hidden behind closed doors. The book as a whole is pretty good but certain parts really capture the curious suburban gothic that I keep running into and also how gothic tendrils extend out into the countryside. There were also various examples of NZ art with a similar tone including Yvonne Todd’s photos, working “a fine tension between the conventional and the creepy“. Maybe I am reading it wrong, but I’d put a great deal of Ronnie van Hout’s work in this category as well.

Of course our film-makers do a good line in gothic too. A funny moment this morning was when going through my old my tramping gear, Helen and I both exclaimed “Vigil!” as I pulled out a large green woolen balaclava.


Still from Vincent Ward’s film “Vigil

*However it has left me very tired and probably not making a lot of sense

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More from the randomiser

I have very little to say about art right now. However when clearing out old baby clothes I found 2 items that resembled Hirst dot paintings. You’d think clothing would lend its self more to random polka dots rather than rows al la Hirst – but there you go. I would have taken a photo but they are so faded that only the pink dots really stand out now.


Banksy takes on Hirst

I am feeling a bit over-whelmed at all the stuff I need to get rid of and I made the observation to a friend that I seem to imbue inanimate objects with emotional qualities. He wryly suggested that, that is what art is about. Ok – I concede that point, but you have draw the line somewhere at what particular objects you become emotionally attached to.

How can you resist a book that begins with this quote from Katherine Mansfield? “Dear Princess Bibesco, I am afraid you must stop writing these little love letters to my husband while he and I live together. It is one of the things that is not done in our world“. Having once had cause to make a similar comment about text messages, I think I know where she was coming from on that one. The book is of course “Uncommon Arrangements” and very good reading.

Finally I’ve been discussing via the comments the issue of blogger psuedonyms with John Hurrell. Having this kind of debate via comments is always tricky and I never seem to be able to convey my meaning very well. I am just hoping some more bloggers become involved. Good to see the comments from others already there.

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About Art

There has been a bit in the news and blogosphere about art writing recently. The DomPost has dropped its visual arts column and writer Mark Amery and he was on the Kim Hill Pogramme this morning talking about it (audio available for 6 weeks-ish at the link). I know it’s all because of decreasing advertising revenue, but for the “cultural capital’ to have no visual arts column in its daily newspaper seems, well just odd.

John  Hurrell is also talking about art blogging this weekend in Auckland, although he is really just uses the blogging platform for his reviews – nice that he has retained the comment feature for interaction though. Interestingly both Hurrell and Amery mention the importance of debate and discussion around art and the role of art writing in that.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about this blog recently as I have felt that perhaps I should consider being more serious and perhaps reverent towards art. But then I remind myself that this is my very personal take on it and I make efforts to declare that position. I mean no-one has to read it. In some funny discussions yesterday when I was talking about my aspirations of being more Nigella Lawson-like (cooking, literature and looks being such a great combination), someone suggested I was the Domestic Goddess of NZ art, which was very flattering – me being a kitchen sink philosopher and all. Of course it is rather over the top and thankfully I have no aspiration to marry into the art world like Nigella did.


Jim Cauty takes on Nigella

Finally my local library has come through again with the Rita Angus Life and Vision catalogue. Its stunning. I like how many of the reproductions are full page and essays I’ve read so far have been very good. It made me wonder if the name ‘Rutu’ has anything to do with the Maori land at Waikanae? Also Uncommon Arrangements by Sophie Roiphe arrived. I must remember to bake muffins for the good librarians at Paraparaumu before I leave (in a Nigella-like gesture), and lets hope Mosgiel library is as accommodating.

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Round up

I finished my academic work for the year today and it appears my brain is ready to go on holiday so just a round up of some interesting things I’ve found.

Nothing to do at Labour weekend – what about a book reading at KFC in Hawera as part of the One Day Sculpture series? Came a Hot Sundae: A Ronald Hugh Morrieson Festival, Sunday 26 October 2008, 9am-late, Hawera, South Taranaki. I ‘d be there if I was in the vacinity.

Further on the subject of books, I am reading (well looking at) a great book right now. The Desire of the Line: Ralph Hotere Figurative Works. Its lovely. I have also been thinking there should be a Volume II of “Between the Lives” and this book by Jacky Bowring looks particularly good.


Woman(1970) Ralph Hotere

I also enjoyed this speech by Chris Price from the Going West Books and Writers Festival. I have decided I really must make more of an effort to get to festivals and exhibitions when I move South. I perhaps haven’t made enough of local opportunities here.

On that note the Real Art Road Show has a new selection of works, now on show at the Mahara Gallery and I really must go back to Colbalt before I leave.

And finally I may be eating my words when I have been a bit sneering about the plethora of Kapiti Island images around here. This may just be the subject of a artwork I will next be purchasing, although Sheldon Swears had some great photos of the Paekakariki Railway buildings.

And don’t worry – I’ll get ‘back on topic’ and stop obsessing about moving soon, when I actually get super busy with the logistics probably.

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One of the things I was looking into when I started writing this blog was artists houses and the little artistic cluster at Waikanae which is virtually on my doorstep. Walters, Schoon, Hodgkins, Angus, Page, Clairmont and now I discover Richmond all made significant work there.

Any way a while back I write that I’d located the Angus home and had taken this photo. I must now admit to a “mollie moment”. From Martin Edmond’s Luca Antara blogI got as far as page 8 before the first shock of embarrassment and shame. It was this passagealmost every ‘fact’ in the last two of those four sentences is wrong.”  Since writing the book he refers to, the full story of Mollie, the elephant that died at Ohakune had come to light. 

Yesterday I spent some time with the local council historian, Ron Prockter* who furnished me with lots of information regarding the Angus home. The great news is, that although subdivided, the gardens are largely intact and it appears the home may be too , although greatly altered. The embarrassing news was the address I had previously was completely wrong and so the photo referred to above, although vaguely interesting, has no artistic association at all. 


Rita Angus (c1942) by Theo Schoon (photo from Art New Zealand Issue 107)

Angus had the use of a beach house at Waikanae owned by her father who moved there in 1943. Schoon appears to have visited her there at least once with Gordon Walters who was his protege.” Michael Dunn – Art NZ Issue 107

Why am I so interested in this anyway? Well I like Angus’s garden paintings, as to me they have a different ‘feel’ about them. And although the Angus cottage is saved for posterity in Thorndon, I was intrigued by this little local mystery. Mr Prockter also told me that this land has a long and interesting history being a large part of the ‘Rau o te Rangi’ block named after a maori woman Te Rauoterangi, the daughter of a Ngati Toa chief. Te Rauoterangi also was known as Kahe, the name she used to sign the Treaty of Waitangi.

Now that we are definitely off South in a few months, its nice to have this story complete and I am continuing my hunt for the Page home (designed by Plischke).

*Over the Net and their “On the Road” series may be interested to know that Mr Prockter is in charge of street name approval here and there is a Hodgkins Road and Goldie Place at Waikanae.

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