I made a comment recently about the New Zealand light theory and in my reading I came across the most wonderful quotes that I don’t think it would hurt to trot out again.
“There is no twilight in our New Zealand days, but a curious half-hour when everything appears grotesque—it frightens—as though the savage spirit of the country walked abroad and sneered at what it saw” – Katherine Mansfield “The Woman at the Store”
I find this a little odd because when I grew up in the far south, the long, long twilights were a feature of our childhood. It was a strange light though. However, my childhood and the South is full of strange lights. I used to love seeing the Aurora Australis for example.
Aurora Australis from Invercargill (September 2002)
In 1934 the poet and art critic A. R. D. Fairburn compared New Zealand and British art: ‘There is no golden mist in our air, no Merlin in our woods, no soft, warm colours … Hard, clear light reveals the bones, the sheer form, of hills, trees, stones and scrub. We must draw rather than paint, even if we are using a brush, or we shall not be perfectly truthful.’
Again quite odd, as only yesterday two different people showed me photographs of mist in the New Zealand bush. More silver than golden though I suppose.
Anyway, there is an excellent summary of the discussion around light and the arts in New Zealand here, including the wonderful debunking of the whole theory by Francis Pound here. I just love this: “He argued that hard-edged painting was actually more affected by stylistic convention than by meteorological realities” [my emphasis].