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Archive for October, 2009

Under the Influence

I have one more entry to write about my Christchurch trip, but I made another trip over Labour weekend that got me thinking again about influence, homage, reference and rip-offs in art.

I travelled not so very far away to Middlemarch to see some trains and to take a trip on a vintage Vulcan Rail car on part of the Taieri Gorge Line. Here is the AB663 (train geeks will understand)

AB663
Photo P Dawson 2009

Anyway, this area is the edge of Central Otago and it often felt like I was seeing things through the eyes of artists or as versions of artworks I’ve seen.

Example one: (seeing Laurence Aberhart at Middlemarch)BWRabbit
Photo P. Dawson 2009

Example two: (seeing Grahame Sydney at Sutton)Sutton
Photo P. Dawson 2009

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So to the art….after kimchi at the Arts Centre Market (I also travel for Korean food) I went direct to the hallowed halls of  The Christchurch Art Gallery.

The problem with going to  exhibitons nearing the end of their run is that you may have read all the reviews and been unduly influenced. I tried to put any prior knowledge aside as I toured the galleries though. After the fact it was very useful to read the gallery’s bulletins B.157 & B.158 though.

It was the closing weekend of the Ronnie van Hout show “Who goes there’. I am not a HUGE van Hout fan but I enjoy some of his work. I did like the focus of this show which I am not sure is just indicative of his latest output or selected that way. There seems to be a sharpened focus on ‘self’, although it’s always been a prominent theme. Standout for me was ‘The Thing’ from the artist’s Antarctic experience which was more disturbing than it should have been. Also the video works in the foyer of the artist knocking on his own door (no answer) was affecting. Even with the humourous subjects there was a subtle menace to it all. To me, the sound from ‘Bedsit’ underlined this atmosphere. I am glad I didn’t miss the peep show either.

Next was Seraphine Pick. I was really interested in seeing this retrospective, after the tiny Pick show I saw at the Mahara Gallery in 2008. I hate to say it, but this exhibition didn’t enthrall me. It was ‘more of the same’ and seemed quite rambling. However, I was taken by her more recent works and the “Zombies round the Campfire’ painting (sorry can’t recall the name) made a lasting impression.

The last of the three major exhibitions on was et al’s Thats Obvious! That’s Right! That’s True! Entering this exhibition was my meaningful art moment of 2009. I was really looking forward to this as I had not seen an et al installation before and I was not disappointed. ‘People in the know’ have told me this work is great but not the greatest of et al. I was completely floored by it though. I guess my impression was of an Orwellian New Zealand of an 1984 nature.  I was confused, informed, disoriented, assaulted with audio/visual material, lectured…. Although many other visitors seemed to walk in to the gallery space and straight back out, I was mesmerised by it all and it felt to me like the ultimate answer to the rather spurious “but is it art?” question (YES!, YES!, YES!).

At this point I was a bit of a stunned mullet and floated through the smaller exhibitions on the upper floors. Points to be noted here:

  • The White on White show was a great idea and I thought a clever selection. Fun to see such diversity on a theme
  • Cloud 9 was interesting and nice to see some emerging artists. I particularly wanted to see how Mike Cooke’s work held up in the gallery environment, having recently seen these two paintings in his studio. It worked very very well in my opinion.

I came back to the gallery the following day and managed to take in the tiny Gembox gallery then as well. Lovely plumage McCahon in there – and good to see a Lowry for the first time.

My second visit cemented my thoughts on the ‘Big Three’ Suite of exhibitions (van Hout, Pick, et al) . My main thought was how these artists all projected a (their?) view of the world and how diverse and distorted that was. I have talked before about photography being like looking directly through another pair of eyes, but I felt that through these shows I was seeing the mind games as well. Pick’s zombies, the multiple versions of van Hout and the et al sensory assault all seemed part of the same dream/nightmare place that most of us inhabit.

*Images from all these exhibitions can be found on the Christchurch Art Gallery website via the links included.

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Finally I get around to blogging this! Its been, as they say, a week of it!

First I should thank my sponsors. Flying around the place to look at art is not something I do routinely. In fact I realised the last time I was away from home over night without my kids was 3 year ago and that was work related. I had been saving up Flybuys points so I could get to Christchurch to see their big three winter exhibitions and ended up with only enough for a one way flight. I had considered an overnight bus option for return but I was incredibly lucky to win my return airfare via the AirpointsFairy on Twitter. Then I decided that I would splash out on my overnight trip and stay at a hotel rather than someones couch. The plan was quiet, non-kid interrupted sleep, writing and reading time. An e-friend had recommended HotelSo and I got a great deal on a  room there.

I have to say this is a VERY cool little Hotel. It’s very central and was also a bit of colour in what I found to be a very grey Christchurch. The rooms are small (not quite a pod concept) but have more than everything you need. I was particularly interested in the design aspects – all created in house for this hotel. The bathroom modules are a great execution of the idea of form and function (I want one!). I was a bit worried that I might be too old and boring for this reportedly ‘funky’ hotel but not at all. The kind of place that had a young farmers event and a punk band staying at the same time – and you’d never know.  Hotel SO is excellent value – I’d stay again in an instant. Oh and a shout out to the lovely service manager Chris who was a great help!

Hotelso
The pretty colours of my hotel – note the contrast with the GREY

Christchurch itself was a bit of a shock. I haven’t spent much time there for maybe 10 years but I’d forgotten the conformity, the grey, the little walls and everything in the central city so contained. Even the public art blended in. Thank heavens for the tiny bit of colour on Neil Dawson’s Chalice sculpture in the square. Regan Gentry’s Flour Power also seemed to flat and conservative and yet again – GREY.  Nucleus by Phil Price which was near my hotel, was at least a bit brighter but what is it with all the pointy sculpture? I can only think it is in response to the taller buildings and lack of horizon? The current Kiosk was a disappointment

Anyway – very quickly I headed down to the ‘Cultural Precinct’ and Christchurch Art Gallery. I love this area of Christchurch (fond memories and all that). The Arts Centre is a favourite place and of course I had to check in with a former Clairmont residence near-by in Hereford street. I will talk about the shows in my next post but one exhibition made the entire trip worthwhile!

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Travel blog

Have just spent the weekend in Christchurch looking at art and meeting some lovely people. Full (and I mean full) reports to come, but I have just realised I have an assignment due today. This being the last bit of written work I need to do to complete a diploma, it has to take priority for now.

I’ll leave you with this:

CAG
I like to think they are rats but probably not – I suppose they’ll go clean it off now :-(

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I noticed

I noticed I have been feeling very sorry for myself lately. As ever, other people’s take on my situation have kicked me up the backside:

Exhibit A – My friend Helen L’s latest blog post ‘just’ with the incredible poem Things on Thursdays by Selina Tusitala Marsh

Exhibit B – The poem I write in the Laundromat by Marcy Sheiner

Which sums it up really.

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For a few weeks I’ve been wanting to write about a chapbook I received from Seraph Press – Watching for Smoke by my dear friend Helen Heath. I wasn’t sure about writing this because I have a strong bias here. Helen basically kept me together last year, especially when I was preparing for the big move South!

However this is a stunning little book. Helen’s poetry cuts to the bone and I can frequently see myself  reflected back to me in these poems. It’s undeniably domestic work, mothers and family are central themes but never trite. It’s true and telling and honest. I am certain any woman can find herself in there somewhere.

The book itself is a small work of art. The books have a wrap-around cover, which fastens with a knitting needle or crochet hook (mostly needles) and have a cut-out through which the title shows. The cover is grey card, and it’s all bound together with red hemp thread. Publisher Helen Rickerby has put in a huge amount of work on this. It’s a beautiful result.

Watching-for-smoke
Cover image from Helen Rickerby’s website

The chapbook will be launched by Dinah Hawken on Sunday 18th October at 3.30 pm in St Peter’s Hall, Beach Road, Paekakariki. There will be bubbly, there will be scones, there will most likely be tea and coffee, there will be music. I wish I could be there. A momentous occasion for the Helens. Long distance hugs!!

And I’ve been wanting to post this for an age from Fairy in Rimbaud’s Illuminations. (for my 3 Helens – the 3rd being writer, Helen Lehndorf).

For Helen’s childhood thickets and shadows trembled, the breasts of the poor, and heavenly legends.
        And her eyes and her dance superior even to the precious gleams, the cold influences, and the pleasure of the unique scenery and hour.”

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My world

Well battling on through the school holidays has taken a bit of energy. I have been confronted with all sorts of dilemmas, including how to get caramel off a guinea pig (basically you can’t) but some interesting things have come my way.

Firstly I have managed to organise a trip to Christchurch for the closing weekend of the Ronnie van Hout exhibition at the Christchurch Art Gallery and I’ll be able to see their other shows too. This is very exciting and I have to thank FlyBuys, The Airpoints Fairy and Hotel So for making it possible – as well as my partner for taking care of the kids of course. I can’t wait to get there!

Also we are looking at moving to a bigger house – much much bigger and with LAND. While its still all at the “I am dreaming” stage, the way the house and land is positioned strongly reminds me of this – even the mown bit:

andrew-wyeth-christinas-world
Christina’s World(1948) Andrew Wyeth. Collection of MOMA

I have also been thinking about quiet artists. An Aunt of mine who died very recently was an artists but would never call herself that. She had an amazing sense of style and colour, and an incredible eye. She was passionate and had a multitude of enthusiasms which carried you along with her. In the 1970s she became a skilled weaver, often dyeing and spinning wools herself. I remember helping to collect specific lichens and leaves for her dyes. Not very many years ago she quietly told me that the Dowse* had once bought some of her textile work. She moved on from weaving and turned to photography and took stunning pictures. I think she was part of a camera club and exhibited a few pictures there but for the most part, her art simply stayed at home on her walls. I guess she was a ‘hobby artist’ but her output belied that. An author told me a while back, that there are many excellent writers who would never dare publish and I wonder about these quiet artists as well. Not the art society watercolourists, but people just producing quite wonderful art for themselves.

* I really should check if they still have it.

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