Archive for May, 2010

Sense of self

I am re-reading “Portrait of the Artists Wife” by Barbara Anderson. My copy has this painting on the cover.

Frances Hodgkins Self portrait: still life circa 1935

I don’t really like this painting, but can’t say why. I much, much prefer Joanna Margaret Paul’s Self Portrait, Still Life series of dishes. Paul liked Hodgkins work very much although I hesitate to say ‘influenced’. Even though Hodgkins painting above would have been well-known to Paul, the obvious parallels between the paintings of the same title make me uncomfortable. Of course I didn’t know Paul, but the idea of her comparing her dishrack to Hodgkins scarves and whatnot, makes me squirm – especially if you consider this:

Works such as Frances Hodgkins’ Self Portrait Still Life c.1935 demonstrate that a self portrait may in fact bear no resemblance to its maker whatsoever, yet may still reveal much about the artist’s identity and psychological make-up. Hodgkins’ painting exemplifies a non-figurative approach to self-representation, operating as an inventive fusion of the genres of portraiture and still life. The artist depicts an assemblage of personal belongings in place of her physical presence, suggesting in her choice of objects – from a dainty pink shoe to some decorative scarves – a feminine and perhaps even narcissistic aspect of her nature.”

Maybe because I could also identify myself with a dishrack?

Then last week I bought a catalogue, Adrienne Martyn: Portraits. A Survey 1979-1987, which contained this photo.

Joanna Paul, 1981 Photographed by Adrienne Martyn

The catalogue essay by Helen Telford suggests “The portrait of Joanna (1981)…reflects on a similar theme of people confined by the role they have learned to play“.


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A Gift

Today I received a most unexpected yet perfect gift. My first Moleskines!

Moleskine Volant Mini (Extra Small) Plain Notebook (Set of 2) (2.5 x 4 inches). The Moleskine Volant Mini Plain (Set of 2) Notebooks, come packed in set of two notebooks consisting of two different shades of the same color, (except in black). Each Volant soft cover notebook has 56 acid free paper, thread-bound pages (28 leaves). The pages are micro-perforated so they can be detached, perfect for loose notes. Red set (1 Red and 1 Burgundy)”

History: For two centuries now Moleskine® (mol-a-skeen’-a) has been the legendary notebook of artists, writers, intellectuals and travelers. From gifted artists Henri Matisse (1869–1954) and Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), to poet and leader of the surrealist movement André Breton (1896-1966) to Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) considered the most influential writer of the last century, to famous travel writer Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989). These notebooks have proven they can withstand the trials of travel and abuses that ensues from normal use. This is the one true trusted travel journal.”

I feel I am in good company. The lovely woman who gave me these notebooks suggested they would be “gr8 for secret note taking @ exhibitions? :-)”

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I was looking at some of my online profile information recently and I always put down the book “I Heard the Owl Call My Name” by Margaret Craven as my favorite book. I could put down any number of books. Edmund White’s “The Farewell Symphony” perhaps or John Irving’s Hotel New Hampshire. Not very high-brow huh?

All these books are ones that had a huge impact on me at particular points in my life. Another is The Missionaries by Norman Lewis and most that I know of the history of Afghanistan and the surrounding area is from A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby.

I could go on – but back to the owl book. Read it. Actually read any of the above, but seriously, read Craven and tell me what you think…and don’t look up wikipedia because it gives away the ending. And a good book to read in tandem with it is Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen – which I am glad to have recently found a copy of for my shelves.

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I came across this great article about religious art and idolatry and it fitted in with my recently reading about Colin McCahon. Its worth the read. I liked this quote near the end:

“Art in itself cannot change society, but good art, whatever its form, helps us both individually and corporately to perceive reality in a new way, and by so doing, it opens up possibilities of transformation. In this way art has the potential to change both our personal and corporate consciousness and perception, challenging perceived reality and enabling us to remember what was best in the past even as it evokes fresh images that serve transformation in the present. This it does through its ability to evoke imagination and wonder, causing us to pause and reflect and thereby opening up the possibility of changing our perception and ultimately our lives.”
(John W. de Gruchy, ‘Holy Beauty: A Reformed Perspective on Aesthetics Within a World of Ugly Injustice’ in Reformed Theology for the Third Christian Millennium: The 2001 Sprunt Lectures, 14–5).

Colin McCahon From 15 Drawings for Charles Brasch 1951-1952

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I have been listening to the Cultural Icons series of podcasts on Jam Radio. I stumbled across them when I was doing research for the  Barry Brickell book when I found a wonderful interview of Brickell by Hamish Keith.

“Jam Radio of Depot Artspace received significant funding to assist in creating a series of interviews with iconic New Zealanders who have shaped the Auckland arts and culture scene over many years. The Cultural Icons project is being produced over a two-year period, with audio and film from the interviews made accessible online. It includes, amongst others, artists, writers, biographers, actors, arts critics and commentators and features people such as Ian Wedde, David Eggleton, Barry Brickell, Vincent O’Sullivan, Shonagh Koea, Dean Buchanan, Denys Trussell, Martin Edmond, Hamish Keith, Kevin Ireland, Martin Rumsby, the Daughters of ARD Fairburn, Graeme Lay, Rachel Power, Julian McCarthy, Louis Rawnsle and Archie Bowie.”

This is an amazing project and an invaluable resource. I can only hope that the idea takes off or is expanded to other regions.  Today I listened to Par.t II of an interview of Martin Edmond by Hamish Keith – great stuff and there are more on the way.

Just because I like the Bob Marley song and everyone needs more ukulele in their life

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A recent post from Peter Peryer along with my visit to the Wayne Barrar show at DPAG, has got me thinking again about the nature of photography as art.

In my own mind photography is art. Hanging about in a gallery stock room today with Laurence Aberhart and Ben Cauchi works just reiterated this to me. Peryer’s work is certainly art.

So why do I have more trouble in the equally as beautiful photos of Ans Westra and some of  Wayne Barrar‘s work? I see these as a possibly a cross into documentary and photo journalism. Marti Friedlander perhaps spans this? Perhaps there is no difference at all.

My reaction to art is often emotional. Photography as an art form is the perfect illustration of art being a way of seeing the world through another’s eyes.  Maybe my issue with more documentary type photos is that it is just what my eye might see, the more artistic photography is something I might never see for myself…I am not sure if that makes any sense. Also all the artists I have mentioned have a great range and there is no defining them really.

I was thinking about Anne Noble’s “In the Presence of Angels” series last week too. I like the blurring of definitions and realities there. Maybe this series appeals because in my loud and busy life, the apparent calm and simple quiet of the convent seems very desirable.

Anne Noble. The Walled Garden of the Enclosure. 1989. silver gelatin print

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In the teeth of a gale

As promised I visited the Regan Gentry teeth. It was a gorgeous day on Saturday (my camera didn’t cope too well with the sun) I’d dropped someoneiknow off at his rugby game in town and had the car loaded with the kids so off we went.

There are 2 sets of 3 teeth (molars) carved from blocks of Oamaru stone  and set into pinkish gravel. Not set in very far which could indicate severe gum problems.

The teeth are supposedly set at the head/mouth of the harbour although I’d say that is arguable (I am such a nit-picker).

Now I have to say I think the whole idea is dumb. Intellectually, I feel that I shouldn’t like these and yet I do. So do my kids.

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