Posts Tagged ‘Angus’

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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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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Shock and awe

I am a little in shock tonight as it appears about 97% certain that I will soon be exchanging this:

Sun Goddess (1949) Rita Angus

for this:

This is me at Kaitangata
(1979) Robin White

Virtual chocolate fish all round if you can work that one out.

And just as well my hair isn’t grey yet or I would be a ringer for Robin White circa 1979

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Firstly, I have to report back on the subject of “Crowd Pleasers” posted on Over the Net a while back. They write: “In New Zealand it’s hard to think of any major crowd pleasers…You’d think Rita Angus’s Cass would be a contender, but it has always been crowd-free when we’ve been around.” Well not today! A cloudy Wellington Sunday afternoon and the final day of the Rita Angus retrospective at Te Papa – you could hardly move in the place. At first I thought only one person was stationed in front of “Cass”, but then from behind me I heard “there it is” and a gaggle of middle aged women charged towards it.

Cass – from Ministry for Culture and Heritage social club cake decorating competition

I did a VERY quick run through because the crowd inside Rita’s imagination was a bit much for me today. Oddly the ‘seasick green’ room was quite soothing because there were very few people in there, so I had a sit down and flick through the catalogue. I hope my library copy arrives soon, because I want to have a good read of the essays which looked rather interesting. As an aside, my library came through with Sam Hunt’s new book “Doubtless” last week and it’s great – as good and better than “Talking  of the Weather” plus older works. I have added this book to my ‘have to own’ list.

Upstairs there were some different things on show in Toi Te Papa, and I agree with Best of 3 that “there is a frigging spectacular Driver in the hang – the appropriately named Big Relief (1980).”  that is a railway tarp – isn’t it? Several other things took my eye though including Don Peebles Wellington series (No. 16/60) . A little sad that the McCahon/Shadbolt kitchen bench was gone, but hey I can always look at it online. Oddly the Fomison looked like it was about to fall apart and I kept finding Mark Adams photos throughout the museum!

Te Papa always strikes me as noisy for a museum but my kids love it and they were entertained for hours today. We also had fun lying in the centre of the Hotere/Culbert “Void” which was about as close as they got to the art – “oh not the gallery mum…” Although Inspiration Station, their favourite place, has a new artwork (replacing the Frizzell chicken), the vaguely disturbing Send off by Tony de Lautour.

Having just re-read Rachel King’s “The Sound of Butterflies” it would have been nice to see more Lepidoptera, but maybe another day…

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Wrestling with icons

A while back I posted a bit of a rant about art writing in New Zealand as opposed to critique and stated “Well I am sick of hearing ‘about the artist’ and want to hear about the work“. Unfortunately my comments may have burnt a bridge or two to the author of that article. Because it was well written – just not what I wanted to read. I also have to say that the Listener art reviews have improved a great deal although its still a little patchy.

The point to this being that I have of course been guilty of writing about the artist rather than the work myself, although I try not to. The problem occurs when you are talking about icons. As this seems to be the year of Rita Angus, that is a good place to start. Again on reflection one of the worrisome things has been the intense focus on Rita the woman. The argument is that you can’t separate the art and the person but I think the emphasis on the personal influencing the art, can go too far.

I have recently been contemplating a trip up the Whanaganui River to Hiruharama and on to Raetihi as for a long time I’ve felt draw to the place of Baxter’s commune and the catholic mission there. Baxter is another tricky icon and I read this great piece today by Andrew Johnston. He writes…

“I suspect it’s going to be a few more generations before we’ve done with the contradictions that make up James K. Baxter, before we have any kind of settled picture of his legacy. If we’re talking legacy, though, why get hung up on his life? Why not stick to the poems? It’s a fit enough question with most writers, but Baxter’s work demands that we read it against his life. As he said himself, his poems are his autobiography”

Maybe Angus demands this too? More along these lines the wonderful essay “Jim Afloat” by Gregory O’Brien which begins with:

Almost October and the sky is jammed
with radio stations and biographies of Baxter . . .’

(G. O’Brien, ‘Along the verge’, NZ Listener, Dec. 1983)

The Holy Life and Death of Concrete Grady  –by JK Baxter (1976)
cover design by Colin McCahon

And so back to McCahon – an icon that I wrestle with a lot. The many layered meanings of I AM, my favourites being the misquote “I AM the light” because it seems to answer the words taken from Casselberg

Oh God it’s Dark. The heart beats and
from the fields there comes no answering
hark of hearer and no one to speak.”

But connections and parallels everywhere including this from Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines (a favourite book of mine)

‘I have a vision of the Songlines stretching across the continents and ages; that wherever men have trodden they have left a trail of song; and that these trails must reach back, in time and space, to an isolated pocket in the African savannah, where the First man shouted the opening stanza of the World Song, “I AM”‘.

Tingari” – Ronnie Tjampitjinpa (Songline painting)

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Windmills of your mind

I had a bit of a snipe recently about the layout of the Rita Angus exhibition. What I didn’t mention was the reasoning for that layout. Again I refer to Bronwyn lloyd.

Rita Angus’s own description of the ideal way to present her art has determined the structure of the ‘Rita Angus Life & Vision’ exhibition, beautifully curated by Jill Trevelyan and William McAloon. Angus’s friend John Money recalled that she imagined her work displayed as a ‘kind of temple of art’ with her three Goddess paintings at the centre surrounded by a series of small chapels containing smaller paintings and watercolours related one to the other.”

On reflection and when I put aside my personal aversion to mazes (a true but long story) I am reminded of the film Being John Malkovich where apuppeteer discovers a door in his office which turns out to be a portal that allows him to enter the mind and life of John Malkovich. So maybe my discomfort with the exhibition design was that we were being led into Rita Angus’s imagination? I have enough trouble with my own mind without going on trip into anyone else’s.

This week the main art in my life has been dance with my 5-year-old in her first ballet show. It all seems a bit intenseto me, and I encountered for the first time the monster they call “stage-mother” (no – not me). I was wondering if there is a visual art equivalent and then recalled some stories about Thelma Clairmont, so I guess the answer to that is “yes”.

Picasso Curtain for the Diaghilev Ballet Le Train Bleu*

Following on from my post on McCahon’s Victory Over Death, it was pointed out I made little mention of style, technique etc. Although I am even less qualified to discuss that, I may look at it in a future post. One thing I did think of was that if it was painted in house paint, then wiping the vegemite off wouldn’t be too big a problem.

*Ballerinas actually appear to be much smaller in real life – don’t get me started on impossible body images and dance though

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I haz a sad

So sad in fact I have resorted to LOLspeak because the cats always cheer me up. However if cats aren’t your thing try LOL News and Politics – the Putin one had me laughing off and on for hours.

But sad because I didn’t get to the Rita Angus symposium and by all accounts so far (e.g. Best-of-3 and Jack Ross) it was rather wonderful. Great that Jack posted the full text of Bronwyn Lloyd’s presentation “The Dream Children”. Thanks – but still *sigh*

Oh well – on the plus side Deborah from “In a Strange Land” has passed the Brilliante Blog award on to me. An honour and thanks for the kind words. Its a meme sort of thing so I’ll be passing it forward in another post soon. Loving the retro/80s logo too.

Other things that have caught my eye lately:

This quote from Time’s Richard Lacayo on why he’s not covering the Damien Hirst auction: “I do what I can to talk about art but I don’t know what to say about shopping.”

This cool paste work – Huia (check out the original post for the name badge):

and the funniest art merchandise I’ve seen so far:

Men’s boxer shorts featuring the salsiccia belonging to none other than Michelangelo’s David (photo from C-Monster.net)

 Finally – for Merc – someone in a bear suit

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