Posts Tagged ‘Billy Apple’


In the world of contemporary art there seems to be a trend of ‘outsourcing’. For example, if Michael Parekowhai had actually made his 10 Guitars himself, then the work would have taken an age to create, so he outsourced much of the work and then just did the assemblage. Which is the same as Billy Apple and his sign-writer.  A good explanation I found was likening it to an architect designing a house but employing a builder to construct it – which makes perfect sense. To some this is anathema, as the artist is also supposed to also be the craftsman. It takes fine art into a design arena, where the artist as the conceptual designer (writer/director) who may not be directly involved in the execution (the actor).

Patriot: Ten Guitars
 (1999) Michael Parekowhai

But its not that much different to the studios of the great masters where perhaps you could never be sure by whose hand a painting in its entirety was done. In that case sometimes the ‘master’ was just an overseer or quality control. For example works completed in the main by Rembrandt are actually quite rare.

The applied arts (and crafts) we assume are different where the artist IS the craftsperson, but maybe not. I stumbled upon a new concept (to me) this week of Ponoko the cutting edge of the post-industrial revolution that is changing the way products are created, traded and distributed…bringing personal manufacturing of individualized products to the masses.

What intrigues me is their use of the term “mass individualisation“. OK so a designer probably isn’t too worried about making their product and just producing it en-masse and this is a space to try things out before demand is going to require outsourcing to China or somewhere for economic reasons. The advantage here is for people like me who think “I love that lamp but I’d like it 2 inches shorter and in mauve, with maybe a atomic motif” and you can just alter the design to fit your requirements.

For conceptual artists it could be used to make elements of an artwork to be customised and individualised later, or even limited edition works to be hand numbered.  If the materials and techniques available were expanded I think Ponoko could get wider use in an artistic sense. But for the applied artist or craftsperson is it valid to be outsourcing, even just elements? And if it isn’t valid then what about craft made from ‘found ‘ or recycled objects. Then the craft is accepted as being how these items are used.


I am putting a bob each way. I like an artwork that has had life breathed into it by the artist, a hunk of canvas smeared with paint with a finger print or two, a sculpture that’s been bled over. BUT from a design point of view getting someone else to do the ‘tricky bits’ can make sense too. I don’t love Apple’s work any less knowing he didn’t do the painting himself, but I perceive it on a different level.

Personally, I am just waiting for someone like Ponoko to allow me to design and build my own giant inflatable animal art.

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I had almost given up all thought of actually owning any of the art I like in the future. Even when confining it to New Zealand art and within that, limited editions of block prints/screen prints/lino-cuts/lithographs/etchings, it seemed unachievable. However yesterday I received the Art+Object Catalogue for their upcoming “New Collectors Art” auction. There is quite a lot in it that I would be VERY happy to own and as everything is pretty much expected to be under the $5000-$10,000 mark, it gives me hope. Not this time though unless I sell one of my children (I’m joking – ok!).

There was a nice Richard McWhannell, several Gordon Walters screen-prints including Arahura, a Billy Apple ‘Paid’, an Ian Scott ‘Lattice‘. But to me (of course) I would jump at the Philip Clairmont “Vietnam: Past and Future?” (1972) .


(the Billy Apple in the sale has a ‘workshop’ invoice)

Its funny how in catalogues and galleries you often see pieces appear and disappear as if they were never there. I have been keeping a little database of Clairmonts that come and go like this and comparing it the the list in the back of ‘The Resurrection’ book. Its very interesting to watch their travels. I suppose the sales sites could give the same picture but my database predilection is a hangover from my IT geek days.

Other things that have made my vaguely embarrassing desire to OWN art seem possible and not quite so indulgent, are some articles I’ve read recently:

2001 article about Jim Barr and Mary Barr. “one of the Barr’s most expensive early purchases was a work by Philip Clairmont for $180, which they paid off over six months.” The lesson – buy emerging art.

And in Art New Zealand about Jim and Milly Paris “the Parises have chosen to sacrifice many of the luxuries that would normally come their way.” The lesson – prioritise.

I just love this photo. I sort of wish it was my living room:


However being the little socialist I am, my money really would be better off going to Dafur or something. I’ll probably just stick to paying the bills.

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Firstly, I have fixed all the broken links on former posts (I hope). A little editing trouble with my new blog.

Well the holidays have brought some amazing TV viewing amongst the usual dross. “Lovely Rita“, the final episode of “The Big Picture” and “Being Billy Apple” were a few and so good to see (yay for The Charter).

Lovely Ritawas a fantastic Gaylene Preston doco about Rita Angus. Preston does great documentary work and there were some wonderful moments. I love the bit where they discussed the portrait of Betty Curnow angus037.jpg and being all theoretical about the ovular nature of the work and how it was a pregnancy portrait and then Preston just blew the interviewee away by saying it was Angus who was pregnant not Curnow. I wish I could remember the name of the interviewee/artist who had recreated the fabric of Curnow’s shirt (I want some!). EDIT – It was Anna Miles – See Wyston Curnows comments. Gosh and another major artist who lived in Waikanae (for a short time)

Being Billy Applewas also intriguing. I have seen a few Apple’s (I like NFS and Sold) but I didn’t realise he doesn’t actually paint them himself. See you can tell I have no education in this area. His work is so clever. It was interesting to see his personal evolution as an artist and artwork. You have to love the scrubbed floor installation and I finally clearly understand the meaning of ‘conceptual artist’.

I guess I was a little disappointed in Hamish Keith’s final episode of The Big Picture. Maybe because I’d read the book or seen a critique of his braided river analogy. It left many questions. I wondered if John Walsh was excluded because of his association with Te Papa. Someoneiknow was also disappointed that he didn’t provide more context on the Militant Artists Union. We both disagreed with Keith’s issue with bi-culturalism. Although I agree New Zealand is definitely multi-cultural, the Treaty of Waitangi (our founding document) is between Maori and Tau Iwi (everyone else – or ‘other’).

I am happy to say I recorded all of them but our TV reception is terrible so hopefully they will be out on DVD at some point.

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