Posts Tagged ‘Brown’

Cotton on

This book is currently winging its way to me

C A Cotton Earth Beneath (1945) An introduction to Geology for readers in New Zealand
Author of: Geomorphology, Volcanoes as Landscape Forms, Climatic Accidents, etc….

When I bought it, I mistook it for ‘Geomorphology’ which was a big influence on Colin McCahon after he received it as a wedding gift in 1942 from Patrick Hayman. Gordon Brown’s new book dedicates a whole chapter to it and his extensive notes on Cotton don’t mention this book so it will be interesting to see what its like.

I promise to move on from McCahon soon – it’s just a current research topic.

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I had a rather surreal experience recently. Last Saturday morning I had the pleasure of sitting in a dealer gallery going through ‘a bunch’* of artworks, happily working out titles and discussing writing for a proposed catalogue for a show. A few people wandered in and almost warily checked out the current show (Martin Thompson) and scuttled off again.

Even a year ago I was too scared to enter a dealer gallery. When I lived in the Wellington region I really wanted to go to Peter McLeavey’s but just couldn’t make myself climb those stairs. Is there such a thing as a phobia of dealer galleries??? I did force myself into Milford Galleries to see a Nigel Brown show because, unfashionable though it may be, I like his work. It was worth it. The scariest part was the desk right by the door manned by “an older gentleman” who have to say was rather frosty looking. I guess he knew I don’t have the money to buy a Brown. The same blog post I noted how I really wanted to go into Brett McDowell’s but scurried past, intimidated by the Hoteres.

Times change….

I guess my point is that I encourage people just to get into the galleries – public or dealer. Once you are over the threshold, its great. I don’t imagine everyone is as paranoid as I am but to the “outsider” these places can be very intimidating.  I guess there are a lot of tyre kickers, but you know, an interest in art today might develop into buying later in life.

I suppose I was being a bit vampiritic, having to be asked in to these places but it has been so worth it. Maybe some galleries are more welcoming to others. I was talking to a ‘dealer’ recently who said apart from selling art he felt he had a responsibility just to promote art in general. I thought that was pretty enlightened :-)

For the sake of an image – I am very fond of this Don Driver that lurks in the backroom of Brett McDowell’s

Babysnatcher – Don Driver

*Is there a collective noun for art? If there is a ‘real’ one please comment and if not I will give out a real life prize to the most inventive one in comments.

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I got an email today from someone who stumbled across my blog having found themselves mentioned. I re-read the entry and it seems awfully ingenuous now. Oh well. The topics and writing here are fairly uneven.

Due to a ‘series of unfortunate events’ and bloody cold weather I have been somewhat unmotivated to blog. I have seen art, “I was Russia” at DPAG was good. I saw it on the opening day and floundered a bit with it because of the lack of explanatory written material – not even a photocopied page. I will go back , but I particularly liked the collective Factory of Found Clothing, which in part, dealt with artifacts.

Image from FFC.

I have been thinking a lot and writing a lot about the juncture of visual art and literature of late. While making another attempt to tidy up my bookshelves today I came across a book I picked up a while back, mainly because there was Clairmont woodcut print in it (The Birth of the Bomb Aug 1979). A crazy book made by William Millet a B29 pilot who flew over Japan post bomb. Things of iron & things of green, Nucleonic narrative about love and war, Things of iron like war and things of green like love is described as follows:

“Limited ed. of 1000 copies signed and numbered by the author. “The entire books was designed and printed by the author-publisher-designer William Millett using Garamond-Jenola & Caxton type faces on his Arab Letter-press & offset printed on a Heildelberg [sic] offset & part composed on an IBM golf-ball typesetter. The paper used Churston cover paper in the main.”–p. 4. Case bound and sewn in 4 signatures. Central hole in the front cover reveals the words of the title from the half-title page”

It made me think of a conversation I heard on the Kim Hill show last Saturday with Sherman Young. This book is an artifact in itself but also full of ideas and art from Hanley, Brown, Clairmont, Blair, Frizzell and others.  It looks a bit manky in today’s high production value world but I like it. When I pick it up, I am holding something important. Well that’s how it feels. It also makes me feel its from a time when people cared. OK, people still care but maybe not to collectively and widely. Its like we are numbed to the horrors of the world now. Maybe we have been so inundated by words and images but also distanced from wars, famines, diseases by our TV screens. I really don’t know. I am glad I have this book though.

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This moment will resonate

Saturday morning, sleet coming down outside, 3 kids running about, squealing, bickering. Up since 6am, by 10:30 I am ready to do a Captain Oates and escape out into the snow – “I may be some time”.

I head into Dunedin to “All Our Days”, the new Nigel Brown exhibition at Milford Galleries. I was wanting to come at 2:30pm for the artists talk but this is desperation. I am deadly afraid of dealer galleries and I scurry past Brett McDowell’s even though I’d love to have a good look at the Hotere’s I see through the window.

At least no one is around in the gallery and mostly I am left to look at the pictures in peace. An assistant appears and advises I’ve just missed the artist (rats) but to come back for the talk. I don’t bother to explain that because of my early departure, I have promised to take my kids to the Taieri Poultry & Pigeon show* this afternoon instead.

I know some don’t care for Brown and consider him a bit “samey”. I don’t share this view and enjoy what I think of as exploration of ideas and themes, which I guess others consider repeditive. I like the iconography. The first painting I see is “Hadley Octant” with the words “With my Hadley octant my Colin McCahon my mana my place worked out“, a McCahon lamp and a sample of the play on the McCahon “I AM” in ‘where are we“. I haven’t seen much of Brown’s recent work but I am intrigued by this wordplay.

Very recently I had a discussion regarding “I AM” ,which I was writing about at the time as a personal guiding phrase, in comparison to “WE ARE” which has such a different weight and meaning. Personally I think you have to be fairly assured in “I AM”, before you can become fully a part of “WE ARE”.

So it was really interesting to me to see in a very large title painting (an image you can’t ignore) “All Our Days”, the “WE ARE” as part of a collection of who we are – or perhaps who Brown is. Oddly (to me) this painting also includes Ned Kelly. I would have liked to hear more about that reference, which also appears spliced with Cook in “Who’s Who”. Glenn Colquhoun, in the catalogue (available on line, or on CD) writes that this painting shows “a wider New Zealand society…holding court in our consciousness along with all that has shaped our landscape, our arts and our culture.” which is a fairly ambitious statement. I like it, but then I am partial to Brown’s Baxter paintings. I also identify with the woman with broom, kids hanging off her.

I don’t know if there was a pick of the bunch, but funnily a painting called “Resonate”, resonated. “Even in two hundred years (if this building still stands) I’ll be gone, You’ll be gone, but this moment will resonate“. I’ve been writing about home, and sense of place so this keys into my current thoughts.

Its really worth seeing this exhibition or downloading the .pdf catalogue. I found something in almost every image that I liked. I am not so sure of inclusion of metallic paints (the gold/bronze on “All Our Days”) and paua shell eyes (although a reference to Maori carvings), but I did love the cast bronze Cook tiki. In an article in the latest Listener Malcolm Burgess questions whether too many “Cooks” spoil the broth. Like him, I agree that they don’t. 

Again as Colquhoun puts it “In lots of ways though they are not really images – they are a language. Really they are words. Nigel Brown places them in relation to each other as if he was writing a poem…Brown’s paintings think aloud

NIGEL BROWN All Our Days (2007/08) (from Milford Galleries website)

*which was pretty good too actually

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Looking for…

browndesignI have been trying to track down an artist from Wanganui called Russell Brown (NOT the media commentator). I am being awful and have scanned in the image of this little bookmark of his*. You may be surprsied to know that I do usually try to get an artists permission before doing this.

I saw his work in Ora Design Store at the Dowse. Its mainly hand numbered prints using a special transfer technique but they are wonderful. Its all “kiwi icon” stuff but to me, the execution elevates it above the usual kitsch.

I particularly fell for a series of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, but the set is not in the forecast for me right now. *sigh*.

Anyway, I understand Brown used to be a design tutor at UCOL and exhibited in a 2008 Whanganui Artists Open Studio event. I am planning a trip up the Whanagnui way (and maybe to Mangamahu) just after Christmas, so would like to get in touch with him.

And now for something completely different. I just love these two recent pieces of stencil art as seen on The Wooster Collective; Pablo and Store Trek.


*And I’ll happily remove it if he requests me to do so.

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I had time yesterday to have another quick spin around The New Dowse. Points of note:

Part of A Generous Eye. Works from the Wallace Arts Trust Collection was an interesting selection of figure studies by Toss Woollaston who I normally associate with landscapes.

My House Surrounded By a Thousand Suns showcases art works from “individuals formerly know as ‘outsider artists‘”. This was interesting to me, due to meeting Wellington curator, artist and academic Stuart Shepherd recently, who is a specialist in New Zealand self taught and contemporary folk art and is hosting a New Zealand booth at the New York Outsider Art Fair in January 2009. Work by Amy Szostak, subject of Shepherds 2007 television documentary “Amy goes to Sydney” is included in this show and is also currently featured in the Without Borders exhibition in Sydney. More about her can also be seen in a story on TV3’s 60 Minutes on Monday 8 September. I have to say outsider art isn’t my thing but it’s a very interesting subject area.

Wedding of June and Bjorn– Amy Szostak

The sublime Sinfonia Antarctica remains on until 28 September and it was maybe even more wonderful on a second viewing (see here for original comments).

A new addition to the gallery is Ora Contemporary New Zealand Design Store. The words “design store” make me squirm but there were a few interesting things. I really liked the NZ icons squares and badges by artist Russell Brown. I have tried to google his name but just end up with the media commentator – so if anyone has any more info I’d be pleased to get it. I ended up in an internal conflict over buying some cards with Banksy images on them -somehow it just seemed wrong even though I love the work. I ended up with a compromise (but not much of one) by buying one attributed to Scroobius Pip of doves coming out of the flash of a sniper’s gun. I still felt guilty for buying into it all though. Still, it did introduce me to a fantastic piece of music/poetry by Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip “Thou Shalt Always Kill” which starts:

“Thou shalt not steal if there is a direct victim;
Thou shalt not worship pop idols or follow lost prophets;
Thou shalt not take the names of Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer, Johnny Hartman, Desmond Dekker, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix or Syd Barrat in vain;”

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An odd Saturday, one played out to the theme of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life“, (although I much prefer “Passenger“). Still it prompted me to think of the quote from Trainspotting, “Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career…” Click here for the rest of this excellent rant.

Oddly I don’t remember choosing or signing up for the suburbs, yet here I am with 3 kids in a street of beige 1970’s split levels. :-)

Choose Life by Marie Oudkerk

So to cheer myself up I splashed out and bought another older Landfall (207) from a great, yet somewhat expensive, second hand book store a few blocks away. I am behind the times as this copy is from 2004, but it contains some amazing items.

For example, James Brown writes Communities are made up of stories and literary communities are no exception. In New Zealand everybody has a James K. Baxter story or a Denis Glover story or an Alan Brunton story, just as everybody in Montreal has a Leonard Cohen story. This then is my Allen Curnow story.”

Which is funny because recently I heard two more Allen Curnow stories and while I’ve been doing this blog I have had very generous correspondences with several artists and writers (correspondence being the subject of Brown’s piece).

Peter Wells also writes of when the Listener stood for something and the arts and books editor held reputations in his hands as “a power broker, a gatekeeper, and in a very important position in the New Zealand arts“. I do wonder that this magazine carries any such weight these days – actually I doubt it (but I am happy to be corrected).

In other news Dave Cauchi says the NZ art scene is too cosy – “a nice comfy chair and cup of milky milo.” which has got me thinking…

And Peter Peryer’s wonderful blog is just making me too homesick for Central Otago – even with the -10 C frosts.

Oh – and just as a random piece of information, I actually can hypnotise chickens you know.

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