Posted in Art, Books, Design, Literature, Poetry, Reading, Writing, tagged Eggleton, Howard, Rapatahana on July 28, 2013|
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Someone once gave me some very sage advice. “The things you have to work hard for are the best“. At the time I wasn’t very impressed with this, but actually it’s true, for me at least. Frequently I have to work hard* to attend things and today I dragged the family out early on a long promised outing, so I could make it home in time to get organised to go to a reading at Dead Soul Books.
These events always remind me how small Dunedin is and how good this can be. I turned up on my own not really expecting to know anyone except Dean Havard:- proprietor of Dead Souls books and also the man behind Kilmog Press. But as people arrived, it seemed like I knew nearly everyone. And the readers: Former Burns fellow, David Eggleton ; current Burns fellow David Howard; Lynley Edmeades, poet and one of the people behind Deep South. Dunedin is rich in the arts. The event was a launch for Vaughan Rapatahana’s books Toa and China as Kafka (a Kilmog Press book).
The setting was brilliant (Dead Souls is an atmospheric, old world bookshop), and the readings very good. I am sometimes wary of poetry, in fact I told someone at Dead Souls today that poetry makes me feel out of my depth. But I am a reader and consumer of poems. What I like is when a poem speaks to me, whispers in my ear, stays with me long after. Some times they reach out and grabs at me and today’s poems did that; Vaughan’s readings especially so. A poem from China as Kafka ‘At Waikanae’ described as “a lovely, lyrical poem reminiscing about the teenaged poet and his cousin mowing the lawns at their urupa, tending the graves of their whanaunga. ” But it spoke to me of living and working on the Kapiti Coast, of the tangi and the urupa I encountered and the sadness. I felt homesick.
Rapatahana also read from his novel Toa “a road trip through the ‘skinny country’ where Mahon, an ex-university philosophy lecturer, and his gun ‘Molly’ blast their way across the country in a black Mark IV.” Now that’s a book you have to read – and I’m looking forward to reading my copy.
I often think of tribes (in a postmodern sense) as I move through life and especially at events like this. I’ve never quite found my tribe. There has always been a disconnect. Occasionally, like today I find myself on the edge of a group and think, “maybe this?” But mainly I think I live at the intersection of many – in that slim crossover area of a Venn diagram; a lost soul perhaps?
But did today’s poetry stay with me? Yes. Humming on the drive home and then while I cleaned out the rabbit hutch and I noticed how sweet the new hay smelled. It followed me to the supermarket and then while I folded the washing. And now while I write this…and that is all good.
Worst photo ever – David Howard, David Eggleton, Vaughan Rapatahana (and others) today at Dead Souls Bookshop
* It may not sound like work, but for me a trip to the public pools is like entering one of the seven circles of hell.
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On Saturday I snuck out to the Dunedin Art Gallery for a quick look around. It was unfortunately a VERY quick look as Cafe Nova seem to not appreciate customers dining alone and for the 2nd time I have been basically forgotten about. Change of cafe needed.
Anyway I wanted to looked at the Di ffrench exhibition, Activating Ideas and Te Huringa/Turning Points. Both left me a little bemused and I haven’t been able to write about it. Then today I read David Eggleton’s review of the ffrench show in the Listener and was so amazed that we saw it so differently that I am inspired to try and write something about it.
I suspect the difference is that I knew little (or nothing) about ffrench’s work and so could not place it in any context and therefore I didn’t really pick up on the large photos of muscular nude men that apparently dominated the show (according to Eggleton and the catalogue). I was much more drawn to the female studies and altered, layered, collaged and projected photographs. There was a series of The Lady of Shallot that I was very drawn to. After reading the catalogue and Eggleton’s review I have this odd feeling we were looking at very different exhibitions and I wonder if I should go back. I admit I entirely blanked out the video installations but still its odd the male figures didn’t really register (not being adverse to naked men or anything).
Te Huringa/Turning Points confused me even more. It apparently “presents a diverse range of works devoted to the representation of Māori and Māori subject matter by Pākehā and the way in which Māori art practitioners have reflected their own ideas and concerns” and the works are selected from the Fletcher Trust collection and the SarjeantGallery collection. I thought it was a really interesting idea but was limited by the collections. What I mean is it could have worked much better with access to more works. Maybe that would have been too much scope though? That said there were some stand-out items, including Robyn Kahukiwa’s Tihe Mauriora and also landscapes by John Tole, Melvyn Day and Selwyn Muru.
Tihe Mauriora (1990)
I am a bit “over exposed” to Kahukiwa but this work was very powerful (and I liked the spray paint).
The thing that completely creeped me out was Catharine Hodson’s Touching the Unthinkable. A big room installation about the artist’s experiences with cancer. To me it was all the worst parts of hospitals and medicalisation. Did NOT want to go there. So I guess it was sucessful in evoking a response with me.
A quick mention of Michael Morely’s “big wall” show. I don’t get it at all. I mean its so like Julian Dashper. The Aubudon birds were worth seeing though. I’d seen the other sections on display before so gave them a miss in my haste
So to an enthusiastic amateur such as me it was a good mix of things to see. I probably totally missed the various points but it made me wonder what the experience of the “man on the street” is when going to a gallery. What is the demographic of the gallery visitor? Why are they there at all?
*Written to the tunes of Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis “Autumn Leaves” from the Somethin’ Else record
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There has been a lot of talk on blogging lately in literature. It was a big topic in the Q&A part of Martin Edmond’s reading I attended at Massey and it was also the subject of one of the sessions at the recent Christchurch Writers Festival. So I was thinking of the writers I’d love to read if they had a blog – a bit like those “ultimate dinner party guest” questions. Almost instantly I thought of Gregory O’Brien and David Eggleton.
And then today I found (again via Graham Beattie’s blog) Greg O’Brien’s reflections on New Zealand arts and letters from this year’s Janet Frame Memorial Lecture. It is a wonderful piece of writing (read it!!) and there are so many bits I could quote but one section talked of the reasons that perhaps I thought of the two writers above “For better or worse, I have spent most of the last twenty years happily sitting on the fence between visual arts and writing, trying to keep up with the traffic both ways. ” – a mirror of my own interests.
Another thing which I found interesting and inspiring was “Ezra Pound once said to the young critic Hugh Kenner, ‘You have an obligation to visit the great men [and women] of your own time.’ “ and O’Brien’s talk of visiting with some “big names” but he “never thought of those authors as the Establishment—they were living ingredients that Literature had passed down to my generation“. So I’ve been thinking it would be good to talk to artists some more. After all, I’ve found my discussions with writers to be ‘soul food’. and as O’Brien writes “Literature is a life lived”
Dusky Sound (Never Weather-Beaten Saile) 2008 – Greg O’Brien
And now of course I am musing about the ultimate New Zealand Arts and Literature dinner party (limit 8 guests). Suggestions of past or present participants in the comments would be great fun.
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Ok – just what is it with artists and Waikanae? The list just keeps growing. I have been reading “Towards Aotearoa” tonight by David Eggleton and came across reference to Gordon Walters “Waikanae” and so went and found this in the Te Papa Collection.
“This black and white photograph by Gordon Walters was made in the early 1940s at Waikanae. Walters was living and working in Wellington and had met Theo Schoon…The photograph was one of a series taken by Walters and Schoon on field trips to Waikanae in 1943 and 1944. The title, with its reference to ‘organic form’ and tonal values (‘black on grey’) reveals how nature could be transformed through the camera lens into almost abstract patterns”
Another example of this period by Walters is held by the Auckland Art Gallery
I guess I could add Walters and Schoon to my imaginary Waikanae exhibition then.
Eggleton’s book is an interesting look at 20th Century NZ art and I found it a refreshing change of view from Keith’s “The Big Picture”. some comparison can be found here by the way. Art News New Zealand said that “Eggleton’s ambitious jig-saw has too many missing pieces“, but I think thats just the nature of a work like this. In some places the writing is a little florid for my tastes but maybe thats the poet in author showing. Lets just say its a book I’d like to own whatever its faults.
It did remind me of a well NZ known “look-a-likie”. Part I:-
Bridesmaids (1930) Frances Hodgkins
and I would bring you Part II which is Rita Angus’ portrait of Fay and Jane Birkenshaw. BUT for some reason on searching the Te Papa website (where it is held) there is no record of it. I can understand not having the image up because bad people like me may come and copy it (smack hand) but I couldn’t find any record of it at all. A Chocolate Fish to whoever can find a reference to this painting on the Te Papa website (because I AM a bit tired right now).
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