Posts Tagged ‘Fomison’

Facing Mortality

Various circumstances have led me to think quite a bit about mortality lately, but rather than facing it, it has been more of a quick glance in that general direction. I guess it hit with a bump when I realised that ukulele playing will be out of the question – at least for a while, or until someone comes up with a nice metal finger tip like Ada’s.

I recall the Anne Noble exhibition “States of Grace” and how disturbing my partner found the images of her recently deceased father. I thought the whole show very moving. Just illustrates how images impact differently. Along these lines I was going to ask some artist if they could make something out of my current journey and the likely impending loss of a finger. When I visited David Cauchi, he showed me drawings of hands and said “because, you know, your hand is always there” and I thought at the time “well maybe not all of it”. So this would be pretty gross to some, as would another friendly suggestion involving bone jewellery.

So I’ve been looking for other art involving loss and trying not to look at that involving death, but all roads seem to lead to Rome. I am hoping to get back to Te Manawa before we leave the region and look what’s on there, “Dispelling the Myth”. This thought provoking exhibition considers various attitudes towards dying and death” . Thankfully the also have  “Solid Gold: Classic Hits from the Rutherford Trust Collection”,  which includes a Clairmont I want to see – especially since I didn’t get to look at the blue self portrait at the Art+Auction preview in Wellington – and those wonderful Fomisons. I suppose if you are looking at mortality in art, Fomison would do the trick and maybe this one especially for me right now.

Study of hands on page 235 of “Roxburgh’s Common Skin Diseases” 12th edition 1961 (#51)

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Eating my words?

I had a lot of questions with Thursday’s post and unfortunately I think some were answered on Friday during a visit to the Dowse and I may have to eat some of my words – or at least rearrange my thoughts.

On my regular Lower Hutt visit I ventured back to the Dowse. Nothing much there except a cool sculpture of a giant piece of Popcorn – Pop Pop (2007) by Madeline Childs and The 2008 finalists of the Wallace Art Awards.

Pop Pop

The Wallace Award finalists were shocking to me, in that nearly everything seemed derivative. I kept saying to myself “Oh look that’s like Killeen, or Wealleans, or Fomison, or Leek, or Pick or Robinson or Driver” yadda yadda yadda. So maybe Ovenden had a point? I started thinking about the fine line between homage and more direct influence (as I suppose everything is derivative in some way). I thought maybe the piece I liked the most, a photograph “I AM” by Robyn Hoonhout of a larger, older woman in a chair owed something to Lucien Freud or maybe that is too obvious? More food for thought anyhow.

Today after voting (and explaining emancipation to my 5 year old who came with me), I settled in to look at some new library books. I am in awe of “Long Live the Modern“. Maybe it is because New Zealand is so small but I have worked, studied, and lived in several of these buildings. It is a really good book and as I was also doing some more Plischke research this morning, it tied in nicely – and continued on into my love for 1970s “bunker” architecture. The National Library building didn’t appear to be in there, which is a pity considering what they are proposing to do to it (maybe I missed it).

I also found the “New Zealand Portraits” book as raved over by Graham Beattie. It really is excellent. I think it must be year of the NZ Art book or something. I have two favourites after a first read through, Tony Fomison’s portrait by Alan Pearson and Garth Tappers portrait of Colin McCahon. Both seem held in the Hocken Collection and both betray my personal bias.

And tomorrow I get to visit Wellington and a studio and see a movie and maybe even eat out….WOW! Creepy blog meet-up invite still open…

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What shall we tell them?

It seems that like everyone has a Baxter/Glover/Curnow story, the same is true for artists and today I heard a few Fomison stories (and Clairmont too). So I was hunting around for the image that many people seem to think of in relation to Fomison and found I have written about it before.

What Shall We Tell Them

“What Shall We Tell Them? continues another Fomison tradition, depicting one main figure surrounded by smaller characters. In this work, the miniature jester at the bottom of the painting may symbolise a father-son relationship, which is also explored in Fomison’s earlier works. The original sketch for What Shall We Tell Them also shows two heads on either side of the jester’s costume – on the left, the smiling face of comedy and on the right, the face of tragedy. Fomison again plays with the concept of dark and light and good and evil by depicting the jester with a slight smile, rather than the wide grin which is more commonly associated with the figure.” (from this article)

I am interested in polarities right now; good/bad, Devil/God, dark/light and inner and outer worlds. It is part of my exploration of the DMZ between fact and fiction. Thinking about it more – that particular space is actually a minefield.

When I think of Fomison’s work I think of faces lifted to the light. I don’t know the name of the image I see in my head specifically but this is similar:

Portrait of Cassius Clay (1972)

From the Auckland Art Gallery on line. “Ambiguous photographs intrigued Tony Fomison, especially the ones he discovered in newspapers and magazines. This ‘portrait’ is based on one such newsphoto. By enlarging a close-up of the boxer he begins to look unconscious or, even, recently deceased.”

You cannot separate life from death – that is what’s wrong with a lot of painting…The ecstasy of life comes from the knowledge of death…Death is going to get you. The idea is to love life and not be scared of death.’Tony Fomison

I am also particularly fond of his 1977 Self Portrait (in a window frame)

Outside the window – an actual window frame – puzzled and excluded, the artist peers in at the viewer; it is a poignant image of himself as an outsider, an observer of society. He becomes a furtive voyeur, almost a Peeping Tom. Fomison made many self-portraits and saw them as a means of checking on the integrity of his painting, ‘Your brushes are only as good as your self-portraits. Can you be honest about yourself on canvas?.

I think this also relates across to autobiography – can you be honest with yourself on the page? Indeed, what shall we tell them?

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Rudi and Rita

I’ve just finished reading Chris Roynane’s biography of Rudi Gopas. It was a good book in that it was ‘enlightening’ but oddly written. Gopas was a painting tutor/lecturer at Ilam for years and so influenced many key NZ artists and creative people – I didn’t really realise just how many. It was kind of a sad story too in some ways – an outsider story. Maybe I am reading it wrong but did he identify with and encourage other ‘outsiders’ – e.g. Fomison and Clairmont? And of course there were the themes of art and madness and the usual association with alcohol and drugs. I am in the midst of writing a whole essay on that topic though.

The book mentioned his constant return to his memories of the Baltic sea of his youth shown in his paintings of fishing boats.

The Trawlers
The Trawlers (1959) Rudi Gopas

This picture reminds me of fishing boats at Riverton when I was a child, a typical New Zealand scene but obviously it has European echoes as well. I guess its just the era/style but there seems to be parallels with Angus’ Island Bay boats too and that painting has a similar effect on me.

Island bay boats
Boats, Island Bay (1961-62) Rita Angus

Speaking of Angus, Jill Trevelyans’ book “Rita Angus an Artist’s LIfe” seems to be available now. It looks like it will be a good one (I’m hoping my library will get a copy). Trevelyan is also co-curator of the “Rita Angus: Life & Vision” exhibition that will be at Te Papa 5 July – 5 October 2008. With nearly 200 works it will be a pretty major outing. I am starting to sound like an advert, but really I am just excited to see some of these works ‘in the flesh’. My interest was also pricked by a story I heard recently about a whole lot of Angus’ works in disarray in the vaults of the old National Gallery in Buckle Street in the mid-1970’s.

And in other news  – More artists who have worked as posties
Philip Trusttum
Nigel Brown
Peter Carson

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