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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.

fomisonhands
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.

poppop
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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On Saturday I had the opportunity to visit Te Manawa Art Gallery and Museum in Palmerston North. Our visit got off to a bad start as my ‘rambuncious’ children forgot all their art gallery manners and had to be bundled off to the ‘Kids Own’ children’s area of the museum (thank you to my dear partner). I have to say the MIND exhibition part of the place is excellent and everyone had a lot of fun there – the Sounds Amazing segment was a big hit.

Anyway I got some time to have a good look around. Last time I was there (2002?) it was to see Tibetan Monks create (and destroy) a sand mandala but otherwise it must have been “between” exhibitions that were of interest to me. Sand mandalas are a great lesson in the concepts of temporary art.

 tibetanmandala.jpg

This time there was a lot on. Hightlights were:

Karl Maughan: A Clear Day
It was interesting to see so many of Maughans works together. I thought it would be over-powering but the gallery is of a size for them to work. There is plenty of room to stand back and admire the photo-realism, but that disappears into abstraction as you get close. It was good to get an insight into how he works and see some smaller pieces as well. We felt though that the works weren’t lit that well. It was like the spotlights were too small for the scale of the pictures. However maybe it was meant to be that way. There was one picture printed out and made into a large jig-saw on the floor and it was a bit disconcerting seeing small children dance around on it. Closes at the end of March.

Albert McCarthy
I don’t think I fully appreciated this. I’d like to say things like ‘derivative’ and ‘a cross between Hammond and Killeen’ but what would I know?

Erdapfel: Earthapple
“In exploring her own own interest in the evolution of exploration and navigation, Heather Partel too has become a mapmaker and her prints describe a world of her own invention. ” I quite liked these prints, World II and II were highlights. Again the process was part of the exhibition with printing equipment and plates on show

earthapple.jpg
Image: Heather Partel. Histories VIII, 2003, screenprint.

Select
Now this is a great concept. They invited 9 local people to be guest curators and  peruse the collection stores of Te Manawa to ‘select’ objects that spoke to them. There was a big range of art and objects. I was particularly excited to see Hotere’s 1981 “Land of the wrong white crowd” which is a crate of beer with stencilled lettering and wound with rags – a protest piece from the Springbok Tour. I also liked Saffron Te Ratana’s paintings of Maori ‘cupie’ dolls done in the style of Goldie (Ropata and Tu). I was thinking afterwards what my three art picks would be if I could choose from everything I’ve seen in NZ galleries (which isn’t much). There would be a Clairmont, maybe ‘AMs Chair’ because that’s the first one I ever saw and I really like the McCahon kitchen bench that was Maurice Shadbolt’s. Its too hard to pick just one other but I’d like to hear your choices…

Other items of interest 
I also noticed a small selection of black and white photos tucked away under some stairs which included some great Murray Cammick ones from the 1970s.

The excellent video library and viewing corner with all sorts from the NZ Film Archives including the Profiles documentaries of Fomison and Clairmont (if only I’d had more time)

The HUGE mural of Maui in the atrium by Dick Frizzell and ‘Karen H’ (I think I’ll email for more details on that one)

They have a photography exhibition ‘Landed’ coming up, which looks good.

The staff were helpful and very friendly as well which is always a plus and they have a easily accessible reference library. Such a pity I just missed an exhibition of some of the permanent collection as there is a strong represetation of 1970s NZ art (a favourite era of mine). Beware the slippery courtyard between the two buildings if it rains though :-)

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Reading Art

I was at the library a while back and the conversation went like this

Me: “Look – its a new art book by Julian Bell”
Someoneiknow: “and…”
Me: “He’s Virginia Woolf’s great nephew”
Someoneiknow “You read too much”

So, in the spirit of ‘reading too much’, this is my current art-related reading (and a little viewing).

Mirror of the world: A New History of Art” by Julian Bell. To be honest I haven’t got very far into this. Its a big book. The time-lines in the back are interesting and from what I’ve seen its a slightly different take on Art History. That said all the ‘usual suspects’ are there.

Rita Angus: Live to Paint & Paint to Live” I am preparing myself for the much heralded Rita Angus centenary exhibition this year (at Te Papa?) and am also eagerly awaiting Jill Trevelyan’s full biography. Am I the only one who can see parallels between Rita Angus and Frida Kahlo? (probably not).

Fomison: What shall we tell them?” The centre of this book is the amazing photo of the umusaga for finishing Fomison’s tattoo. It’s an incredible photograph (by Mark Adams).  The rest of the book (from the exhibition) is excellent. I realised the other day that Fomison was really my introduction to contemporary NZ art (for the time) as one of his paintings was on the cover of a book of poetry I received as a high school prize in 1983. I was totally intrigued, as I’d never seem anything like it before (I had a sheltered life). As an aside I saw the movie “The Tattooist” last week. It was very patchy and poorly executed I thought, but a good concept.

fomison1.jpg

I also took “Between the Lives: Partners in Art” down of the shelf again after a comment on just how tiny the McCahon bach at Titirangi was. I wanted to check the impact that had on Anne McCahon (stuck there with 4 kids). Very bad according to the book.

In the pile I also have Art New Zealand Winter 1993 (probably bought for the Nigel Brown work) and the Colin McCahon “I AM” DVD. I’ve just returned a video of the Ralph Hotere documentary by Merata Mita because the soundtrack was stuffed. I wonder if you can get it on DVD? Lastly I have been leafing through “The Resurrection of Philip Clairmont” again, looking for something – but I’m not exactly sure what.

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