Posts Tagged ‘Pick’

The experiment

Well, I almost blogged every day for the month of May. It turned out to be all about quantity not quality of course. Maybe I should stick to a more realistic regime like Giovanni.

One observation has been that social media like Twitter and Facebook detract from my blogging and when I am doing frequent blogging any of my more serious writing suffers. So I’m thinking about doing something a little different with this blog in future. Wait and see….

I will do a separate post about the Sèraphine Pick show that opened here last night at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, but I do want to note that indeed there were women wearing Doc Martens and, although just a bit of fun, the horse was the escape route.

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  • There is a Seraphine Pick show opening at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery* next week. I had a flyer for it on my desk [ahem – kitchen table] and my nearly 3-year-old wanted to know “what is the horse for?”

Séraphine Pick Girl (with offered eyes) 2004
Private Collection, Auckland

  • Its been REALLY wet here. Thankfully the stop bank I live quite close to, did its job. Not so lucky for some of the Maori Rock Art at Duntroon
  • I find the BP oil spill in the USA horrifying. I suppose at least some good street art stems from it.
  • Once, quite some time ago, I  briefly took up smoking because the place where I worked let smokers have more frequent breaks than us non-smokers. I wish I’d had these instead.

* Please guys, can fix up your website so I can link directly to exhibitions….?

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So to the art….after kimchi at the Arts Centre Market (I also travel for Korean food) I went direct to the hallowed halls of  The Christchurch Art Gallery.

The problem with going to  exhibitons nearing the end of their run is that you may have read all the reviews and been unduly influenced. I tried to put any prior knowledge aside as I toured the galleries though. After the fact it was very useful to read the gallery’s bulletins B.157 & B.158 though.

It was the closing weekend of the Ronnie van Hout show “Who goes there’. I am not a HUGE van Hout fan but I enjoy some of his work. I did like the focus of this show which I am not sure is just indicative of his latest output or selected that way. There seems to be a sharpened focus on ‘self’, although it’s always been a prominent theme. Standout for me was ‘The Thing’ from the artist’s Antarctic experience which was more disturbing than it should have been. Also the video works in the foyer of the artist knocking on his own door (no answer) was affecting. Even with the humourous subjects there was a subtle menace to it all. To me, the sound from ‘Bedsit’ underlined this atmosphere. I am glad I didn’t miss the peep show either.

Next was Seraphine Pick. I was really interested in seeing this retrospective, after the tiny Pick show I saw at the Mahara Gallery in 2008. I hate to say it, but this exhibition didn’t enthrall me. It was ‘more of the same’ and seemed quite rambling. However, I was taken by her more recent works and the “Zombies round the Campfire’ painting (sorry can’t recall the name) made a lasting impression.

The last of the three major exhibitions on was et al’s Thats Obvious! That’s Right! That’s True! Entering this exhibition was my meaningful art moment of 2009. I was really looking forward to this as I had not seen an et al installation before and I was not disappointed. ‘People in the know’ have told me this work is great but not the greatest of et al. I was completely floored by it though. I guess my impression was of an Orwellian New Zealand of an 1984 nature.  I was confused, informed, disoriented, assaulted with audio/visual material, lectured…. Although many other visitors seemed to walk in to the gallery space and straight back out, I was mesmerised by it all and it felt to me like the ultimate answer to the rather spurious “but is it art?” question (YES!, YES!, YES!).

At this point I was a bit of a stunned mullet and floated through the smaller exhibitions on the upper floors. Points to be noted here:

  • The White on White show was a great idea and I thought a clever selection. Fun to see such diversity on a theme
  • Cloud 9 was interesting and nice to see some emerging artists. I particularly wanted to see how Mike Cooke’s work held up in the gallery environment, having recently seen these two paintings in his studio. It worked very very well in my opinion.

I came back to the gallery the following day and managed to take in the tiny Gembox gallery then as well. Lovely plumage McCahon in there – and good to see a Lowry for the first time.

My second visit cemented my thoughts on the ‘Big Three’ Suite of exhibitions (van Hout, Pick, et al) . My main thought was how these artists all projected a (their?) view of the world and how diverse and distorted that was. I have talked before about photography being like looking directly through another pair of eyes, but I felt that through these shows I was seeing the mind games as well. Pick’s zombies, the multiple versions of van Hout and the et al sensory assault all seemed part of the same dream/nightmare place that most of us inhabit.

*Images from all these exhibitions can be found on the Christchurch Art Gallery website via the links included.

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I heard Kim Hill’s interview with Peter Peryer last Saturday morning (audio here) and she kept asking him why?, why? does he take these photos. I’ve been thinking on this and wonder, does it even matter? Perhaps “What?” is the more relevant question.

In recent discussions about good/bad art some one said “What is the artist trying to do and do they achieve that?” which seems a more basic question. But do we even need to know that?

Kim Hill seemed concerned about why Peryer would photograph this chicken. I am glad he did – for it is unlikely I would see a chicken in this way. As I’ve said before a favourite photo is of whitebait but I am also very fond of this.

In art photography it has always seemed to me that the photographs enable me to see through another’s eyes. This gives me a hugely varied outlook – a new way of seeing. What might be interesting (and it may have been done) is to ask some top photographers to photograph the same thing or perhaps give them a theme. The variety that would come back would be amazing – I would expect.

In fact doesn’t all art provide us with another person’s take on the world? I am doing my best to get to Christchurch at the moment* so I can see the Christchurch Art Gallery’s “Big 3” shows – Ronnie Van Hout, Seraphine Pick and et al. These three contemporary New Zealand artists (and collectives) illustrate their world so different they are perfect examples of my point.

I have been taking photos lately of local scenes that artists such as McCahon have painted.  Even taking ‘artistic license’ into account, its interesting to me how differently these painters have seen the landscape – recognisable but not…I wonder if they were trying to make sense of their world by interpretation, as I am.

Milhouse Van Hout(en) – a distant relative of Ronnie’s (because I am trying to be good about not nicking images off the interwebs of artists’ work)

*Any donations towards travel expenses happily accepted

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I am in a particularly bad mood today so small things are annoying me. I picked up the latest copy of the Listener to find MORE art journalism and I am going to be mean about it. Actually one of the reasons I dont’ do review and critique very well is that I don’t like upsetting people but today I am throwing caution to the wind.

Lindsay Rabbitt has written a 3 page article (albeit with a large illustration of ‘Closing In’) about Seraphine Pick and secondarily about her work.  Now I am one of the people in the world that thinks there is too much art journalism and not enough critique. This has been voiced by at least three other people this week with far more standing than me, Andrew Paul Wood, Mark Amery and yesterday Max Gimblett in a quite marvellous interview on Saturdays with Kim Hill. It appears this is down to marketing and branding and the Listener article symbolises for me what is wrong with a fair amount of art writing.

So what is wrong? Well I am sick of hearing ‘about the artist’ and want to hear about the work. Yes there is a small amount of commentary, but it plays second fiddle to the artist. Also the timing of the article is simply weird. The show at the Mahara has finished and is now at the Sarjeant Gallery in Wanganui “in an abbreviated form” so you missed out if you wanted to see all of it. That may not be a bad thing though (see below).

And yes maybe this is the pot calling the kettle black because of my writing this blog, but I haven’t got the breadth and depth of expereince or knowledge to be able to critique in a constructive manner. If you want an uneducated opinion, I find Pick’s work uneven. Some startling pieces (as Rabbitt suggested ‘Surface Paradise’ is good) but at least in the ‘After Image’ exhibition it’s surrounded by stuff I didn’t like at all and wondered why it was on the walls as they seemed to be preparatory sketches or musings, ideas not fully formed. I take it that this is a new direction but I guess I just don’t ‘get it’.

On a more pleasant note the Max Gimblett interview mentioned above was a joy. I was going to write more about it but Jacky B at Passages  has done it so well. She writes “[I was] moved in many ways, even by the sound of his voice inflected by emotion, speaking truths, baring his soul. But most of all in the way he described his eschewing of audience, of working to something internal, perhaps a kind of inner muse.”  I have read some vitriolic criticism of Gimblett this week so was very pleasantly surprised. The interview audio should be on the Radio NZ website here for the next 6 weeks or so.

Ah ha you say  – the Gimblett interview is just more art journalism and that could be true, but I think it had a lot more to say about his art and art in general than the piece on Pick.

Page from Yoke (2001) A unique artist’s book

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My day in the sun

Don’t expect to read anything mind expanding here today!

A friend today said they thought my theme here is “what is art?”. I have given up trying to solve that one, but its fun  exploring. I don’t actually agree with the following sentiment, but here’s one point of view…

Stencil art – Brisbane 2007 (and I think better than the original Warhol poster)

Today my faith was also restored a little in “the art world”. I had an incredibly productive and enlightening conversation regarding some research information with an art writer. People have been so generous and approachable helping me out. So it led me on a tour to find some artists homes. I don’t know why I thought having the addresses would enable me to drive up and see these houses. (Sub)urban development hasn’t stood still for 40+ years. I guess my excitement in locating a local Plischke house relatively intact over Easter made me think it would be easy. Still I have a lot to go on for the next phase…so thanks again :-)

Its been really hard to get anywhere to see anything lately (still considering that ‘donate’ button) so I also stopped back in to the Mahara Gallery to look over the Hodgkins/Pick exhibition again. Mark Amery wrote a review in today’s DomPost that really summed up the Hodgkins work well – but hardly a mention of Pick. Personally today Summer Joys (1916) struck me. It seemed so vibrant and full of movement and what was really weird was that they way it was painted (post-impressionist?) meant that it could equally be a modern scene. I was thinking about becoming ‘involved’ with the gallery in some way but I can’t really see that I’d be much use.

I was also thinking about doing some ‘real’ art history study. I see Vic offers a graduate diploma which would be good but I haven’t really go the time right now to  go in and attend lectures so I guess I’ll stick to my self-education programme and continue to stumble along blindly. The only big advantage right now would be to give my research some ‘legitimacy’.

On that note I am still struggling with finding software to basically keep a catalogue raisonné. I have developed my own little app to do this but I hate the thought of the “perfect” software being out there all ready to go. Mind you mine is cheaper :-)

So lastly a picture relevant to today’s expedition and how I would have ideally liked my day to have been.


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Due to a gap in my schedule I found myself at the Mahara Gallery in Waikanae at an exhibition (Part of the Arts Festival program) of Séraphine Pick  (After Image) and Frances Hodgkins (Her Idea of Heaven 1896-1921). I am NOT going to write a review because I’m no good at it, but it was good to be able to view a selection of Pick’s more recent works and see again what I think was the Artsville documentary about her that was showing. I loved the fact the Goya image of Saturn eating his child affected her in childhood as it did me.


There were some confusing points which are mainly (I hope) typographical errors, which I guess is nit-picking. The website said “this exhibition presents new work [of Pick’s] made since 2006” but the list of works in the catalogue (with only 3 images in it and costing $3) has pictures dating back to 1997, while inside it reads “the earliest work in this exhibition , Looking Like Someone Else 2007″ and is actually a 1997 painting. No matter.

What I didn’t ‘get’ was why there was the “companion” exhibition of Hodgkins. Ok they are both female NZ painters, who supposedly “love the physical act of painting” and Pick was the Hodgkins fellow in 1999. To me it ends there. Oh ok, they both paint(ed)  babies. Actually Pick’s baby paintings were stunningly different and I liked all her family portraits a great deal, but that might be the mummy showing in me. Why not just fill out the gallery with some more of Pick’s work? Its not a large place and there weren’t that many Hodgkins on display ( a collection of “iconic works” grrrrrrrrr!).

The Hodgkins tie-in with Waikanae is that her sister Isobel lived near there and I believe (?) her ashes are interred in the local cemetary. Of the pictures on show, the series of 4 Douarnenez watercolours (1921), in a more modernist style were a highlight. These were drawn from the Field Collection (Isobel was married a Field).

The Mahara Gallery itself is a little weird. It’s a bit of a concrete block bunker, but they have some good shows there and you see a lot of local advertising. It would seem to have potential for much more. Maybe its the location, which might be difficult to find and is off a typical example of 1970/80s urban planning – Mahara Place – with requisite fountain and sculpture. I suspect funding and support from the council are big issues as well as management changes.

Funnily, I saw some people today that I strongly suspect had come out from Wellington for the exhibition as they looked so out of place. I hope they enjoyed the trip and the Ambrosia Patisserie too which is well worth a visit and close by the gallery (I am not getting a kick back for that comment either).

While I was at the Gallery, I picked up a Real Art Roadshow sketch pad. I am really impressed with this idea and the website is great. The artists interviews are definitely worth a look. Yet again something I missed. Although a lot of the ‘usual suspects’ were included, it was wide-ish variety.

I’ve just realised I have written about Hodgkins and Pick without including a single image of theirs. Oh well I guess you can use google.

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