Finally I get around to blogging this! Its been, as they say, a week of it!
First I should thank my sponsors. Flying around the place to look at art is not something I do routinely. In fact I realised the last time I was away from home over night without my kids was 3 year ago and that was work related. I had been saving up Flybuys points so I could get to Christchurch to see their big three winter exhibitions and ended up with only enough for a one way flight. I had considered an overnight bus option for return but I was incredibly lucky to win my return airfare via the AirpointsFairy on Twitter. Then I decided that I would splash out on my overnight trip and stay at a hotel rather than someones couch. The plan was quiet, non-kid interrupted sleep, writing and reading time. An e-friend had recommended HotelSo and I got a great deal on a room there.
I have to say this is a VERY cool little Hotel. It’s very central and was also a bit of colour in what I found to be a very grey Christchurch. The rooms are small (not quite a pod concept) but have more than everything you need. I was particularly interested in the design aspects – all created in house for this hotel. The bathroom modules are a great execution of the idea of form and function (I want one!). I was a bit worried that I might be too old and boring for this reportedly ‘funky’ hotel but not at all. The kind of place that had a young farmers event and a punk band staying at the same time – and you’d never know. Hotel SO is excellent value – I’d stay again in an instant. Oh and a shout out to the lovely service manager Chris who was a great help!
The pretty colours of my hotel – note the contrast with the GREY
Christchurch itself was a bit of a shock. I haven’t spent much time there for maybe 10 years but I’d forgotten the conformity, the grey, the little walls and everything in the central city so contained. Even the public art blended in. Thank heavens for the tiny bit of colour on Neil Dawson’s Chalice sculpture in the square. Regan Gentry’s Flour Power also seemed to flat and conservative and yet again – GREY. Nucleus by Phil Price which was near my hotel, was at least a bit brighter but what is it with all the pointy sculpture? I can only think it is in response to the taller buildings and lack of horizon? The current Kiosk was a disappointment
Anyway – very quickly I headed down to the ‘Cultural Precinct’ and Christchurch Art Gallery. I love this area of Christchurch (fond memories and all that). The Arts Centre is a favourite place and of course I had to check in with a former Clairmont residence near-by in Hereford street. I will talk about the shows in my next post but one exhibition made the entire trip worthwhile!
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I’ve had a lot of questions answered in the last few days. So far, a highly entertaining , informative and readable take on the contemporary art market in The $12 Million Stuffed Shark has given me a good background to the Damien Hirst Heart and Dagger fuss here, while I felt a little silly in the realisation that my personal goddess Nigella Lawson married THAT Saatchi (but oddly has her own house to relax and to hideout in). It also makes sense of the ridiculous prices paid for some works – equating the highest prices to just a few days salary for some of the buyers out there. Still the amounts discussed seem a little obscene (more on that in another post).
Also the whole Wellington public art issue and the corporate art bonus scheme was fully explained in “Wellington: A City for Sculpture” definitely worth a read and also makes some more sense of the proliferation of art works on the city streets. However I believe someone in planning needs to have this repeated to them “The aim should be to ensure that sculpture does not become a gratuitous and irrelevant embellishment to urban sites“. The book also reminded me of a time when my office on the Terrace looked out through Philip Trusttum’s “Northern Lights”
Further to my last post on guerilla art, the Wellington Sculpture book also had a section by Christina Barton on less sanctioned public art, particularly “Interventions City Reclamation Project” and Barry Thomas’ “Vacant Lot of Cabbages” (a brilliant piece IMHO). But also the official, “The Concrete Deal” in the James Smith Carpark, which I remember well, beautiful in its transient format .
CK Stead’s Kin of Place certainly cuts to the chase and has inspired more of my writing on truths and untruths and “the lies that bind”. I love how many photos of Mr Stead are marvelously grumpy looking, but I have a soft spot for his writing due to early discovery of his poetry – “Scoria” encapsulating my Auckland experience at that time. His novel “All Visitors Ashore” also introduced me to a whole new NZ literary world.
Finally, over at Bookman Beattie he talks of Peter Simpson’s lecture on Colin McCahon, The Titirangi Years. “At the end Linda Tyler proved as good a questionner as she was in intoducing the speaker by asking (among other things) why McCahon the commuter never painted Auckland city or any part of it, or (and I thought this the question of the week) why did he never paint Rangitoto?”
My thoughts on this is maybe Rangitoto was too obvious, or too symmetrical (which is what I find irrittating about it). However my own landscape is dominated by an island and in talking to a local artist recently they said it was very hard to resist.
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I had the rather surreal experience this morning of gliding through the streets of central Wellington on a bus at 6:30am-ish. The city looked so different through a bus window and at the time of morning when it was still just dark and only waking up. The view was almost like looking underwater (like Aniwaniwa?) but I’ll put that down to sleep deprivation…
What I did see, apart from sleepy commuters was the new installations in Courtney Place Park. Initially, in the dim morning light they looked more like advertising signs, or bus maps. Even at this early hour a few people were looking at them though. From Simon Bush-King, the designer, on comments at eyeofthefish “The 8 light boxes will have the first work installed for the opening this Friday. The first exhibition [Flânerie and Figments] features 8 Wellington based photographers, Andy Palmer, Amelia Handscomb, Shaun Lawson, John Lake, Victoria Birkenshaw, Clare Noonan, Jess Silk and Steve Rowe. The first exhibition should last 6 months with the Public Art Panel taking over the on going running of exhibitions in the space.” I would have liked to walk amongst them but not this time, although a great time of day.
<= The Red Scorpion (2007) Kate Birkenshaw
I also noticed yet again that the city is riddled with public art, it is everywhere! I read somewhere a while back “why do councils feel the need to put up a sculpture when a tree would do just fine?” (or something along those lines). When I voiced this to someoneiknow who works in local government, I was advised that trees require more maintenance… so maybe that’s it? He also said there appeared to be some kudos involved in ‘supporting the arts’.
I am woefully ignorant of graffitti terms but I also saw some pretty amazing writing on the backs of commercial buildings between Keneperu and Porirua Stations (from the train). Really high level stuff. I guess this what I meant when I was wondering where the more edgey ‘street’ stuff was in the students artwork. Like I said ‘disaffected youth’ possibly don’t do NCEA art. Tried to find some images but maybe another time I’ll take a camera.
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