Posts Tagged ‘The Big Picture’

Owing to my inability to get rid of this flu, again a piecemeal entry.

Having been relatively confined to the house, I have been dwelling on art and suburbia and home. There an interesting exhibition at the Walker Art Centre commented on over at Best of 3 about the impact of suburbia on art. Although I haven’t been to Auckland for a while I can only hope the type of American suburb this is mostly about isn’t too present here in New Zealand. I can’t knock NZ suburbs too much because I’ve almost always lived in one and they have served me well. Apart from a short time in Aro Valley that is, and Holloway Road is truly a little entity all of its own.

I found this at Art for Housewives “Aesthetics are homemade. That is, the formation of taste comes from the home. From homemakers. From our mothers. The way they feed us, the way they dress us, the way they decorate our homes. The way they care for us. Housewives are our first trendsetters. Because our childhood follows us throughout our lifetime. Like Proust’s madeleines.” That’s kind of a scary thought. So although I encourage ‘good art’ in our home, at this point I need to remind myself of reason #41 why I can’t own decent original artworks (just yet)  which is “Oh dear, there’s vegemite on the McCahon again”.

This is not just the territory of women artists either (for example Jacqueline Fahey, Joanna Margaret Paul) . Even Picasso didn’t escape from ‘Domestica’ and sorry to harp on but Clairmont’s work was domestic subjects for a large part.

Woman Ironing, Paris, spring 1904.

On a slightly more contemporary side here is an example from Rhonda Roland Shearer 

Kiki Ironing 1991-92 Bronze

I know its a bore, but has again made me challenge Hamish Keith’s assertion in “The Big Picture” that art is essentially an urban occupation. Of course there is a bad side and I get a bit fed up with the line of artistic endeavour by “trapped housewives” and in my own area I will scream if I see another painting of Kapiti Island (apologies to Rita Angus of course – who was a culprit with Waikanae).

Items from the news 

More on the subject of Public Art. Antony Gormley (of the little clay people) says modern public artworks are crap. In the main I’d have to agree.

I see ‘The Listener’ has another visual art ‘review’ which is good. However, yet again, I am confused. I don’t know if the writer has seen the Don Ramage Steel Jungle retrospective but the whole thing was descriptive rather than making any strong comment. Maybe this is how its meant to be with a retrospective? But to me its almost inline with the promotional material which says the show is “reintroducing his work a contemporary audience hungry for retro design heroes” – ugh! So to contrast and compare, I came across this review of the Tate Modern’s new show on Duchamp, Man Ray and Picabia. All respected names with a well known body of work, yet the author (Tom Lubbock) has something new and insightful to say. As I’ve said before though ‘what would I know’.

Exhibition by vote
I also had an interesting discussion over at Best of 3 about “exhibition by vote’. I’ve concluded this is not such a good idea and “Clever programming should be able to answer both needs” that is the familiar and the new. I am totally for better/easier public access to collections (eg at Te Papa – although they seem to be working on that with their web based stuff). What made me finally decide it was a BAD idea was thinking about the local art gallery and the demographics of my area. While there are some great artists and art about, not to knock anyone, but the vote approach here may well result in show after show of paintings of Kapiti Island (see above) – unless it was an MMP vote maybe :-)

Sorry to those who have been on the receiving end of me clicking the ‘send’ button too quickly (and too often) this last week. I will shut up now.

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Firstly, I have fixed all the broken links on former posts (I hope). A little editing trouble with my new blog.

Well the holidays have brought some amazing TV viewing amongst the usual dross. “Lovely Rita“, the final episode of “The Big Picture” and “Being Billy Apple” were a few and so good to see (yay for The Charter).

Lovely Ritawas a fantastic Gaylene Preston doco about Rita Angus. Preston does great documentary work and there were some wonderful moments. I love the bit where they discussed the portrait of Betty Curnow angus037.jpg and being all theoretical about the ovular nature of the work and how it was a pregnancy portrait and then Preston just blew the interviewee away by saying it was Angus who was pregnant not Curnow. I wish I could remember the name of the interviewee/artist who had recreated the fabric of Curnow’s shirt (I want some!). EDIT – It was Anna Miles – See Wyston Curnows comments. Gosh and another major artist who lived in Waikanae (for a short time)

Being Billy Applewas also intriguing. I have seen a few Apple’s (I like NFS and Sold) but I didn’t realise he doesn’t actually paint them himself. See you can tell I have no education in this area. His work is so clever. It was interesting to see his personal evolution as an artist and artwork. You have to love the scrubbed floor installation and I finally clearly understand the meaning of ‘conceptual artist’.

I guess I was a little disappointed in Hamish Keith’s final episode of The Big Picture. Maybe because I’d read the book or seen a critique of his braided river analogy. It left many questions. I wondered if John Walsh was excluded because of his association with Te Papa. Someoneiknow was also disappointed that he didn’t provide more context on the Militant Artists Union. We both disagreed with Keith’s issue with bi-culturalism. Although I agree New Zealand is definitely multi-cultural, the Treaty of Waitangi (our founding document) is between Maori and Tau Iwi (everyone else – or ‘other’).

I am happy to say I recorded all of them but our TV reception is terrible so hopefully they will be out on DVD at some point.

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I have to admit that I like pictures – paintings, photography etc. However I have some appreciation for sculpture even though its not perhaps as familiar. Again “The Big Picture”‘s take on Len Lye got me musing….

I think I was lucky in that I grew up (or as my family would say “teethed on”) some very good, if conventional,  scultpure. As a child in 1970’s Invercargill, Queen’s Park was endowed with some great play equipment.


These large bronze animals – the seals and eagle seen above, plus two lions – were placed around a fountain with smaller animals. You can see from the photo how worn and polished the bronze had become with children clambering all over them. I recall how hot they got in the sun – so much that sometimes you couldn’t climb on them. The Thomson Statuary in the children’s playground was designed by the sculptor Sir Charles Wheeler who personally came to Invercargill to help select a site for it. So they were traditional and perhaps staid, but it was imprinted on me that this sort of large public sculture was a tactile thing.

You can imagine my dismay at the “DO NOT TOUCH” signs throughout the Henry Moore exhibition at Te Papa in 2002. Of course I understand about the smaller more delicate objects but the large scale work in the forecourt? I absolutely horrified the person I was it when I just had to go and touch it. Soon others followed suit and several people stood around “caressing” the scultpure. Now I could very likely be wrong but did Moore plant some of his sculpture in paddocks where sheep could rub against them???

Wellington has some great sculpture including a Moore in the Botanical Gardens, where you can also find “Listening and Viewing Device” which I have a soft spot for mainly because of the sound it makes – which brings us back to Len Lye again really. My favourites though have to be Neil Dawson’s “Ferns” in Civic Square (a bad photo) and the “City to Sea” bridge across to the lagoon.

On a smaller scale New Zealand seems to have a love affair with limestone – specifically Oamaru limestone. Even I have dabbled and yes the evidence lurks in my garage (which is now assuming Tardis-like proportions). Having once lived in Christchurch, I was exposed to the wonderful work on Llew Summers which appears all over that town. 


I think this gives you an idea of his “proportions” and although I think of his working with limestone, he uses many mediums such as bronze, glass, granite and wood. The joy and voluptuousness of the work makes me smile…and again its BIG and you just need to touch it.

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The Big Picture

Well I am sorry Hamish Keith, but you’ve lost me. I am enjoying the series “The Big Picture” but I was somewhat bewildered by episode 4. Maybe its because I was feeling ill but it did not seem to have much cohesion and I thought it was a big jump from episode 3. I see the points about town and country; distance and harking back to England, but wondered if art/appreciation really is a totally urban activity. But what do I know. Anyway its good to see something so opinionated and not watered down on TV.  Also was good to see the context of Toss Woolaston whose work I have an affection for and once slept with one of his major works under our bed (long story). I also am wondering about the artists who seem MIA, but I will watch the whole series before I start calling that one. I have also reserved the book.  Thank heaven for libraries. This calls for an entry “Art appreciation on a housewife’s budget” :-)

I just noticed yesterday that nearly all my art books have been presents or 2nd hand finds. Oddly my poetry books have not arrtived this way. Obviously people in my life relate to art more than poetry. I think it illustrates the external and internal.

Speaking of books, I have just read John Paton’s “How to Look at a Painting” No wonder it won so many prizes. He articulates thoughts and feelings about art that frequently mirror my own and of course much more eloquently than I will even be able to.

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