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Posts Tagged ‘Woollaston’

About two years ago I asked “I wonder if we’d see this happening these days?”

This week “Jeffrey Harris: 5 large Paintings from 1980-81” closed at the Brett McDowell Gallery, Dunedin. I enquired and even though Harris’s studio is quite close to the gallery, Brett assured me there was a truck involved in moving the artworks.

Which was almost disappointing.

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I have found when you are doing research (which a friend of mine likes to call ‘snooping’), you always end up on interesting little tangents that you have to leave out. So here are a few from the last week or so.

In 1936, Toss Woollaston mounted a significant exhibition of his work. This exhibition was seen by a young Colin McCahon and is widely touted as a major influence in his artistic life. McCahon also wrote about it in his ‘Beginnings essay in Landfall (March 1966). Woollaston had rented a shop in ‘Broadway’, Dunedin which was a 1930s version of the shopping Mall. Actually Broadway had been an arcade since it was built in 1861. It was rebuilt in brick, with a glass roof in 1875 and then replaced again in 1929 by a “spanish styled arcade of 30 shops”* .  There are photos around of the Victoria structure but not the 1930s one. To me the funny aspect is that the arcade was bought by the council and knocked down and The Warehouse was built on the site.

EDIT: The lovely people at the Hocken Collections have forwarded me some photos of Broadway in its 1930s incarnation. Worth taking a look at.

The next little reference was in the December 1940 issue of Art in New Zealand. I was searching for references to the Doris Lusk exhibition, but also found this in the notes from the 64th Annual Exhibition of the Otago Art Society.

“The paintings of Anne Hamblett are charming in their unusual and delicate colour…another young artist, C. McCahon, displays a strong constructive element – so lacking in many artists.”

I love this stuff.

*Paul Hayward. More Intriguing Dunedin Street Walks. Printed by Express Office Services, Dunedin (1998)

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I had time yesterday to have another quick spin around The New Dowse. Points of note:

Part of A Generous Eye. Works from the Wallace Arts Trust Collection was an interesting selection of figure studies by Toss Woollaston who I normally associate with landscapes.

My House Surrounded By a Thousand Suns showcases art works from “individuals formerly know as ‘outsider artists‘”. This was interesting to me, due to meeting Wellington curator, artist and academic Stuart Shepherd recently, who is a specialist in New Zealand self taught and contemporary folk art and is hosting a New Zealand booth at the New York Outsider Art Fair in January 2009. Work by Amy Szostak, subject of Shepherds 2007 television documentary “Amy goes to Sydney” is included in this show and is also currently featured in the Without Borders exhibition in Sydney. More about her can also be seen in a story on TV3’s 60 Minutes on Monday 8 September. I have to say outsider art isn’t my thing but it’s a very interesting subject area.


Wedding of June and Bjorn– Amy Szostak

The sublime Sinfonia Antarctica remains on until 28 September and it was maybe even more wonderful on a second viewing (see here for original comments).

A new addition to the gallery is Ora Contemporary New Zealand Design Store. The words “design store” make me squirm but there were a few interesting things. I really liked the NZ icons squares and badges by artist Russell Brown. I have tried to google his name but just end up with the media commentator – so if anyone has any more info I’d be pleased to get it. I ended up in an internal conflict over buying some cards with Banksy images on them -somehow it just seemed wrong even though I love the work. I ended up with a compromise (but not much of one) by buying one attributed to Scroobius Pip of doves coming out of the flash of a sniper’s gun. I still felt guilty for buying into it all though. Still, it did introduce me to a fantastic piece of music/poetry by Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip “Thou Shalt Always Kill” which starts:

“Thou shalt not steal if there is a direct victim;
Thou shalt not worship pop idols or follow lost prophets;
Thou shalt not take the names of Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer, Johnny Hartman, Desmond Dekker, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix or Syd Barrat in vain;”

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Hard art

Some things I’ve reading lately have been rather ‘sneering’ at the notion of the artist starving in his garret for his art and that in today’s world of professional artists “wild eyed romanticism has been replaced with teaching jobs and curatorially orchestrated pr campaigns.” (apologies – I lifted that quote from artbash). Toss Woollaston’s ‘cinderella’ story is also bandied around as “it couldn’t happen today”.

I do wonder how much effect the Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment (PACE) Scheme, where you can now list yourself as an artist of some sort and claim the dole if you are out of work or not receiving a sustainable income has had. Maybe that is why there are so many ‘artists’ about?

Do artists need to struggle to be ‘serious’? Has art just become a job or a commodity? Think about Van Gogh and the story that he only sold one painting while alive.
redvineyard.jpg
Red Vineyard, Arles (1888)

It just struck me how Woollaston worked in horticulture in the Nelson area (maybe too early for vinyards) and now his son runs the Woollaston Vineyard in Upper Moutere (any one tried the wine??).

redshed.jpg
The Red Shed.

To me an artist should be passionate about their work – but passionate enough to endure hardship? Does hardship temper them? Affect the art? Is art too ‘easy’ nowadays?  Or was it too difficult in the past?

Personally I feel sorry for the wives (and husbands?). You only need to flick through Partners in Art too see what some had to cope with in the name of art. How did it effect the kids?

Alternatively, look at people who chose a solitary life so they could dedicate themselves soley to their art – Rita Angus springs to mind.

rita.jpg
Rita – photo by Theo Schoon

Again, so many questions but its about the journey, right?

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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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