Shane Cotton The Hanging Sky (detail) 2007. Acrylic on linen. Collection of Peggy Scott and David Teplitzky
Shane Cotton: Stamina, Surprise and Suspense
Back on 20 September 2011, when our public programmes team began setting up the Hagley Park Geo Dome for a talk with Shane Cotton, they put out about sixty chairs and would have been glad to fill them. After all, it was a cold night in Christchurch, the roads were rough, the Geo Dome was off the beaten track and the quake had long since broken the rhythm of the Gallery's old Wednesday night programme of public talks.
As it happened, several hundred more seats were called for, as people kept flooding in for what turned out to be one of the biggest public programme attendances on record at Christchurch Art Gallery – around four hundred people. You could put the turnout down to a dearth of cultural options in the post-quake city. But the real reason, surely, was the powerful sense of connection and interest inspired by the paintings of Shane Cotton, who trained at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts and is now one of Australasia's most esteemed contemporary painters.
Well before the quake, senior curator Justin Paton was working with Cotton on a show that combined some brand-new paintings with a selection of skyscapes from the last half-decade – many of which have not been seen in New Zealand. Several years and many aftershocks later, that show, titled The Hanging Sky, is about to open in Brisbane at the Institute of Modern Art, then to travel to Campbelltown Arts Centre in Sydney, before returning to New Zealand and (cross all your fingers, please) the newly reopened Christchurch Art Gallery – where we hope to connect again with all the people who braved the cold for Shane's talk back in 2011.
Here's some of what they heard that night.
Shane Cotton Red Shift 2006–7. Acrylic on linen. Collection of Queensland Art Gallery. Purchased 2007. The Queensland Government's Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions
Fund (acc. 2007.183)
Bulletin is an award winning,
image-rich publication with an
in-depth focus on current issues in art.
Tony de Lautour Untitled 2012. Acrylic on board in found frame. Reproduced courtesy
of the artist and Brooke Gifford Gallery
Romantic notions of gothic leanings, the legacy of Tony Fomison, devotion to rock sub-genres and an eye to the past are familiar and sound reasons to group Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond together in one exhibition, but De Lautour / Greig / Hammond is to feature new and recent work. Could all this change? What nuances will be developed or abandoned? Will rich veins be further mined? We can only speculate and accept that even the artists concerned can't answer these questions. For the artist, every work is a new endeavour, a new beginning. What may appear to the public, the critic or the art historian as a smooth, seamless flow of images is for them an unpredictable process where the only boundaries are those that they choose to invent.
Sir Henry Raeburn Brigadier-General Alexander Walker of Bowland (detail) 1819. Oil on canvas. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, presented by the Walker family 1984
Getting to know people can take time. While preparing for a future exhibition of early portraits from the collection, I'm becoming acquainted with Alexander Walker, and finding him a rewarding subject. Painted in 1819 by the leading Scottish portraitist of his day, Sir Henry Raeburn, Walker's portrait is wrought with Raeburn's characteristic blend of painterly vigour and attentive care and conveys the impression of a well-captured likeness.