Artist Profile
White Camellias Revisited

White Camellias Revisited

Just over a quarter of a century ago the Robert McDougall Art Gallery hosted an exhibition to celebrate a century of women’s art making in Canterbury. It was the Gallery’s contribution to the country-wide centenary celebrations of women’s suffrage. Co-curated by Lara Strongman and myself, White Camellias: A Century of Artmaking by Women in Canterbury, as its title suggests, was a springboard for both korero and further study of women’s art history.

Artist Profile
Studio Visit

Studio Visit

I was in London last October and keen to visit Ron Mueck, but he wasn’t there: he’d gone down to Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight, where he has a studio. I spent my childhood in England, but I’d never been to the Isle of Wight. It’s in the English Channel; a Victorian retreat beloved by Tennyson, who wrote ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ here. It was also the home of the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, who made portraits of many of Tennyson’s guests. (When Tennyson took the American poet Longfellow to Cameron’s house for a portrait, he reportedly warned: “You’ll have to do whatever she tells you. I’ll come back soon and see what’s left of you.”)

Commentary
Do You See?

Do You See?

With the death of Julie King late in 2018, art and art history in Aotearoa New Zealand lost one of its great champions and major scholars. Julie was born in Yorkshire and grew up and was educated in Alnwick, Northumberland; she moved to Christchurch in 1975 to take up a role lecturing in the newly formed art history department at the University of Canterbury. She retired three decades later, having pioneered the teaching of New Zealand art in Canterbury.

Commentary
Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism

Artist William Wegman has been photographing his Weimaraners in endless humanoid situations for more than four decades. Starting with Man Ray in the 1970s, Fay Ray in the 1980s and her subsequent offspring ever since, Wegman’s most popular artistic foil has been his pet dogs. For a number of reasons, this has occasionally meant his work has been thought of as naïve or sentimental – a trivial comic enterprise not too dissimilar to Anne Geddes’s notorious baby photos.

Interview
John Simpson

John Simpson

Early in 2017, Professor John Simpson, the former head of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury, approached the Gallery’s then director, Jenny Harper, with a proposition: he had been considering the future of the art collection he had accumulated over the past six decades, and wished to know whether the Gallery would be interested in selecting a group of works for a gift. My colleague Ken Hall and I visited John one afternoon in March. It quickly became apparent to us that the collection was significant and that the offer was particularly generous. Interestingly, we discovered that the works variously represented John’s own artistic interests and his national and international artworld connections. As such, they told a story of art and art history that usefully expanded the local account.

Postcard From...
Jenny Harper, Riga, Latvia

Jenny Harper, Riga, Latvia

I’ve been conscious of Riga since the 1980s when I organised an exhibition of the work of Australian artist Imants Tillers for the former National Art Gallery in Wellington. Although born in Sydney, Latvian was spoken at Tillers’s home and the city’s name features from time-to-time in his work, including the large multiple-canvas board painting bought for the NAG collection – Diaspora (1992). But my awareness of Latvia’s politics and past history was minimal until my visit.

Artist interview
Power Play

Power Play

In November 2017, Simon Denny’s The Founder’s Paradox opened at Michael Lett Gallery in Auckland, the first solo exhibition Denny had made specifically for New Zealand audiences in several years. His starting point for the project was local: the news, broken by New Zealand Herald journalist Matt Nippert in early 2017, that the billionaire tech investor and Donald Trump supporter Peter Thiel was in fact a New Zealand citizen.

Commentary
As Stark and Grey as Stalin's Uniform

As Stark and Grey as Stalin's Uniform

Heading along to the stunning Rita Angus: Life & Vision survey exhibition at the Gallery in 2009 I always had this nagging feeling that one work was missing from the walls – Angus’s Gasworks from 1933. This painting was one that I knew only through the black and white image that appeared first in a volume of Art in New Zealand in 1933; the same reproduction that was later used in Jill Trevelyan’s excellent biography of Angus and also in the catalogue for the National Art Gallery’s 1982 retrospective, Rita Angus. For the New Zealand art historian, Gasworks was a kind of legend – painted by one of the country’s best artists yet seen in person by only a very few. In 1975, when Gordon H. Brown curated New Zealand Painting 1920–1940: Adaption and Nationalism, Gasworks was listed as ‘location unknown’ in the accompanying catalogue. Amazingly the painting was also not included in the retrospective exhibition of 1982. We had grown to know this painting purely through a grainy black and white illustration from 1933. But the painting was never lost – Gasworks is a painting that has been cherished, protected and loved by the same Christchurch family since the early 1940s. And now, having been placed on loan to Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, it is available for the public to view for the first time since 1933, when it was shown at the Canterbury Society of Arts.

Artist interview
Driving  Without a Licence

Driving Without a Licence

Peter Robinson: I may be wrong about this, but I believe that we were the last generation to experience the primacy of painting at art school. What I mean by this is that when we were at Ilam, students had to compete to get into departments. As crazy as it sounds now, there was a very clear hierarchy: painting was the most popular discipline and afforded the most esteem, sculpture second, then film, print, design and photography somewhere down the line. Can you remember why you ended up choosing sculpture? And furthermore why you ended up being a painter? Do you think your training as a sculptor affected the way you think about or approach painting that is different to someone who was trained formally as a painter?

Commentary
The World Tossed Continuously in a Riot of Colour, Form, Sound

The World Tossed Continuously in a Riot of Colour, Form, Sound

One hundred and twenty five years ago, after years of political struggle, Aotearoa New Zealand granted all adults the right to vote by extending suffrage to women. To mark this anniversary, for this issue of Bulletin our curators have written about some of the Gallery’s significant – yet lesser-known – nineteenth and mid-twentieth-century works by women. Our intention is to make these paintings, and the cultural contribution of the artists, more visible in 2018.

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