Portraits for the Million

Portraits for the Million

Scottish-born brothers John Tait (1836–1907) and Alexander Tait (1839–1913) established themselves as photographers in gold rush Hokitika in about 1866, the period in which Catton’s The Luminaries is set. While building up a broader picture of photographers for the Hidden Light: Early Canterbury and West Coast Photography book and exhibition, I recalled an interview with the novelist at around the time of her 2013 Man Booker Prize success, and her mention of having restricted her reading for a year before starting the novel to nothing published after 1866, giving the National Library’s Papers Past credit as a vital source. The trails and condensed stories of many of the photographers in Hidden Light were largely brought together via this same indispensable means.

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.

Philip Trusttum and the Squashed Painting

Philip Trusttum and the Squashed Painting

The painting is of a head on the end of a knife; it’s called Not Good (2014). Trusttum is better known for paintings that exude pleasure, their subject matter including physical exercise, sensuality and music, childhood, games and toys, animals, and ordinary domestic tasks such as mowing the lawn—life. There is pleasure and life too in the way he paints—in dancing, hyperactive line and luscious colour. It might seem anomalous, then, for Trusttum to paint something that is “not good”. When I interviewed him for Art New Zealand in 2011, he hinted at a bleaker side to his work, but said: “Stay away from explaining any darker meaning. I mean, we’ve got the earthquakes here.” There is something to be said, though, for complicating the perception of Trusttum’s pictures as purely hedonistic.

Everyone to Altitude

Everyone to Altitude

Late on a mild spring afternoon in mid-September, I travelled out of the city to a farm paddock somewhere up the line near Amberley, up front in a battered van carrying six drone pilots and their gear. The sun was low in the sky and Ōtautahi was framed in an arch of nor’west clouds. It was the first fine day in weeks.

Gordon Walters

Gordon Walters

Te Waipounamu the South Island is crisscrossed by hundreds of traditional mahinga kai, or food-gathering, routes. Used by Waitaha, Kāti Mamoe and Kāi Tahu people over centuries, these routes provided access to the best destinations to harvest food, as well as facilitating the transport of pounamu from the Arahura through Nōti Raukura (Browning’s Pass) across Ka Tiritiri o te Moana (the Southern Alps) to Tuahiwi, north of Christchurch.

In Search of Rose Zeller

In Search of Rose Zeller

Enveloped in her dark brown coat and wearing an unconventional and distinctive striped shirt, Rose Zeller looks out from the canvas with an engaging and knowing smile. Painted around 1936 by her friend, fellow artist and teacher in craft and design, Daisy Osborn, it’s a rare view of an artist who, while scarcely remembered today, was an unconventional and respected figure during the interwar years.

Of Braided Rivers and Hydro-Traders

Of Braided Rivers and Hydro-Traders

“With 14,000km of coastline, over 180,000km of rivers, and 3,820 lakes, there’s more to the land of the long white cloud than land…” So began an advertisement in a recent Sunday Star Times. It might have been the opening gambit for a campaign devoted to water conservation but was, in fact, a promotion for the latest model jet ski: “And all you need to unlock it is the all-new Yamaha Waverunner FX HO… SAME PLANET, DIFFERENT WORLD. Yamaha-motor.co.nz.”

Her Own London

Her Own London

I laughed at your note. Our packing was not done until the last minute of the 11th hour, and when we at last got onto the train we could only think how lovely it was to do nothing and think about nothing. However, by now we realise we are really going to England. After 17 days at sea, out of sight of land, N.Z. seems as if it was in another universe.

Powerfully Present

Powerfully Present

In the last issue of Bulletin, to mark the 125th anniversary of women claiming the right to vote in Aotearoa New Zealand, our curators wrote about five significant – yet lesser-known – nineteenth and mid-twentieth-century works from the collection by women.

In this issue we focus on some contemporary works by women artists that assert a powerful presence in the collection – and which variously explore the charged politics of representation.

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.

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