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.
Lara Strongman: Let’s talk about the process of making the works for this exhibition. Can you describe how you produced them?
Julia Morison: I’ve never actually made ceramics before. I read Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes, which is about a netsuke set that is passed through several generations. De Waal is a ceramicist and he talks in this book about objects and porcelain in such a visceral way—basically he seduced me into picking up a ball of clay and playing with it. For a long time I haven’t had the use of my hands [because of arthritis], so I thought that playing with clay might actually help strengthen them.
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.
Lara Strongman: This show brings together thirty years or more of your work, put together with the curators from Dunedin Public Art Gallery. I wondered what you’d discovered through the process?
Marie Shannon: I discovered that I hadn’t moved very far. That’s not to say that I didn’t feel my work had developed, but I’d just run around in such confined territory. Of course that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I found it confronting to look at that short reach in my output. I had to convince myself that it didn’t all look like shit. (You probably can’t say that here because you want people to come and see the exhibition, but I’m being perfectly honest.) Each time the show was hung, I’d walk away feeling despondent and then I’d sort of think, “No, it’s actually okay”.
Lara Strongman: Why did you call this work Hoa Kōhine (Girlfriend)?
Lonnie Hutchinson: The work is very feminine in nature. Because it’s the 125 year celebration of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa this year, I wanted to refer to women, and to the friendship between women. “Girlfriend” is what women friends call each other, in an affectionate sort of way. Hey girlfriend! And in a text we’ll use gf.
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?
John Stezaker is an English conceptual artist, acknowledged as a significant influence on the YBA generation. He has been working since the mid-1970s, while achieving international acclaim for his work in the past fifteen years. His exhibition Lost World opens at Christchurch Art Gallery in March 2018. He spoke to senior curator Lara Strongman on a visit to Aotearoa New Zealand in August 2017.
In September 2017, Gallery director Jenny Harper, curator Felicity Milburn and Jo Blair, of the Gallery Foundation’s contracted development services, Brown Bread, went to London, taking a group of supporters who received a very special tour of the city’s art highlights. While there, they further developed the Foundation’s new London Club. Recently they sat down together in Jenny’s office…
Sydow: Tomorrow Never Knows recently opened at Gallery and the exhibition’s curator, Peter Vangioni, took the opportunity to interview UK-based sculptor Stephen Furlonger. Furlonger was a contemporary of Carl Sydow and mutual friend and fellow sculptor John Panting, both at art school in Christchurch and in London during the heady days of the mid 1960s. His path as an artist during the late 1950s and 1960s in many ways mirrored that of Sydow and Panting.