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W.A Sutton: A Retrospective

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Catalogue for the Exhibition W.A. Sutton: A Retrospective held Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū 10 May - 28 September 2003.

W.A Sutton: A Retrospective

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Collection
Dry September
William Sutton Dry September

In 1930s New Zealand there was wide discussion about what was unique about the New Zealand situation; what it was that made us different from the rest of the world. Artists and writers began exploring ways to identify our national identity. A number of artists began painting the Canterbury High Country, most famously Rita Angus and her landscape painting of the railway station at Cass. One reviewer in 1936 observed that there was a new quality in the landscapes exhibited in Christchurch that seemed ‘to consist in a removal of the romantic mists which used to obscure mountains and the Canterbury countryside generally. The light now is clear and hard, the colours are in flat planes, and the effect is of seeing the country through a gem-like atmosphere. There is also a new romantic standpoint – an insistence on the isolation and brooding loneliness of the hills.’ It’s a statement that certainly rings true with the Canterbury paintings of Rita Angus, Leo Bensemann, Louise Henderson, Rata Lovell-Smith and Bill Sutton.

(March 2018)

Article
Exquisite Treasure Revealed

Exquisite Treasure Revealed

Canterbury Museum holds two albums compiled by Diamond Harbour artist Margaret Stoddart. The older of the two, containing images featured in this Bulletin, and itself currently exhibited in the Gallery, covers the period 1886–96. The album is handsomely bound in maroon, and stamped M.O.S. in gold. It contains a sort of travelogue by way of black and white photographs set amongst decorative painting, mostly of native flora, with some locality and date information. 

 

Exhibition
In the Vast Emptiness

In the Vast Emptiness

The Canterbury landscape as captured by twentieth century painters.

Interview
Talking Bensemann

Talking Bensemann

Leo Bensemann was one of the most respected figures in the Christchurch arts scene, and played a pivotal role in influential arts collective The Group. Always something of an odd-man-out, he produced a large body of work across several different disciplines before his death in 1986. In an attempt to get a fuller picture of the man himself, Gallery director Jenny Harper spoke to two artists who knew him well, John Coley and Quentin MacFarlane.

Artist Profile
Leo Bensemann: an art venture

Leo Bensemann: an art venture

Leo Bensemann (1912–1986) was a pivotal figure bridging the worlds of literature and visual arts – a go-between like no other. Peter Simpson is an authority on this distinctive artist.

Collection
Bridge, Mt Cook Road
Rata Lovell-Smith Bridge, Mt Cook Road

'This is the Mount Cook Road, and there are many bridges on that road. The people of Ngāi Tūāhuriri would go inland into the McKenzie [just below where this location is painted] for hunting high country weka [native woodhen] with dogs. They'd carry their empty packs of pōhā [kelp bags to hold preserved birds] with them to the hunting area, catch the weka and process the birds up there. They’d carry the pōhā out, and meet people coming from the south also going up to those high country plains. It was a summer exercise. Towards the end of summer the birds are fat. You preserve them like tītī [muttonbirds] in their own fat.' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

Collection
Rakaia Series No. 37
Trevor Moffitt Rakaia Series No. 37

Trevor Moffitt had a deep love for inland Canterbury that was in part fostered by his obsession with fishing. In the mid 1970s he purchased a bach at Lake Clearwater, inland from the Canterbury town of Ashburton. This became his favourite spot to retreat from city life and experience the outdoors. In 1982, after the death of his wife, Alison, Moffitt began the series that this work is from. He said in an interview:

'After Alison died I’d had enough of people, so I went out and painted the Rakaia River series. I had just been emotionally drained. […] The best thing I could do was go off on the weekend and paint the river. I poured all my grief and tears into depicting the waters of the Rakaia.'

In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016

Collection
Hills and Plains, Waikari
William Sutton Hills and Plains, Waikari

William (Bill) Sutton spent most of his life in Christchurch, apart from two years from 1947–49 studying and painting in Britain and Europe. This time away helped attune his eyes to the distinctive qualities of the local regional landscape. Teaching full-time at the Canterbury College School of Art from that time, Sutton lived in a rented studio flat overlooking Victoria Square and became the owner of a Matchless motorbike – upgraded to a 500cc BSA Golden Flash in 1956 – on which he’d leave the city on his weekends in pursuit of countryside to paint.

Human presence has reshaped this landscape, with its bending macrocarpa windbreaks, simple corrugated iron structures and undulating patchwork fields. A palette of subtle ochres, greys and gold presents a characteristically Canterbury scene and typifies the work for which Sutton became appreciated and known.

(Beneath the ranges 18 February – 23 October 2017)

Collection
Te Tihi o Kahukura and Sky, I
William Sutton Te Tihi o Kahukura and Sky, I

This painting by Bill Sutton expands our view of a familiar site on Christchurch’s Port Hills, encouraging the viewer to consider what mysteries may have been present before the arrival of Māori tangata whenua, the people of the land. Te Tihi o Kahukura, or the Citadel of Kahukura, is the first name of Castle Rock, the foregrounded point at the left of the painting. The extended Māori name translates as ‘the Citadel of the Rainbow God (and a) sky full of boiling clouds roaring around all over the place’. According to Kāi Tahu tradition, Kahukura is the atua, or god, who clothed the land; Kahukura later transformed to become the atua of rainbows. Here, Sutton’s interest in landscape, light and colour is applied to a location of significance for Māori. There is an intimacy in the site for Sutton, as he was able to see it “from my upstairs back-landing window”. Sutton’s house remains in what is now known as ‘the red zone’, an earthquake-battered place of an undetermined future.

(Te Tihi o Kahukura: The Citadel of Kahukura, 18 Februay 2017 - 18 May 2018)

Collection
Mackenzie Country
Esther Studholme Hope Mackenzie Country

The viewpoint Esther Hope chose for this work allowed her to show the vast expanse of the Mackenzie Country, which stretches out before the viewer towards the Southern Alps. This region was a favourite subject of Hope’s, one that she returned to throughout her career.

She said that “this land is a part of me … I have never regretted my choice of environment [and] have always felt a strong feeling of primitiveness [here].” Hope’s mature style is seen here, with broad wet washes of colour confidently used.

Hope was born near Geraldine, South Canterbury. She was first introduced to painting through her mother, Emily Studholme, an accomplished amateur artist. She also took lessons from Edwyn Temple and Margaret Stoddart. In 1912 Hope left New Zealand for England where she enrolled at the Slade School of Art, London. In 1919 she returned to New Zealand, married Henry Norman Hope and settled at the Grampians Station in the Mackenzie Country.

Collection
Sunset, Craigieburn
Colin S. Lovell-Smith Sunset, Craigieburn

Colin Lovell-Smith often went on painting trips to this area with his wife Rata, who was also a landscape painter. Craigieburn is in the Southern Alps, about 100 kilometres northwest of Christchurch. Although set beside a small riverbed close to the main road, the painting focuses on the steep eroded slopes of the Craigieburn Range. Lovell-Smith has paid close attention to the landform details, capturing the distinctive qualities of the Canterbury mountain region. Shades of ochre are subtly orchestrated with the soft grey of the predominant greywacke rocks. Born in Christchurch, Lovell-Smith studied at the Canterbury College School of Art then worked for his father’s printing business. During World War I Lovell-Smith was with the Royal Engineers on the Balkan Front and was subsequently awarded the Serbian Gold Medal of Merit for his work. On his return to Christchurch in 1919 he taught, first at St Andrew’s College, then at the School of Art, of which he was Director from 1947 until his death.

Collection
Canterbury Plains From Cashmere Hills
Doris Lusk Canterbury Plains From Cashmere Hills

Bill Sutton once commented that “on the Canterbury Plains you don’t look up and down but from side to side”, which seems entirely appropriate for this vast landscape painting of the plains by his friend Doris Lusk.

In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016

Collection
Nor’west
Juliet Peter Nor’west

According to Kāi Tahu, within the story of the creation of Te Waipounamu (the South Island), Aoraki was an atua, or demi-god, who left the home of his father, Raki, in the heavens and voyaged with his brothers to visit Raki’s first wife Poharora o Te Po. They set out to return to his father, but there was a fault in the karakia (prayer) for their return. Aoraki’s canoe – Te Waka o Aoraki – was stranded, and Aoraki and his brothers turned to stone, becoming the mountains of Kā Tiritiri o Te Moana, the Southern Alps.

'This work is interesting because it offers an unusual perspective on Aoraki [Mount Cook] – but Aoraki is full of different perspectives in Kāi Tahu culture. The mountain is, above all, a symbol of our tribal and regional identity. That’s got nothing much to do with its location – although that obviously commands cultural attention – but mainly because of its centrality in the Te Waipounamu creation story. And it is a distinctive creation story, part of a creation myth which has survived here in the remote outskirts of Polynesia while it has been lost at the centre where it came from. Aoraki made us distinctive, and it makes all people distinctive that live under its span. Juliet Peter’s depiction of it is unusual, but every way you look at Aoraki you’ve got a different perspective.' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

Collection
Camp in the Kowai
Austen A Deans Camp in the Kowai

'The Kowai would, in standard Māori, be pronounced Kōwhai – it's named after the kōwhai tree [native tree with yellow flowers].' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

Collection
Canterbury Spring
Leo Bensemann Canterbury Spring

In 1930s New Zealand there was wide discussion about what was unique about the New Zealand situation; what it was that made us different from the rest of the world. Artists and writers began exploring ways to identify our national identity. A number of artists began painting the Canterbury High Country, most famously Rita Angus and her landscape painting of the railway station at Cass. One reviewer in 1936 observed that there was a new quality in the landscapes exhibited in Christchurch that seemed ‘to consist in a removal of the romantic mists which used to obscure mountains and the Canterbury countryside generally. The light now is clear and hard, the colours are in flat planes, and the effect is of seeing the country through a gem-like atmosphere. There is also a new romantic standpoint – an insistence on the isolation and brooding loneliness of the hills.’ It’s a statement that certainly rings true with the Canterbury paintings of Rita Angus, Leo Bensemann, Louise Henderson, Rata Lovell-Smith and Bill Sutton.

(March 2018)

Collection
The Long Lookout
Ivy G Fife The Long Lookout

'Tu-Te-Raki-Whanoa, the son of Aoraki, is the atua [demi-god] who shapes the wrecked waka to ready it for people. His first great task is to defeat the south-easterly winds roaring along the side of the wreck. He invents peninsulas. He rakes all the rubbish of the wreckage and piles it up like a gigantic break water. Thus you have the Canterbury Plains and a sheltered place for his next invention, Whakaraupō [Lyttelton Harbour] and Akaroa Harbour. He then depresses his heel and creates Waihora [Lake Ellesmere], later claimed by the exploring ancestor, Rākaihautū, as Te Kete ika o Te Rākaihautū [the fish basket of Rākaihautū].' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

Collection
Evening
Colin S. Lovell-Smith Evening

'Well, this is Haumuri Point south of Kaikōura. Pākehā called it Amuri – you’ve got Amuri Motors, Amuri buildings, Amuri district or whatever. It is called Haumuri, and it was always explained to me that the name was given because the wind there is always behind you.

'In the Te Waipounamu creation story, Tu-Te-Raki-Whanoa had two assistant atua [demi-gods], Marokura and Kahukura. We could say that Kahukura was in charge of all parks and reserves, and Marokura was in charge of 
the Ministry of Fisheries. The whole coast is inhabited by the work of those atua. The land is clothed and beautified by Kahukura. Marokura goes off to make his own peninsula at Kaikōura. He was a fishing atua – he wasn’t much of a civil engineer – so it’s only a small peninsula. He puts the great riches of the sea into the coast, which was his skill. The coast is called Te Tai o Marokura; some people call it Te Koha o Marokura.' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

Collection
Hawkins
Rata Lovell-Smith Hawkins

In 1930s New Zealand there was wide discussion about what was unique about the New Zealand situation; what it was that made us different from the rest of the world. Artists and writers began exploring ways to identify our national identity. A number of artists began painting the Canterbury High Country, most famously Rita Angus and her landscape painting of the railway station at Cass. One reviewer in 1936 observed that there was a new quality in the landscapes exhibited in Christchurch that seemed ‘to consist in a removal of the romantic mists which used to obscure mountains and the Canterbury countryside generally. The light now is clear and hard, the colours are in flat planes, and the effect is of seeing the country through a gem-like atmosphere. There is also a new romantic standpoint – an insistence on the isolation and brooding loneliness of the hills.’ It’s a statement that certainly rings true with the Canterbury paintings of Rita Angus, Leo Bensemann, Louise Henderson, Rata Lovell-Smith and Bill Sutton.

(March 2018)

Collection
Summer Kowai, 1934
Cedric Savage Summer Kowai, 1934

Kowai Bush is a farming area in the foothills of Central Canterbury, where typically the summers are very hot and dry. Like other Canterbury landscape artists of the 1930s, Cedric Savage was interested in recording the unique features of the Canterbury region. He was essentially a plein air (outdoors) artist concerned with painting directly from nature but in Summer, Kowai he has worked in a careful manner, keeping control over the application of paint. Born in Christchurch, Savage studied at the Canterbury College School of Art. He later studied with Sydney Lough Thompson (1877-1973) and Archibald Nicoll (1886 - 1953). After travelling, he returned to New Zealand in 1933, settling in Christchurch where he became vice-president of the New Zealand Society of Artists. Savage’s eyes were injured during World War II and for the rest of his life he could only paint outdoors. Although he won the Kelliher Art Award in 1962, Savage felt unappreciated in New Zealand and spent many years living away from the country, finally settling in Greece.