B.

Louise Henderson, Addington Workshops

Behind the scenes

For many years, the piercing whistle of the railway workshops off Blenheim Road was Addington's alarm clock.

At 8am, a great battalion of working men biked in through the Clarence or the Lowe Street gates: at 4.30pm, the gates opened and they cycled home again across the city. At its height, this heavy industrial complex employed more than 1000 people, and built locomotives, wagons, and carriages for New Zealand Railways as well as steel girders for bridges. When Christchurch artist Louise Henderson painted the workshops in 1930, they had recently been overhauled and expanded as part of a nationwide initiative to modernise the railways.

Louise Henderson arrived in Christchurch in 1925. A Parisienne, she met her future husband Hubert Henderson, a New Zealander, at the Louvre. Shortly after they were engaged Hubert returned to take up a position as head of mathematics at Christchurch Boys' High School: Louise went through a proxy marriage at the Embassy in Paris and sailed off to join him in Christchurch, where they lived for many years on Papanui Road (the house is still standing). "Arriving in New Zealand," she later commented, "was like opening a door for me. I discovered things I never knew existed. It was a new world."

Born Louise Etienette Sidonie Sauze in 1902, Henderson grew up in a cultured environment. Her grandfather had been an academic painter who became under-secretary to the French Minister of Culture: her father, Daniel Sauze, was secretary to the French sculptor Rodin. As a child, Henderson played with marble chips from Rodin's studio. As a young woman she studied at the School of Industrial Arts in Paris and then worked as a designer of embroidery and interiors for the weekly journal Madame. A year after arriving in Christchurch ("A cultured place, dull but sound", as she noted), Henderson was employed to teach design and embroidery at Canterbury College School of Art. Her students knew her as 'Madame': she represented a direct link for them with one of the world's centres of art.

What did the railway workers at Addington make of the stylish Frenchwoman in the beret who stood sketching them amid the noise and grease of the machine shop? There is not a great tradition of social realism in New Zealand art. Henderson's painting is among a handful of significant paintings depicting New Zealand workers and industry from the interwar years, including Christopher Perkins's Silverstream Brickworks (1930) and Rita Angus's Gas Works (1933). Henderson depicts the workshop as a bright, clean, industrious place: men stand at their lathes and machines, engrossed in their work. In the foreground two men examine a blueprint; another worker glides above the scene in a bucket attached to a gantry crane.

Like Perkins, and Angus, with whom she was close friends, Henderson has simplified and flattened forms and washed the composition with a clear and even light. The emphasis is on the geometric design afforded by the scene, where straight lines are painted with the aid of a ruler and incidental details are left out. This distinctive style, associated with the Canterbury School of the 1930s, nods both towards international modernism and to contemporary commercial art.

As road freight overtook rail, the Addington Workshops declined until they were finally closed in 1990 and gradually demolished. But sixty years earlier, when Henderson painted them, the workshops were not just a major employer in the city – they represented a distinct culture of their own, fielding choirs and sports teams and holding gigantic annual picnics to which workers' families were invited. The long-demolished shed in which Henderson sketched the men at work stood adjacent to the site of the current railway station at Addington and behind the heritage water tower. All that's left of the workshops today is the water tower, built in concrete and steel in 1883, which now stands isolated in the car park at Tower Junction.

 

This article first appeared in The Press, 14 October 2014.

Related

Collection
Addington Workshops
Louise Henderson Addington Workshops

Arriving in Christchurch from Paris in 1925, having recently married a New Zealander, the young Louise Henderson (née Sauze) began teaching embroidery design at the Canterbury College School of Art in the following year. Painting was one way in which she began familiarising herself with a new environment. Befriending local artists, she also began to exhibit her work.

This painting proves Henderson’s innate ability with colour and ongoing interest in structural form. Picturing the vast railway carriage construction workshops in the suburb of Addington in Christchurch, this is one of very few New Zealand modernist paintings dealing with urban industry in this period.

(Above ground, 2015)

Commentary
Above Ground

Above Ground

I go into the Gallery. Haven’t been there in a while. Building closed. It was open to begin with. Civil Defence HQ in the weeks following the shock that laid the city low and who knew glass could be so strong, so resilient? Then the Gallery closed. It was cordoned off, behind wire netting. Something was going on in there. Someone said something had cracked in the basement. Someone said they needed to insert a layer of bouncy forgiving rubber beneath glass and concrete, ready for any future slapdown.

Commentary
City of Shadows and Stories

City of Shadows and Stories

If cities are the ground into which we plant stories, the soil of Ōtautahi – later Christchurch – is undergoing a protracted tilling season. Five years is a long unsettlement in human terms; on a geological (or indeed narratological) scale, time moves more gradually. Christchurch exists today as a rich aggregation of narratives, propping up physical edifices of crumbling stone and cardboard.

Exhibition
Above Ground

Above Ground

An exhibition exploring the impact of architecture, imagination and memory.

Notes
Yertle the Turtle by Glen Hayward

Yertle the Turtle by Glen Hayward

This article first appeared in The Press as 'An Ode to Yertle the Turtle' on 13 May 2015.

Article
Shifting Lines

Shifting Lines

It's where we live: the encrusted surface of a molten planet, rotating on its own axis, circling round the star that gives our daylight. Geographically, it's a mapped-out city at the edge of a plain, bordered by sea and rising, broken geological features. Zooming in further, it's a neighbourhood, a street, a shelter – all things existing at first as outlines, drawings, plans. And it's a body: portable abode of mind, spirit, psyche (however we choose to view these things); the breathing physical location of unique identity and passage.

Collection
Rotated Sample 3
Andrew Drummond Rotated Sample 3

Andrew Drummond is a Christchurch-based artist who works across different media, best known for his large-scale kinetic sculptures and installations. A major survey of his work was held at Christchurch Art Gallery in 2010.

Drummond takes a transformative approach to materials, and has sometimes incorporated meticulously hand-polished pieces of coal into his sculptural work. His photograph of this elemental material in its jewel-like, modified state utilises double exposure, and is from a series exploring the subtle, varying effects of rotation, reflection and light. (Above ground, 2015)

Collection
Pup Tent
Pip Culbert Pup Tent

The tent, one of the most basic architectural structures, is also a symbol for temporary shelter and a metaphor for the body. Pip Culbert has investigated its essential form by removing everything but the reinforced stitching, laying out its structure like an isometric plan. The tent is denied perspective but retains a spatial sense.

Culbert was a British artist based in France who graduated from the Royal College of Art in London in the early 1960s. Culbert showed her work extensively in solo and group shows internationally, and first exhibited in this country in 1993.

Christchurch Art Gallery acknowledges with sadness the recent passing of Pip Culbert.

(Above ground, 2015)

Notes
New exhibition: Shifting Lines

New exhibition: Shifting Lines

Here's a little from behind the scenes. Shifting Lines opens tomorrow, 9 November, and runs until 19 January 2014. It's a show about drawing as an idea, which is permitted here to take very different forms. It includes work by six artists – Andrew Beck, Peter Trevelyan, Katie Thomas, Pip Culbert, Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano – all of whom use line to investigate space and structure in unexpected ways.

Notes
Rooftops, backyards, urban scapes

Rooftops, backyards, urban scapes

As a supplement to the article in today's Press GO section, highlighting the recent purchase of Ivy Fife's Untitled (Towards Worcester Street from St. Elmo Courts), here's a modest selection of paintings of rooftops, backyards and urban scapes from the collection...

Notes
The Queen's visit by Ivy Fife

The Queen's visit by Ivy Fife

This article first appeared as 'Hello and goodbye' in The Press on 5 October 2012.

Collection
Reflection
William Dunning Reflection

Capturing a time and place that remains familiar for many, William Dunning’s photorealistic painting of Christchurch’s Cathedral Square pictures the window-reflected Regent Theatre and southeast corner of the 1960s modernist Government Life Building. Both were demolished after the 2010–11 earthquakes, as was the building in which they were mirrored.

Dunning is a Christchurch artist for whom local history is an ongoing concern. Reflection is a significant early work, and was presented by the artist in 2011. (Above ground, 2015)

Collection
Some thing, for example
Julia Morison Some thing, for example

Julia Morison’s 'Some thing, for example' is like a broken life-support system for the waiting, blob-like entity which, although securely caged, seems more traumatised than dangerous, and without anybody to administer aid.

Like all who experienced the 2010–11 earthquakes in Canterbury, Morison, living near the edge of Christchurch’s cordoned ‘red zone’, was delivered a frequent heightened dose of adrenaline. With this, she encountered new aesthetic possibilities in found, discarded objects; sculptural media of a kind that the physical environment had never previously supplied. From a situation of dislocation and abandonment, she has created work of an unexpected material and formal beauty. (Above ground, 2015)

Collection
Yertle
Glen Hayward Yertle

Glen Hayward’s towering Yertle had its origins in a collection of twenty-eight abandoned paint tins he spied in a back-of-house Christchurch Art Gallery storeroom, containing the residue of wall colours from past exhibitions. Meticulously recreating these tins out of wood, Hayward then painted his carved replicas, faithfully reproducing every smear and drip of forgotten paint.

Stacked up like its namesake, Dr Seuss’s vainglorious turtle king, Hayward's Yertle is a feat of painstaking fearlessness. (Above ground, 2015)

Collection
Christchurch NZ 1923. No.1 (View of Christchurch City from the Cathedral Tower)
Robert Percy Moore Christchurch NZ 1923. No.1 (View of Christchurch City from the Cathedral Tower)

R. P. Moore ascends the cathedral’s spire to put his swivelling Cirkut camera to its familiar task. Up the narrow spiral stone staircase, a breezy ladder, past the bells, he reaches the balcony with its clear view facing west. A heavy morning frost means it is cold; the coal smoke of home and office fires lend partial soft-focus to the view.

The Square below has a single horse carriage and thirteen motorcars neatly parked. A tram beside the Clarendon Hotel curves right towards the Square. Tram tracks cut sweeping lines in the frost. None below have noticed the elevated cameraman, who turns the switch. it's five past nine as the camera begins its mechanical roll.

(Above ground, 2015)

Collection
What you bring with you to work
Fiona Connor What you bring with you to work

In 2010, the ex-Auckland, Los Angeles-based Fiona Connor produced nine precise replicas of the bedroom windows of a group of art gallery attendants. Connor’s flexible installation plan sees these replica windows fitted into cavities in a building’s walls, allowing views into the fabric of its hidden structure.

'What you bring with you to work' tests out various ideas, implicit in its title, including the imprint of a person's home environment, and the meeting of private and public space. In a local, post-earthquake context, Connor's window structures may gather a different set of associations. (Above ground, 2015)

Article
De-Building

De-Building

For many passers-by, Christchurch art Gallery is identified by its dramatic glass façade—the public face it presents to the world. but De-Building is an exhibition that offers a very different view. bringing together the work of fourteen artists from new Zealand and farther afield, this group exhibition draws inspiration from the working spaces gallery-goers seldom see: the workshops, loading bays and back corridors; the scruffy, half-defined zones.

Collection
Private Lodgings
William Sutton Private Lodgings

Prominent Christchurch painter Bill Sutton was an influential teacher from 1949 to 1979 at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts. Sutton has chosen here a restricted palette – ochre, brown and black – to portray this aged wooden façade under streetlight glare, with a reflected neon glow of red.

The Manchester Private Hotel, already rundown when Sutton painted it in 1954, was a somewhat disreputable boarding house on the corner of Manchester and Southwark Streets on the outskirts of central Christchurch. Belonging to a series of paintings that Sutton made depicting old, inner city buildings, it conveys the imprint of memory and the local past.

(Above ground, 2015)

Collection
Manchester Street, Christchurch
Louise Henderson Manchester Street, Christchurch

The Paris-born Louise Henderson (née Sauze) arrived in Christchurch in 1925 after marrying a New Zealander, and began her career here teaching design and embroidery at the Canterbury College School of Art. Henderson’s highly skilful, elevated view of Manchester Street, east of Cathedral Square, shows a streetscape that until the 2010–11 Canterbury earthquakes had remained largely intact.

(Above ground, 2015)

Collection
House and School
Ronnie van Hout House and School

Ronnie van Hout’s installation recreates his childhood home in Aranui, a suburb of eastern Christchurch, and his primary school in nearby Wainoni. A looped video replays his daily bike ride between the two locations. Together, these elements present the story of van Hout’s beginnings.

Familiar architectural structures, however, are taken beyond the ordinary by the presence of a hovering, makeshift UFO, whose surveillance results appear on a nearby monitor. Can we read this as a picture of suburban childhood experience as an alien might see it, or as the artist’s memorial to the need for imaginative survival and escape? (Above ground, 2015)

Collection
The Drawbridge, Plate VII (second state) from the series Invenzioni Capric di Carceri
Giovanni Battista Piranesi The Drawbridge, Plate VII (second state) from the series Invenzioni Capric di Carceri

Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s The Drawbridge is one of sixteen plates from a folio of prints depicting imaginary prisons that has repeatedly haunted and inspired writers, artists and architects for over two and a half centuries. Three of Piranesi’s Carceri engravings, for example, were included in Alfred H. Barr’s exhibition Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1936.

First issued in 1749–50, but attracting little attention to begin with, the series was republished with heavily reworked plates in 1761, yielding darker, more detailed and more resolved prints that brought an attendant increase to their public reception and acclaim. (Above ground, 2015)

Collection
The Lighted Pillar
James Fitzgerald The Lighted Pillar

Christ Church Cathedral, a defining symbol of this city since its consecration in 1881, was designed by the English architect George Gilbert Scott, with input from the local supervising architect Benjamin Mountfort. In its present earthquake-damaged state it represents a significant challenge for this city’s church, civic and cultural leaders.

James Fitzgerald and the younger John Mills Thomasson were both British-born commercial artists who settled in Christchurch: Fitzgerald in 1923, after twenty years in Auckland, and Thomasson after serving in Mesopotamia (Iraq) during World War I. Both produced etchings of local Christchurch views and exhibited with the Canterbury Society of Arts.

(Above ground, 2015)

Collection
Queen’s Visit
Ivy G Fife Queen’s Visit

Many artists have depicted this city’s urban spaces, including Ivy Fife, who studied at the Canterbury College School of Art from 1920 to 1931 and taught there from 1936 until 1959. Fife’s studio apartment was in the nearby St. Elmo Courts, from where the bird’s-eye view was painted.

Fife also captured the clamour of Christchurch’s railway station on Moorhouse Avenue during the new Queen’s royal visit. Opened in 1877, the station had been a handsome structure, but by 1954 its Venetian gothic arches were under lean-to additions and its brick warmth covered in paint. Demolition came five years later; its replacement, a landmark modernist building, was itself demolished after the Christchurch earthquakes.

(Above ground, 2015)

Collection
Veduta della Gran Curia Innocenziana
Giovanni Battista Piranesi Veduta della Gran Curia Innocenziana

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, son of a Venetian stone- mason and master builder, trained in architecture and stage design before moving to Rome and training there as an engraver. Producing many picturesque Grand Tour views of Rome, he was hugely influential on the classical revival in European architecture. In Rome in 1755 he befriended the visiting architect Robert Adam, who praised Piranesi in a letter to his brother in London:

'[S]o amazing and ingenious fancies as he has produced in the different plans of the Temples, Baths and Palaces and other buildings I never saw and are the greatest fund for inspiring and instilling invention in any lover of architecture that can be imagined.'

(Above ground, 2015)

Collection
Industrial Area (Tuam Street, Christchurch)
Archibald Nicoll Industrial Area (Tuam Street, Christchurch)

Based on a view of Tuam Street on the outskirts of central Christchurch, some 500 metres from his studio in Cambridge Terrace, Archibald Nicoll’s Industrial Area was first exhibited in Wellington in 1941. While existing as a record of local urban landscape, it also effectively illustrates a comment made by Nicoll in 1923 that “a man became an artist because he suffered from the incurable complaint of making shapes and recording visual impressions”.

(Above ground, 2015)

Collection
View Of Cathedral Square From Hereford Street
James Fitzgerald View Of Cathedral Square From Hereford Street

James Fitzgerald moved from England to Auckland in 1903, and then twenty years later to Christchurch, where he established his own commercial art studio. His watercolour view captures Christchurch’s Cathedral Square at its most architecturally cohesive and complete. Many will remember the United Service Hotel at left, built in 1884–85, demolished 1990; fewer will recall the neoclassical Bank of New Zealand building at right, designed in 1866, demolished 1963. While it is possible to lament our general cultural attitude to architectural heritage, it is also difficult to imagine anything here, even if it had been protected, as capable of surviving the 2010-11 earthquakes that hit the city.

(Above ground, 2015)

Collection
Factory At Widnes
L S Lowry Factory At Widnes

L. S. Lowry’s vision of manufacturing England saw his canvases filled with factories, tenements, steeples and smokestacks, and typically rhythmic, spilling crowds. Factory at Widnes is one of Lowry’s least populated industrial landscapes, and one of his tightest, most minimal constructions; an unexpectedly deserted space within his brimming tribute to the waning industrial north.

Factory at Widnes was seen in London in 1956 by the prominent Christchurch architect and arts supporter Heathcote Helmore, who arranged for it to be shown at the 1957 Canterbury Society of Arts exhibition, from where it was purchased. Lowry was at that time Britain’s most famous living artist. (Above ground, 2015)

Notes

Factory at Widnes by L.S. Lowry

This article first appeared in The Press on 13 October 2004

Laurence Stephen Lowry painted Factory at Widnes in 1956, at which time he was Britain's most famous living painter. Lowry's fame increased in that year as he became the subject of a BBC television documentary, though his work had already been popular in British homes and schools as reproductions since the end of the war. If appreciation for his individualistic painting style was widespread, there was also fascination with L.S. Lowry the artist, who had projected in the press the image of a lonely recluse.