It feels somewhat overwhelming to be bringing this particular visual history into the midst of the heritage disaster that is our present Christchurch. But the images selected for Reconstruction seem to matter, and they leave a strong imprint. The diverse gathering of digitised drawings, paintings, plans, photographs and prints offers a telling account of how this place came to be; tracking the story through stills from a historical documentary spanning 164 years provides a clear sense of narrative being played out. It's a movie with transfixing moments and some unpleasant twists – you already know it has a bad ending, but can only hope that when the sequel has been written, the story will not have completely fallen apart. Meanwhile, the eradication of surviving heritage structure in this city continues on an unimaginable scale. At present the exhibition seems more a memorial to the city's rapidly fading architectural past than a vessel that might yet uphold or safeguard heritage values. The images may be all that we have left.
Reconstruction makes no claim to being comprehensive, but aims to provide clarity around the circumstances into which Christchurch was born. Enter a faded pencil drawing – the first known image created within the city's planned boundaries – made thirteen months before the arrival of the first Canterbury Association settler ships.1 It's a disconcerting start. Walter Mantell's City of Christchurch Nov 14 1849 shows two wooden surveyor's huts, one with a chimney, on a site that would become known as The Bricks, a landing place for boats on the Avon River by the corner of what is now Salisbury and Barbadoes streets. To their left, a slender flagpole holds an open flag; to the right a dignified Māori figure in a rain cape displays a taiaha, decided strut and (suggested by rapid pencil strokes) generous, outstretched hand. Mantell is no artist and the drawing – like his job title, 'Commissioner for the Extinguishment of Native Titles' – does his reputation no particular favours. But if firsts matter then the sketch is an important record of a moment in time.2 By March 1850, just four months later, the now well-known 'Black Map of Christchurch' would have the planned city within the Four Avenues neatly laid out.3
Examples of local Māori architecture are seen in the work of a small number of explorer/surveyor/ settler artists, including William Fox, Richard Oliver, Frederick Weld and Charles Haubroe. Providing an invaluable record of Ngāi Tahu settlements beyond the immediate Christchurch vicinity are watercolours painted between 1848 and 1855 by Fox at Te Rakawakaputa (near present-day Kaiapoi), Oliver at Purau, Weld at Rāpaki and Haubroe at Kaiapoi. As depictions of a people and way of life soon to be overwhelmed by the expansionist ways of the British Empire, these paintings may at the same time be interpreted as representing a period of new beginnings for Ngāi Tahu. Following a period of devastating intertribal warfare, peace, faith and reconciliation have come. At this moment the people are rebuilding, in a sense starting again (some of the buildings depicted will have been new); imagining perhaps that the newcomers will be accommodated into their changing world.
Those who wield pencil and brush, however, are part of the strengthening colonial tide, the scale of which is unforeseen. Soon to be made effectively landless, Ngāi Tahu will wait a long time before those in power make honourable amends. John Robert Godley's Canterbury Settlement – an idealistic new society filled with towering spires, far from his beloved Christ Church College in Oxford, England – could have almost been anywhere, and at one point was being considered for the Wairarapa. From the end of 1850 onwards, as a good number of watercolour sketches show, the Canterbury settlers and their simple structures – tents, makeshift huts and prefabs – begin to spill out of Lyttelton, up and across the land. In the vast scrubland plain, partly swamp, the Christchurch grid will be slowly filled, every single building to begin with raised purely in relation to practical concerns. It will not be long before talent and greater ambitions are ready to perform. The city's founding and transitional stages will be exquisitely chronicled by Dr Alfred Charles Barker (ship's surgeon from the Charlotte Jane, the first Canterbury Association ship to reach Lyttelton) in pencil and watercolour, then with his ever-present camera. Barker's shipmate (and photography tutor), the architect Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort, will make the greatest initial impact on the architectural fabric of the new city. His Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings emerging from the swamp in this early period must be admired as a remarkable feat. Owing a debt of inspiration to Charles Barry's new Houses of Parliament at Westminster, Mountfort's scaled-down labyrinth as it grows from the laying of a foundation stone in 1858 is like a breathing thing; distant beams and struts in Barker's photographs expanding like ribcages into glorious life. The showcase within this set of buildings – and Mountfort's acknowledged greatest achievement among many – is his magnificent Stone Council Chamber, completed in 1865.
Certain excerpts from this early period bring it unexpectedly close. This from a Lyttelton Times writer in January 1858:
We have a chance now of making a healthy and pleasant town of Christchurch; and we ought not to commit in a new country the old-world mistake of leaving no lungs for a town which will soon become populous. ... We are living in a climate more like that of France than that of England; – the French are wiser than we are in providing glimpses of vegetation in the centre of towns as an antidote against the effects of a hot summer sun upon weary and feverish populations. Let us look a little to the future.4
Or perhaps this from Alfred Barker (writing to his brother Matthias in England) on 8 June 1869:
We had a most tremendous & peculiar earthquake here on Saturday last – I was lying in bed, ill, at 8 a.m. when I heard a sudden warning noise – not the deep distant rumbling usually accompanying an earthquake – the house was violently shaken – to the sore destruction of chimneys crockery & chimney ornaments – & in a few seconds all was quiet – the chimneys were wrenched round – & I have since had to take them down. In the town a good deal of mischief was done – but no lives lost – The majority of people agree that the undulatory motion came from N.E. to S.W. or vice versa – it has been succeeded by a vibratory & apparently rotator motion – but the oddest part is it was entirely confined to Christchurch & its vicinity – the shock seemed to come from directly beneath us – but strange to say it did not affect the artesian wells at all. This is the first earthquake which did not give me the sensation of sea sickness.5
(And now I am distracted, wondering how many quakes Barker can have experienced during his nineteen years in the region to be surprised – this time – not to be feeling seasick.)
The West Coast Times added more details about the impact of Christchurch's quake:
[It] inflicted considerable damage. The Government buildings, the Bank of New South Wales, the Town Hall, and other stone buildings, are greatly cracked and injured. A large number of chimneys are thrown down, and others will have to be taken down. It has been the severest shock ever felt here.6
We kept building the city and the quakes we forgot. Beautiful, elaborate productions arose, inspired by London, Oxford, Venice or Rome. Gothic spires appeared everywhere: schools, libraries and university; courthouses and cricket pavilions; museum, railway station and asylum; numerous churches; the tallest, long-awaited, on ChristChurch Cathedral. Sturdy temples dedicated to sacred or secular pursuits embraced the excitement of Gothic revival, Venetian Gothic, neo-classical, Queen Anne or Georgian revival. The proliferation of architecture – serious architecture – meant that Mountfort, provincial architect from 1864, found ready competition from trained and talented others, including Samuel C. Farr, Thomas Cane, W.B. Armson, J.C. Maddison, J.J. Collins, R.D. Harman and Samuel Hurst Seager.7 Appropriations and adaptations from Roman avenues and villas, the Colosseum or Bath Guildhall showed up in Cathedral Square or on Colombo, Manchester, Worcester, High, Cashel, Hereford and Lichfield streets. Dreams embodying cultural accomplishment, past and present, solidified and defined the city. Stone, brick and concrete reinforced the impression of permanence and stability, while timber retreated into the role of hidden structural support.
When Canterbury's founder J.R. Godley left New Zealand in 1852, the town of Christchurch was still just a few wooden huts scattered across swampy scrubland, yet his farewell speech displayed his pride in what the settlement had already become:
When I first adopted and made my own the idea of this colony, it pictured itself to my mind in the colours of a Utopia. Now that I have been a practical coloniser, and have seen how these things are managed in fact, I often smile when I think of the ideal Canterbury of which our imagination dreamed. Yet I have seen nothing in the dream to regret or to be ashamed of, and I am quite sure that without the enthusiasm, the poetry, the unreality (if you will), with which our scheme was overlaid, it would never have been accomplished.8
He concluded with the thought that 'The Canterbury Association has done its work and passed away', maintaining that they had done, 'a great and heroic work; they have raised to themselves a noble monument – they have laid the foundations of a great and happy people'.9 (Even a fraction of his acknowledged idealism could yet serve us well.)
Godley was a principled as well as romantic character, and appears to have been on good terms with local Māori. It is interesting to learn of a presentation made upon his departure from an (as yet) unknown local Ngāi Tahu chief – the highly symbolic gift of a taonga pounamu (greenstone treasure).10 There is something here yet to be understood in relation to this city's foundations – related perhaps to rightful expectations and relationships. It is thought-provoking. The degree of regard in which he was held by the Canterbury colonists is also plainly manifest in Barker's August 1867 photograph of the unveiling of Godley's memorial statue, by pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner, in Cathedral Square. The idea of foundations laid, a city born out of one person's carefully constructed dream, remains potent even now; particularly when it may be reasonably said that many of us owe at least a part of our existence to this idea.
Did the foundations ever help support 'a great and happy people'? Were these even things we could ever become? We should return more squarely to architecture and urban design. Clearly a city's buildings and spaces are not its people, but it may be recognised that these may contribute much towards our quality of life. The American author Mark Twain saw good and pleasant things at least in the Christchurch he visited in November 1895, describing it as 'an English town, with an English-park annex, and a winding English brook [and] a settled old community, with all the serenities, the graces, the conveniences, and the comforts of the ideal home-life.'11 Looking at the visual record, it is not difficult for heritage devotees to feel that the city was at its happiest at about fifty years into the story, at around the time of Twain's visit – or perhaps later, around 1923, when Robert P. Moore brought his panoramic camera to Christchurch, Lyttelton and Sumner. Along with its satellite towns, the city has developed architecturally and carries many impressive qualities. The streetscapes are handsome and cohesive; the buildings well-crafted and sufficiently diverse, holding many details and pleasurable elements of surprise.
All this is several decades before the period in which the wrecker's ball will be given reign, making space for the profitable, 'new knows best', hulking walls and towers of modernism. (Apologies in advance to those who feel Reconstruction casts modernism as the evil baddy.) Many fine buildings will be lost; others will be retained and loved. We can also note in the early record – because we know – that some buildings look dangerous. Hindsight will be something to retain. Keeping anything much at all from our architectural past will be more difficult.
Time has been compressed in the visual record we now own. Many events – and not just recent ones – have turned artist and photographer into historian. Not all would have necessarily sought this fact. However the archival impulse attached to artistic acts of depiction and documentation has regularly been knowing and intentional. As witnesses to change, photographers such as Alfred Barker or Daniel Mundy can be seen as sharing a similar motivation to that of Murray Hedwig, Doc Ross, Tim Veling and John Collie across their unconnected years. In this study of the changing structures and spaces of our city's past, learning becomes as important as remembering. We will all bring our own histories and experience to these images. I am certain they will invite a strong response.
1. Earlier images from within present-day Christchurch were made at the Deans brothers' Riccarton farm in 1848, by Walter Mantell (Alexander Turnbull Library, E-334-014) and William Fox (Hocken Pictorial Collections, A783).
2. The figure is evidently more than symbolic: the reverse of the drawing includes various notes, including carefully-written Māori names in another hand, one being Hoani Paratene followed by a note in Mantell's hand 'by Topi & Taiaroa. Dec. 17 Monday'. Alexander Turnbull Library, E-281-q-040.
3. See 'Black Map of Christchurch, March 1850, Sheet 3', B.M.273, Plot of Christchurch March 1850, Surveyed by Edward Jollie, Assistant Surveyor C.A., Archives New Zealand.
4. Lyttelton Times, 9 January 1858, p.4.
5. A.C. Barker, Canterbury Museum, letter transcribed by Sylvia Hall, 2002.
6. 'Earthquake at Christchurch', West Coast Times, 7 June 1869, p.3.
7. Samuel Charles Farr (1827–1918), Thomas Walter Cane (1830–1905),
William Barnett Armson (1832/3–1883), Joseph Clarkson Maddison (1850–1923), John James Collins (1855–1933), Richard Dacre Harman (1859–1927), Samuel Hurst Seager (1855–1933).
8. John Robert Godley, quoted in William Scott, The Christian Remembrancer, vol.26, London, 1853, p.320.
9. Ibid., p.322.
10. John Robert Godley Memorial Trust Collection.
11. Mark Twain, Following the Equator, 1897, p.134.
Hidden Light: Early Canterbury and West Coast Photography
Uncovering the remarkable, largely unseen work of early New Zealand photographers.
W.B. Armson: A Colonial Architect Rediscovered
The Lines That Are Left
Of landscape itself as artefact and artifice; as the ground for the inscribing hand of culture and technology; as no clean slate.
— Joanna Paul
The residential Red Zone is mostly green. After each house is demolished, contractors sweep up what is left, cover the section with a layer of soil and plant grass seed. Almost overnight, driveway, yard, porch, garage, shed and house become a little paddock; the border of plants and trees outlining it the only remaining sign that there was once a house there.
Kamala, Astral and Charlotte, Lyttelton, March 1983
Laurence Aberhart's 1983 photograph of Lyttelton children is displayed on our Gloucester Street billboard.
Reopening, Redesigning and Returning
When I wrote my foreword for B.182, we were edging closer and closer to reopening; still anticipating this major milestone after almost five years. Having made the vaguely reckless decision to open our doors, come what may, at 10am on 19 December 2015 – a mere week after project completion – we stuck to that deadline.
When we asked Tony de Lautour to produce a new work for the Bunker—the name Gallery staff give to the small, square elevator building at the front of the forecourt on Montreal Street—he proposed a paint scheme inspired by Dazzle camouflage. Associated with the geometric near-abstraction of the vorticist movement, Dazzle was developed by British and American artists during the First World War to disguise shipping. It was a monumental form of camouflage that aimed not to hide the ship but to break up its mass visually and confuse enemies about its speed and direction. In a time before radar and sonar were developed, Dazzle was designed to disorientate German U-boat commanders looking through their periscopes, and protect the merchant fleets.
Senior curator Lara Strongman spoke with Tony de Lautour in late January 2016.
Today is the fifth anniversary of the February earthquake of 2011 which devastated Christchurch. During that time, we and our city have been through so many different phases.
The hungry gap
We invited artists, academics, city makers, curators, health specialists and gallerists to comment on the challenges and opportunities for the arts in our city and what art can contribute to the future of Christchurch.
Aaron Kreisler is Head of the School of Fine Art at the University of Canterbury. He talked to Bulletin about challenges and opportunities for the arts in our city and what art can contribute to the future of Christchurch.
Sparks that fly upwards
Curator Felicity Milburn remembers five years and 101 installations in a gallery without walls.
Everything is going to be alright
The cover of Bulletin 181 in September 2015 featured a miscellany of crates in storage, several marked fragile, one weighing 156kg, some with arrows indicating which way up they should be, others instructing the reopener to lay it flat first. Some bear an image of what’s inside. Ralph Hotere’s Malady Panels and Julia Morison’s Tootoo are there, one with a label, the other with an image of the installed piece. As I write this our collections remain in storage. A few new works and some which have been on loan are awaiting return from storage within other institutions.
Dancing on shifting ground
Sophie McKinnon explores art, resilience, change and urban regeneration in China.
In the winter of 2006 I found myself traipsing around the 798 art district in Beijing, in search of someone to talk to about factories morphing into gallery spaces. I was fascinated by the story of a defunct industrial district turned rapidly expanding contemporary art zone. 798 had been the unofficial site of regeneration for Beijing’s art community since 2001. This community had spent over two deca+des plagued by isolation and displacement but seemed finally to be finding a home.
Peter Stichbury's NDE
Anna Worthington chooses her favourite work from the Gallery collection.
Regional revitalization with art
Rei Maeda, coordinator of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, writes on art’s contribution to the regeneration of a remote rural area of Japan.
Martin Trusttum, project manager for Ōtākaro Art by the River, and founder of temporary gallery space ArtBox, writes on the role of art in Christchurch.
Everything is Going to be Alright
Martin Creed's completely unequivocal, but also pretty darn ambiguous, work for Christchurch.
Since late 2006 when I started as director of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, I’ve written several times about our art collections in Bulletin forewords. Given their centrality to our daily work and our reason for being, this is unsurprising. So it’s good news that we’re focusing on collections in this edition of our quarterly journal.
Michael Parekowhai: Chapman's Homer at PlaceMakers Riccarton
Christchurch's favourite bull can now be found at PlaceMakers Riccarton. That may sound a bit unusual, but these are strange times.
David Cook: Meet Me in the Square
Cathedral Square, Centennial Pool, Lancaster Park, schoolboys, punks, nuns – a photographic journey through 1980s Christchurch.
Last chance to view the Holloway Press exhibition at Central Library Peterborough this week so if you are in the neighbourhood and like beautifully printed, designed and hand-crafted books then make sure you head along.
Paul Johns: South Pacific Sanctuary / Peraki / Banks Peninsula
The consideration of Japanese whale-hunting activity and ensuing protest in nearby southern waters has led to a reflection on our local whaling past, highlighting changing and divergent attitudes to animal life.
Stakes in the ground
Last, Loneliest, Loveliest is New Zealand's first official presence at the International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, and takes its alliterative title from Rudyard Kipling's poem, 'The Song of the Cities', which gives four lines each to various cities from the British Empire, including Auckland:
Last, loneliest, loveliest, exquisite, apart–
On us, on us the unswerving season smiles,
Who wonder 'mid our fern why men depart
To seek the Happy Isles!
Proceed and Be Bold: The Pear Tree Press
An exhibition of beautifully crafted, designed and hand-printed books from New Zealand's most renowned private press, The Pear Tree Press.
A technology that allows a building to effectively 'float' on its foundations during an earthquake is about to be applied to the Gallery.
Max Hailstone: Book and Typographic Designer
A selection of typographic designs, including books, posters and ephemera, by renowned Christchurch graphic designer Max Hailstone (1942–1997).
Curator Ken Hall writes about his experience of working with artists Chris Heaphy and Sara Hughes, as part of a small team with other city council staff and Ngāi Tahu arts advisors, on the Transitional Cathedral Square artist project.
Edwards+Johann: Rebels, Knights and Other Tomorrows
Combining vividly imagined photographs with sculptural elements, Christchurch-based collaborative duo Edwards+Johann present an enigmatic and playful installation laced with tension and possibility.
Shane Cotton: Baseland
Christchurch audiences at last have the opportunity to experience the complexity and ambition of Cotton's latest work in this two-venue exhibition by one of the biggest names in New Zealand art.
Daniel Crooks: Seek Stillness in Movement
Hectic city scenes transformed into contemplative meditations of extraordinary beauty.
The idea of peppering the vestigial city centre with portraits from the collection became part of the Gallery's tenth birthday POPULATE! programme, intended to remind all of us that the collection is, indeed, still here and in good shape.
The latest issue of Photoforum's MoMento journal (issue 14, January 2014) focuses on the work of three photographers with strong ties to Christchurch and their haunting images of this battered city post February 22, 2011.
Burster Flipper Wobbler Dripper Spinner Stacker Shaker Maker
A family-focused exhibition powered by the excitement of seeing ordinary things transformed in unexpected ways.
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.
Street urchins, blue moons and rare visions
Even in a city where surreal scenes have become somewhat routine, the sight of the Isaac Theatre Royal's eight-tonne dome, suspended like a great alien craft, had the power to turn heads and drop jaws. Preserved inside a strange white shroud while the theatre was slowly deconstructed around it was a jewel of Christchurch's decorative arts heritage – a 105 year-old Italianate plaster ceiling featuring a circular painted reverie on the theme of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The dome, along with the rest of the theatre, is currently being restored as part of an ambitious rebuild that is expected to be completed in 2015 at a cost of over $30 million.
The fault is ours: Joseph Becker on Lebbeus Woods
There was a packed auditorium at CPIT in Christchurch this August when visiting San Francisco Museum of Modern Art curator Joseph Becker delivered a lecture on architect Lebbeus Woods. And it wasn't hard to guess why. In addition to many other achievements, Woods is renowned for his highly speculative project, Inhabiting the Quake. Senior curator Justin Paton spoke to Becker about Lebbeus Woods, and what Christchurch might learn from him.
Six artists use line to investigate space and structure in unexpected ways.
New Zealand Illustrated: Pictorial Books from the Victorian Age
A selection of lavishly illustrated books from the Victorian era relating to New Zealand landscape, Māori culture, colonial enterprise and our unique flora, fauna and birdlife.
The endless newscape: Barry Cleavin’s inkjet prints
Barry Cleavin is often, rightfully, referred to as a 'master printer' – a maestro of intaglio printing techniques including the complex tonal subtleties of aquatint, soft- and hard-ground etching and the creation of 'linear tension'. Mastering these complex techniques to achieve a command over the etching processes has required patience and fortitude over a career spanning some forty-seven years.
Yvonne Todd: The Wall of Man
A succinct ad placed in the classifieds of the North Shore Times in March 2009 attracted some forty applicants. Respondents were shown a photographic portrait of an unnamed executive, and directed towards ervon.com – artist Yvonne Todd's website – to decide whether or not they wanted to be photographed. Some still did. The unfolding story might not have been exactly what they'd expected, but all who agreed understood it would be something different. Next came the eliminations: sixteen men were chosen to be photographed; twelve made it to the final cut. The resulting images were printed at varying sizes and titled: International Sales Director, Retired Urologist, Family Doctor, Senior Executive, Hospital Director, Company Founder, Sales Executive, Chief Financial Officer, Image Consultant, Independent Manufacturing Director, Publisher, Agrichemical Spokesman. This is The Wall of Man.
Bodytok Quintet: The Human Instrument Archive
An interactive installation that reveals the astonishing sounds people can make using their bodies – from lip plopping to bone clicking.
Glen Hayward: I don't want you to worry about me, I have met some Beautiful People
Real or illusory? Virtual or physical? Sculptor Glen Hayward teases out these questions in this mind-bending new sculpture, a hand-carved and painted recreation of the famous office cubicle from The Matrix.
Fernbank Studio: away past elsewhere
A selection of hand-printed books from Wellington's Fernbank Studio.
Repair work has started on Christchurch Art Gallery, with the re-levelling tender that will relieve stress in the building's foundations having been awarded.
Boyd Webb: Sleep/Sheep
Boyd Webb contributes a new work to the Gallery's Sterescope programme.
With the removal of the final cordon around the red zone in the central city last weekend, I came in with my family to have a look around the newly reopened areas of the CBD. We stopped to watch the parade of soldiers who were being thanked by the Prime Minister, the Mayor of Christchurch and Kaiwhakahaere of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu for their work in controlling the central city red zone and with community welfare in the immediate aftermath of the February earthquake.
Tony Oursler: Head Knocking
Credited with freeing video art from the 'tyranny of the monitor', Tony Oursler is regarded as one of the world's most influential artists in that medium.
Tony Oursler: Fist
Credited with freeing video art from the 'tyranny of the monitor', Tony Oursler is regarded as one of the world's most influential artists in that medium.
Faces from the Collection
Treasured portraits populate empty spaces in our changing city.
Christchurch Art Gallery is ten: highs and lows
In recognition of the anniversary of the move of Christchurch's public art gallery from its former existence as the Robert McDougall in the Botanic Gardens to its new more central city location (now eerily empty), I've been asked by Bulletin's editor to recall some highs and lows of the last ten years. So here goes — and stay with me during this reflection, which takes the place of my usual foreword.
Fall tension tension wonder bright burn want
Curator Felicity Milburn on Tony Oursler and the grotesque.
Gregor Kregar: Reflective Lullaby
Justin Paton: As everyone who has seen your works at Christchurch Airport will know, you often make big sculptures with a geometric quality. Gnomes, however large, aren't the first things viewers might expect you to be interested in. What's the appeal of these figures for you?
Gregor Kregar: I'm interested reinterpreting mundane objects, shapes, situations or materials. In my large geometric works I do this by creating complex structures out of basic shapes—triangles, squares, pentagons and hexagons. And with the gnomes I am interested in how something that is usually made out of plastic or concrete and is associated with a low, kitsch aesthetic can be transformed into an arresting monumental sculpture.
It’s our party and we’ll cry if we want to
On 10 May 2013, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū turns ten. Which is fantastic. But it's probably fair to say that there's a bittersweet quality to the celebrations around this particular anniversary, as it also marks two years and eleven weeks of closure for the Gallery, and catches us staring down the barrel of another two years without our home.
It's frustrating. And then some.
However, we're not going to let these little, ahem, inconveniences get in the way of our party. Populate! is our birthday programme, and it's our attempt to bring some unexpected faces and figures back to the depleted central city. Bulletin spoke to the Gallery's senior curator Justin Paton about what he really wants for the tenth birthday, what he finds funny, and what he really doesn't.
Roger Boyce: Painter Speaks
Grinning ventriloquist dummies are the stars of the show in Roger Boyce's Painter Speaks.
Tony Oursler: Bright Burn Want
The fantastically strange, inescapably human works of renowned video artist Tony Oursler.
Jess Johnson: Wurm Whorl Narthex
New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based artist Jess Johnson makes intricate drawings and painted environments that evoke other worlds and parallel realities.
Gregor Kregar: Reflective Lullaby
Gnomes are figures in historic folklore as well as garden ornaments. But Gregor Kregar has brought gnomes like you've never seen to 'the garden city' – staunch, shiny and more than three metres tall.
Camp Blood: Hand-Painted Film Posters
Drawn from the collection of Christchurch painter Roger Boyce, these promotional posters from Ghana, Africa, are movie marketing like you've never seen: lurid, vivid and emphatically hand-made.
Francis Upritchard: Believer
A New Age awakening? Or just a 1960s pipe dream? Francis Upritchard's Believer is a recent addition to her expanding gallery of hippies, dreamers and gurus.
Sian Torrington: How you have held things
Wellington-based artist Sian Torrington's site-specific sculptural installation combined ideas, images and materials that related to life in post-quake Christchurch
Christchurch Art Gallery is excited to be working with Wellington-based artist Sian Torrington on a site-specific sculptural installation that will combine ideas, images and materials that relate to living in Christchurch now.
See below for a message from Sian to find out how you can get involved.
The Gallery's latest exhibition in the Outer Spaces programme, Showhome, has opened in Christchurch, featuring the disconcertingly 'perfect' works of recent University of Canterbury graduate Emily Hartley-Skudder.
Steve Carr: Majo
Steve Carr's strangely mesmerising sound and video projection is shown after dark in an upstairs window of the old house opposite the Gallery on Worcester Boulevard.
Seung Yul Oh: Huggong
Christchurch Art Gallery has a new offsite space, and Seung Yul Oh has filled it to bursting with his comically vast balloon sculptures.
Reuben Paterson: Te Pūtahitangi ō Rehua
Op-art patterns, expanses of glitter and Māori stories of water. They're all set in motion in this dazzling video installation by New Zealand artist Reuben Paterson.
Christchurch Art Gallery celebrates its tenth birthday with a burst of art in the city – including whopping new murals, night-time projections and sculptures where you least expect them.
Toshi Endo: Wolf-Cub
The kaleidoscopic moving imagery of Christchurch artist Toshi Endo has been stripped of colour and brought to a standstill in Wolf-Cub, his contribution to Christchurch Art Gallery's Stereoscope programme.
A Caxton Miscellany: The Caxton Press 1933–58
Established in Christchurch in 1933 the Caxton Press became one of the most progressive publishers of contemporary New Zealand writing and dynamic modern typographical design.
English artist Sarah Lucas was installing her show in Two Rooms, Auckland, when the 22 February earthquake struck.
Brenda Nightingale: Christchurch Hills 2010–2012
Local artist Brenda Nightingale's beautifully produced, hand-stitched publication features a selection of recent watercolours based on one of Christchurch's defining features, the Port Hills
Stereoscope #2: Robert Hood
Two Year of the Cyclops works by Christchurch artist Rob Hood kick off the second itteration of Stereoscope at 26E Lichfield Street.
Stereoscope: Robin Neate
Christchurch artist Robin Neate's contribution to the Gallery's Stereoscope programme is drawn from his recent series of energised abstract paintings.
Expect the rug to be pulled out from under your feet with the last exhibition in the Rolling Maul series.
De Lautour / Greig / Hammond
An exciting opportunity to see new work by leading Canterbury artists Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond
A miscellany of observable illustrations
Romantic notions of gothic leanings, the legacy of Tony Fomison, devotion to rock sub-genres and an eye to the past are familiar and sound reasons to group Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond together in one exhibition, but De Lautour / Greig / Hammond is to feature new and recent work. Could all this change? What nuances will be developed or abandoned? Will rich veins be further mined? We can only speculate and accept that even the artists concerned can't answer these questions. For the artist, every work is a new endeavour, a new beginning. What may appear to the public, the critic or the art historian as a smooth, seamless flow of images is for them an unpredictable process where the only boundaries are those that they choose to invent.
Back on 20 September 2011, when our public programmes team began setting up the Hagley Park Geo Dome for a talk with Shane Cotton, they put out about sixty chairs and would have been glad to fill them. After all, it was a cold night in Christchurch, the roads were rough, the Geo Dome was off the beaten track and the quake had long since broken the rhythm of the Gallery's old Wednesday night programme of public talks.
Lunchtime on a shining summer's day and you head for the ruin of Christchurch Cathedral. If you get there by twelve you can usually nab one of the bench seats along the back wall, where sun buckets down through the long-gone roof and warms the stonework behind you.
James Oram: but it’s worth it
Manipulating found footage of the infamous 'Black Friday' sales held by American chain stores, James Oram isolates and magnifies smaller physical gestures amidst the frenzied crush.
Stereoscope: Kristin Hollis
Drawings of two bottles - one of gin, one of water – grace the Montreal Street side of the Christchurch Art Gallery bunker in the latest offering in the Stereoscope series.
Miranda Parkes / Tjalling de Vries: Keep left, keep right
Sharing an interest in expanding the idea of abstract painting beyond its traditional borders, Miranda Parkes and Tjalling de Vries explore the creative possibilities of commercial billboards in an exhibition that combines painting and projection to obstruct and intrigue in equal measure.
The popularity of Reconstruction: Conversations on a City has led to the exhibition being extended until 14 October, and the development of a publication.
André Hemer: <del>CASS</del>
André Hemer's many-dimensioned installation for the Rolling Maul series combines painting with a range of secondary outputs to play with ideas of distance and deletion – with particular reference to a well known work from the Gallery's collection.
Helen Calder: Orange Up
Helen Calder's new work, Orange Up, provides a refreshingly bold statement on the Gallery bunker using one of the powerhouses in the range of colours: orange.
Justene Williams: She Came Over Singing Like a Drainpipe Shaking Spoon Infused Mixers
Australian artist Justene Williams uses performance and ephemeral materials to produce a sensory overload of shapes, patterns and colours in the vibrantly theatrical video work.
Ruth Watson: from white darkness
Offering a poetic commentary on the intriguing resemblances between art and science, Ruth Watson's container-based video installation combines historical footage, text and her own Antarctic imagery.
Tjalling is Innocent
An ambitious paste-up work by local artist Tjalling de Vries on CoCa's back wall (viewable from Worcester Boulevard), Tjalling is Innocent is an Outer Spaces project presented in association with CoCA.
Tony de Lautour: Unreal Estate
Painted on found pages from real estate publications, Unreal Estate, is an artist's book published by local artist Tony de Lautour and Christchurch Art Gallery.
Out of Place
Katharina Jaeger, Chris Pole, Tim J. Veling and Charlotte Watson start with structure and consider what is possible when the normal rules no longer apply.
If you've not been down to the Central Library Peterborough yet now's a good time to do it.
The Inner Binding
Laden with associations, but buoyant with possibility, this large-scale window commission by renowned New Zealand artist Richard Killeen features a richly-layered composition that hints at systems of knowledge and classification.
We're pretty pleased with what we're achieving with our Outer Spaces programme, but it's always good to see what else is out there. And I do mean 'out there'...
We recently received this generous gift - from one quakeprone country to another
A Dark and Empty Interior
In B.167 senior curator Justin Paton documented his walk around the perimeter of Christchurch's red zone, and we featured the empty Rolleston plinth outside Canterbury Museum at the end of Worcester Boulevard. In this edition, director Jenny Harper interviews English sculptor Antony Gormley, who successfully animated another vacant central-city plinth—the so-called Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London. Gormley filled the plinth with 2,400 people, who occupied it for one hour each, night and day, for 100 days. Here, Jenny asks him about his practice, the value of the figurative tradition and whether he has any advice for Christchurch.
Cities of Remembrance
Nothing was more fascinating than ruins to me when I was growing up in one of the newest parts of the New World—new, anyway, to extensive buildings and their various forms of lingering collapse and remnant. The native people of California had mostly built ephemeral structures that were readily and regularly replaced and left few traces. Anything old, anything that promised to reach into the past, was magical for me; ruins doubly so for the usual aura of romance and loss that, like death, is most alluring to the young who have not seen much of it yet.
Phantom City: Doc Ross’s Christchurch 1998–2011
Back projected large onto a shop window in Colombo Street, Sydenham, Doc Ross's photographs create a haunting record of this city before its dramatic seismic demise.
Stereoscope #1: Robert Hood
Two Year of the Cyclops works by Christchurch artist Rob Hood kick off Stereoscope, a new Outer Spaces series housed within two black frames positioned on the street-side of the Gallery's Montreal Street bunker.
Here are the people and there is the steeple
A big bright mural inspired by the challenges of rebuilding a city. Kay Rosen turns the word 'people' into the foundation for an unexpected 'steeple'.
Michael Parekowhai: On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
Michael Parekowhai's spectacular Venice Biennale installation returns home for its first post-Biennale showing in New Zealand.
Hannah and Aaron Beehre: Waters Above Waters Below
Hannah and Aaron Beehre's immersive new installation connects us with the transformative moments beneath the surface of the everyday.
The possibilities for a city in transition will be considered in Re:actions for the city – a new series of public events that we are launching.
Georgie Hill and Zina Swanson: Breathing space
Strength, fragility and connection are at the heart of the second Rolling Maul exhibition, which features works by Georgie Hill and Zina Swanson.
Sam Harrison: Render
Presenting new art from Christchurch, our Rolling Maul project series begins with a remarkable exhibition of sculptures by Sam Harrison.
A lot of water, and Lord only knows what else, has flowed under the bridge since Justin Paton and I first hatched our plans for a fast-paced, post-quake showing of new work by local artists. Rolling Maul, so far, has been quite the antithesis of 'fast-paced', and despite our best efforts, it is yet to roll anywhere – rather it has been beset by the same delays, cancellations and frustrations as all of the Gallery's other in-house plans.
Our original concept, as outlined in B.165, was based around the use of one of Christchurch Art Gallery's ground-floor exhibition spaces, which we hoped to reoccupy as soon as they were no longer required as part of the City Council/CERA earthquake response. But as we are now only too aware, we won't be showing anything there any time soon.
Elliot Collins: For those who stay behind
Keep an eye out for the Gallery's latest Outer Spaces project around town over the next couple of weeks as poster reproductions of three paintings by Auckland artist Elliot Collins appear pasted to bollards and walls throughout the city.
Well before the earthquakes, Christchurch had a reputation as a tough town for public art. The city's public spaces are haunted by the ghosts of several major sculptures that never made it to completion. And several local sculptors still carry some psychological scar tissue from their forays into the public realm.
Ronnie van Hout: The creation of the world
A haunting video projection by Ronnie van Hout in the window of the old house opposite the Gallery on Worcester Boulevard.
Julia Morison: Meet me on the other side
Julia Morison's evocative post-quake sculptures and 'liqueurfaction' paintings return to Christchurch for a special showing in a gallery space overlooking the inner-city 'red zone'.
I seem to have temporarily misplaced my sense of humour
Stretching across a vast wall at the gateway to Sydenham, Wayne Youle's new public artwork is a shadowboard, where tools for rebuilding hang alongside many familiar but precious objects.
Here and Gone
In the last issue of Bulletin, senior curator Justin Paton wrote about the way the Christchurch earthquakes 'gazumped' the exhibitions on display at the Gallery – overshadowing them and shifting their meanings. In this issue, with the Gallery still closed to the public, he considers the place of art in the wider post-quake city – and discovers a monument in an unlikely place.
Sydenham-based photographer Doc Ross and his camera have been investigating the Christchurch urban environment for the past 14 years.
Matt Akehurst: You Are Here
Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, Robert Smithson, Michelangelo... Yes, all the big names have just arrived on the Christchurch Art Gallery forecourt.
Julia Morison: Aibohphobia
Julia Morison has turned the Gallery's squat grey bunker into a dizzying vision in dayglo green.
André Hemer: Things to do with paint that won't dry
New Zealand artist André Hemer's colourful Worcester Boulevard intervention Things to do with paint that won't dry, appears to flow and spill down the side of the building.
Jae Hoon Lee: Annapurna
An immense and oddly surreal landscape glowing out from the Springboard over Worcester Boulevard is the latest addition to the Outer Spaces programme.
Scott Flanagan: Do You Remember Me Like I Do?
Including a wishing well and mirror painstakingly woven from reflective black VHS tape, Scott Flanagan's latest installation considers the surprisingly elusive nature of civic memory.
Reconstruction: Conversations on a City
In acknowledging architectural heritage loss in this city's present and past, this visually rich outdoor exhibition unfolds the ways in which dreams and values have been given form in our built environment.
In preparation for the next issue of Bulletin, Gallery photographer John and I have been out photographing some of the local artists who will be taking part in Rolling Maul when we reopen.
Sculptural surprises and architectural double-takes by renowned contemporary artists. De-Building is inspired by a moment usually hidden from viewers – when an exhibition ends and the 'de-build' begins. View it online
Miles: A life in architecture
Best known for the Christchurch Town Hall and Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre, Sir Miles Warren is the doyen of post-war New Zealand architecture, the first New Zealander to be knighted for services to architecture, an Icon of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand, and a leading figure in the arts in Christchurch. The garden at his Governors Bay home, Ohinetahi, beautifully crafted by Miles with his sister Pauline Trengrove and her husband John, has also secured for him a reputation as one of our most remarkable garden designers.
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation
Over several years I have worked on a Scottish landscape called, immodestly, the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, speculating with scientists and others on the fundamental laws and forces behind nature and what they might mean to us. Using growing nature to conjecture on what is basic to the universe is an old practice common to gardeners, but it raises some unlikely questions.