In recent years a strong shift has been readily observable in the work of Tony de Lautour. Left to history, or at least temporarily sidelined, are the cobwebs, the smoking heads, the punk kiwis and other Ed Roth Rat Fink analogies. Figurative elements have all but disappeared from his paintings, to be replaced by modernist blocks of solid colour in pastel pinks and blues. At first these simple shapes mimicked letter forms, the words they created hidden in the abstraction. More recently, similar shapes have served as elements to construct reductive forms reminiscent of the early twentieth-century abstract paintings of the Suprematists and Vorticists. Seeking to extend cubism, the Vorticists took up the modernist dictum of poet Ezra Pound to 'Make it new!' While De Lautour also strives to make it new he chooses to do so by making it old.
De Lautour has always shown a penchant for the aged. Whether it's the surface incidence of impasto and faux wood-grain or using old paintings, found pieces of wood, vintage saws or the pages of real estate publications to paint on, he often attempts, in some manner, to disrupt and interfere with the reception of the applied image. The flat painted geometric shapes that currently hold and accentuate the surface in his work are no exception, and the ground of the paintings as well as the modernist enterprise continue to be corrupted by his grunge aesthetic. Painted shapes are superimposed on spray-can backgrounds or, imitating both the aging of old master paintings and the art of the forger, a faux craquelure. Accented by cool blacks, the colour palette consists of kitchen-cupboard pastels sourced from leftover tins of stodgy paint gleaned from garage sales. Amid these interventions and self-conscious dribbles of paint the machined utopian imaginings of the early modernist mentality segue into a more immediate contemporary urgency.
If the past in Bill Hammond's paintings is anything to go by, the characters who inhabit it rarely stray far from their natural habitat. They are never hurried. They may occasionally visit a local pool hall, play a musical instrument or pose for a portrait, but as often as not they seem content to wait for something to turn up – even at times to the extent of taking on the appearance of wallpaper with intricate all-over decorative patterning. They rarely attempt full flight and are happy to hover or float about in an apparently weightless atmosphere. It's the quiet illusion of an extended moment where the only sound is a ticking clock; change is slow and subtle.
Long gone, it would seem, are the angst-ridden blockheads and zigzag-limbed antagonists of the early years. The sleek-bodied bird people that overtook them were long content to contemplate from treetops and shorelines a paradise lost, whereas more recently Hammond's paintings have begun to suggest a paradise regained. The inhabitants of his willow-pattern-land have discreetly grown more defined wings and become reminiscent of the angels in a Gustav Doré biblical engraving. The monochromatic green mist has been known to lift, revealing scenes tinged with a golden glow or the full colour of daylight, complete with cloud-dappled blue skies. The only lingering sombre note in Hammond's recent soundless song of summer has been the emergence of cinerary urns, and even these funereal echoes have been suitably decorated as if to distract from their contents. Along with dissolving plumes of smoke and images of a wishbone, the urns imply mortality and the hope that the breaking bone is favourable and the wish to savour each passing moment is granted. For who knows what tomorrow may bring.
Jason Greig's working method lends itself readily to the capture or cornering of shifting moods and odd thoughts. Coupled with the monoprint process, the stencil-like forms he uses to create his images act as templates that can be reworked and recycled into subtle variations on drifting themes. Like an Antipodean Edvard Munch, he visits his subjects over and over again. Greig's gallery of images can be rearranged at a whim and cast in a different light, like Giorgio Morandi's bottles, bowls and vases, or James Ensor's carnival masks and skeletons. With a simple straightening of a tie, the tilt of a hat, a touch of make-up here or there and a pat on the back, Greig ushers his players back into his carnival of souls to await their fate. Drawn from a repertoire similar to that of the silent screen actor Lon Chaney – the Man of a Thousand Faces, famous for his portrayals of such grotesques as the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Phantom of the Opera – the faces that stare back at us from Greig's macabre melodramas are equally afflicted.
Yet of late some of Greig's images have begun to leave their claustrophobic chiaroscuro. He seems to have managed to drag himself away from Miss Havisham's wedding table, brush away the cobwebs, dust himself down and head for the door. Forms and figures have become more fully formed, perhaps even defiant, taking on a more direct poster-like appearance, with strongly defined edges, crushed blacks and saturated colour: rich reds, radiant violets and velvet greens. The shadowy figures that lurked in Greig's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde visions appear to have been sedated and deposited in a sealed crypt. It would be unwise, however, to assign his characters to the literary past from which they may have emerged for, with Greig, we must always be prepared for the unexpected hand on the shoulder or the gruesome result of a premature burial.
On some level an artist's work is always a surrogate or subliminal self-portrait and when the artist's thoughts change or mood shifts usually the work follows. The colour fades or heightens, the tones darken or lighten, the focus blurs or becomes more acute – for it is seldom the subject an artist depicts that forms the image and imparts its resonance but how it is made.
Robin Neate is an artist and writer and is currently a lecturer in painting at the University of Canterbury's School of Fine Arts. De Lautour / Greig / Hammond was on display at the NG space on Madras Street from 2 February until 10 March 2013.
US V THEM: Tony de Lautour
Welcome to the low brow, high art world of Tony de Lautour’s paintings, sculptures and ceramics.
De Lautour / Greig / Hammond
An exciting opportunity to see new work by leading Canterbury artists Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond
This article first appeared as 'Painting offers a multiverse of symbols' in The Press on 21 June 2017.
This week we've been installing a new collection exhibition, Your Hotel Brain. It replaces curator Ken Hall's elegant meditation on architecture and memory, Above Ground, in the contemporary collection galleries.
Kamala, Astral and Charlotte, Lyttelton, March 1983
Laurence Aberhart's 1983 photograph of Lyttelton children is displayed on our Gloucester Street billboard.
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.
Sparks that fly upwards
Curator Felicity Milburn remembers five years and 101 installations in a gallery without walls.
Peter Stichbury's NDE
Anna Worthington chooses her favourite work from the Gallery collection.
Everything is Going to be Alright
Martin Creed's completely unequivocal, but also pretty darn ambiguous, work for Christchurch.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Boyd Webb: Sleep/Sheep
Boyd Webb contributes a new work to the Gallery's Sterescope programme.
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.
An exhibition of recent work by Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond opens at our NG space on Madras street tomorrow. These artists have had limited opportunities to show their work since the quakes so this exhibition is well worth a visit if you have the time.
Here's a taster of some of their work.
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.
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.
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'...
Laying out Foundations
Looking broadly at the topic of local architectural heritage, Reconstruction: conversations on a city had been scheduled to open at the Gallery but will now instead show on outdoor exhibition panels along Worcester Boulevard from 23 June. Supplementing works from the collection with digital images from other collections, curator Ken Hall brings together an arresting art historical tour of the city and its environs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pale, birdlike figures look into the distance from tall trees, like so many watchers on a ship’s mast. Behind and above the windswept waves, a Victorian gentleman-horse is seated with his whippet and double bass. Watched by an assembly of shadowy birds’ heads, he remains dignified and untroubled, appearing destined for a life of ambitious success. He seems oblivious to the impact of his presence.
Bill Hammond: Jingle Jangle Morning
The long-awaited exhibition is a spectacular survey of more than two decades of work by one of New Zealand's leading contemporary painters.
Coming Home in the Dark
Fourteen artists with connections to the Mainland are represented in an exhibition that explores the dark underbelly of the region's genteel appearance.
Canterbury Painting in the 1990s
A major exhibition celebrating the breadth and diversity of Canterbury painting between 1990 and 2000.
New Zealand in the Biennale of Sydney and the Biennale of Sydney in New Zealand
and the Biennale of Sydney in New Zealand
For the exhibition Wunderbox (28 November 2008 - 15 February 2009), this work was displayed with the following label.
Bill Hammond led one of the most influential tendencies in New Zealand painting of the late 1990s – Post-colonial Gothic. Shag Pile is one of his many paintings inspired by nineteenth-century campaigns to catalogue New Zealand’s dwindling native species, in particular the efforts of Walter Lowry Buller. The contradictions of Buller’s character – a recorder and chronicler of birds who killed and stuffed many – have made him a figure of fascination not only for Hammond but also for sculptor Warren Viscoe and playwright Nick Drake. In Shag Pile, Buller’s campaign plays out like a bad dream projected on the patterned walls of a claustrophobic Victorian parlour, where New Zealand spotted shags are heaped, laid out for processing, and sealed under bell jars.
Turning a traditional depiction of the New Zealand landscape upside down, this vertical triptych presents a zigzagging arrangement of curtains that fall from the sky and splice the terrain, of mountainous divides that appear upon tables and strange creatures that morph and writhe.
Early works by Bill Hammond are awash with visual sampling, splicing and mixing – from popular culture and art history. Comic book narration, the oblique angles and frames of 1950s film noir and, notably, the multiple vanishing points found in the proto-surrealist paintings of Giorgio De Chirico (1888–1978), give structure to Hammond’s alternative cityscapes of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Hammond was born in Christchurch and studied at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts. For a period after leaving art school he designed and manufactured wooden toys. He held his first solo exhibition in 1976 and since then has exhibited regularly. His work is represented in private and public collections throughout New Zealand. Bill Hammond: Jingle Jangle Morning (20 July – 22 October 2007) is the most recent survey of Hammond’s work to date, organised by Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu.
Relief etching relating to the now extinct New Zealand eagle which has been a central theme in Hammond's work in recent years. Profile view of a human body with eagle head.
In Greek mythology, Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting the wax that bound his wings and causing him to plunge into the sea. Bill Hammond uses this legend to suggest the threat posed to the natural environment by humans. Hammond’s birds look on dispassionately, their own wings emphasising the absurdity of Icarus’s fatal desire. The Fall of Icarus takes a work by Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1558) as a pivotal reference. The same compositional format – elevated viewpoint, figures in the foreground and the tiny body of the fallen Icarus disappearing into the sea – are seen in the original painting. Hammond was born in Christchurch and studied at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts between 1966 and 1968. In 1989 he joined a number of other New Zealand artists on an expedition to Antarctica and the Auckland Islands.’Bill Hammond: Jingle Jangle Morning’ (2007) is the most recent survey of Hammond’s work to date, organised by Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu.
Gertrude Demain Hammond was a prolific London illustrator who was also active in exhibiting her watercolours. A Reading from Plato was shown at the Royal Academy in London in 1903 before coming to Christchurch for the 1906–07 New Zealand International Exhibition. There it was purchased by the avid local art collector James Jamieson, who with his brother William, ran one of the city’s largest construction companies.
Following his death in 1927, James’s family presented many works of art from his collection to become part of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery’s founding collection, which at its opening in 1932 consisted of 160 paintings and sculptures.
(Treasury: A Generous Legacy 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Watching for Buller is part of a series of work by Bill Hammond that brings together his interests in the land, New Zealand bird-life and 19th century ornithologist Sir Walter Buller. Painted soon after a journey to the Auckland Islands, it references the extinction of native bird species – ironically, as Buller himself contributed to their demise, killing then mounting specimens in glass cases.
In this work, finely decorated birds stand in profile upon a sheer coastal landscape, anxiously awaiting Buller’s arrival. The scene hints at the ways the natural environment and its inhabitants have been exploited, destroyed and driven out.
Hammond was born in Christchurch and studied at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts between 1966 and 1968. For a period following his graduation he designed and manufactured wooden toys. He had his first solo exhibition in 1979 and has since exhibited widely in group and solo exhibitions. In 1989 he joined a number of other New Zealand artists on an expedition to Antarctica and the Auckland Islands. He won the James Wallace Award in 1993 and the Visa Gold Art Award in 1994.
This print appears as 'Edward Hammond Hargraves. The discoverer of gold in Australia.' on page 740 of the 'Picturesque Atlas of Australasia.'