Self portrait of Rudolf Gopas, newspaper clipping from issue 2281 of the Tiroler Tageszeitung, 4 December 1948, p.5. Folder 3a, Box 2, Rudolf Gopas Archive, Robert and Barbara Stewart Library and Archive, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū    

Self portrait of Rudolf Gopas, newspaper clipping from issue 2281 of the Tiroler Tageszeitung, 4 December 1948, p.5. Folder 3a, Box 2, Rudolf Gopas Archive, Robert and Barbara Stewart Library and Archive, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

 

 

Reflections on riches

Tim Jones considers the challenges and pleasures of archive collections.

While the Gallery may be closed, our archive collections continue to develop. As I write, three aspects of managing an archive are happening simultaneously. We are adding new material, cataloguing it, and assisting a researcher to use the archive. All the challenges and pleasures of archive management are on the table.

 

Art historian Julie King is working on the papers of Canterbury artist Olivia Spencer Bower (1905–1982). This collection was deposited in stages, mostly after the artist’s death, with Christchurch Art Gallery’s predecessor the Robert McDougall Art Gallery. The fragmented assembly of the papers and the fact that the papers’ original creator cannot be consulted provide archivist and researcher with numerous challenges. Things that might belong together are separated. Items that seem to bear little relation to one another are adjacent. The documents have been used for previous publications and copies or notes resulting from this earlier work have been incorporated as if they were part of the original collection. Despite these complexities, the archival collection is vital as a source of biographical detail, and a path to understanding the artist's life and work.

King says that her research for her forthcoming book 1 began with the artwork—locating watercolours, acrylics, oil paintings, drawings, illustrations and linocut prints. Spencer Bower was an artist who rarely dated her paintings at any period of her career, and looking through diaries and letters in the Archive, as well as exhibition catalogues and reviews played a key part in King's attempt to date individual works.

Material relating to Spencer Bower is also located in other collections, for example at the Alexander Turnbull Library and the Macmillan Brown Library. Artists collaborate and communicate with each other, exhibit in group shows together and otherwise interconnect. The narrative of a single artist’s work is inevitably bound up in the work, and thus in the archives, of other artists, friends and colleagues.

Fortunately the Spencer Bower collection can be browsed not only by looking at the original letters, diaries, sketches and other items—some of which are extremely fragile—but also by consulting a magnificently detailed inventory created by in 2006 by Emma Meyer, then a student at Victoria University.

This inventory helps navigate the archive and reduces the number of times documents need to be handled. King notes: ‘The inventory comprises an indispensable record of 95 pages of precise description of various items, diaries, and photograph albums. Boxes contain folders that can hold an assortment of material accumulated from different periods of the artist’s life: such as letters, a greeting card designed by a friend, a review, handwritten art notes, and an occasional recipe.’

 

Christmas card from Olivia Spencer Bower. Folder 6c, Olivia Spencer Bower Archive, Robert and Barbara Stewart Library and Archive, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū  

Christmas card from Olivia Spencer Bower. Folder 6c, Olivia Spencer Bower Archive, Robert and Barbara Stewart Library and Archive, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

 

Digitisation can help with both access and preservation of an archive collection, however it is by no means a complete solution. The original document still needs to be retained, and occasionally consulted. Consulting thousands of digital facsimiles is in many ways harder than consulting the same number of original documents and certainly no quicker. Typed or printed text can to some extent be digitally searched using optical character recognition, but handwriting, drawings, and sketches cannot yet be processed in this way. An inventory that can be read by a human and searched by a computer is often a more useful exercise than digitisation.

Such an inventory is being created at the moment by Abby Nattrass, an art history student from the University of Canterbury. She is working on the papers of painter and university teacher Rudolf Gopas (1913–1983). These came into the Gallery’s hands through his widow and date largely from the later years of the artist’s life. They were not sorted or arranged by Gopas himself. This inventory will be a list and will also contain selected photographs of documents and drawings whose pictorial quality or whose striking layout cannot otherwise be captured.

Nattrass reflects on her project: ‘Something that struck me whilst working on the Gopas archive was the need to objectively describe each document that came before me. Whilst this sounds like an easy task, it is somewhat difficult to look at items free from presuppositions. For an inventory to be successful I think it must be as objective and factually descriptive as possible, and it is therefore crucial not to place your own value judgments on to items.’

This need to be neutral and objective in writing an archival inventory is crucial. Researchers are entitled to find precision and even-handedness. Judgements and evaluations will come later when archives are used by those researchers to argue particular points. Nattrass points out: ‘This meant I needed to treat loose bits of refill with illegible notes with the same care and detail as a beautiful sketch signed and dated by the artist. This was a challenge and something I constantly needed to remind myself of, especially as more often than not these judgments are done without thinking.’

 

Statement of fees due, University of London, Faculty of Arts, Slade School, 8 October 1929. Folder 6c, Olivia Spencer Bower Archive, Robert and Barbara Stewart Library and Archive, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū  

Statement of fees due, University of London, Faculty of Arts, Slade School, 8 October 1929. Folder 6c, Olivia Spencer Bower Archive, Robert and Barbara Stewart Library and Archive, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

 

These two archive collections are, each in their own way, highly problematic. They are incomplete and they have been filtered and re-organized without regard for how they originally existed. But we keep them and value them because they both contain treasures of the highest order. Spencer Bower’s diaries and photographs of her visit to Europe in the late 1920s, for example, are peerless documents. Gopas’s intense interest in astronomy and its effect on the human condition cannot be better expressed than in his own heavily annotated handwritten reflections. We accept the challenges that describing and managing an archive collection presents because of the riches they contain. All our archives, in one way or another, help us to understand the people who created the works of art we care for.

Having said that we don't mind a certain amount of chaos, we were delighted to receive a letter earlier this year offering a beautifully organized archival collection, complete in every way and pre-packaged ready for storage. This came from Jo van Montfort, current and indeed final president of the Town and Country Art Society who are winding up their affairs after nearly fifty busy years. This society, formed to promote the joy of painting, often outdoors and often in watercolour, sought advice in that practice from professional artists such as Frank Gross, Bill Sutton and, to come full circle, Olivia Spencer Bower. Artists of this standing also acted as judges in the Society’s painting competitions. Times have changed though and a declining and aging membership has brought them to the decision to wind the Society up. As an incorporated society, they were obliged to do proper accounts, have an AGM and maintain lists of members and activities, all of which have been retained, from their first day to their last. Moreover there are people around who can explain anything that is unclear. This is the stuff of which archivists dream!

We are the stewards of many other important archive collections, including the archives of the Gallery itself. We have the plans for the Gallery as it was built, as well as the ninety other designs that were not. We have the records of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, including McDougall's letter enclosing his cheque for £25,000. We care for the artist archives of Bill Sutton, Russell Clark, Raymond McIntyre, Vivienne Mountfort and Barry Cleavin. We are always on the lookout for other archives and we welcome enquiries. Many collections reach us after the death of the person who assembled them, when family members clear a house or studio. But we also have relationships with living artists where we act as a recipient of their material over a longer period of time. In both cases, our motivation is to preserve documents that throw light on an artist's practice.

Not all collections are well-described or well-arranged and we have further preventive conservation, digitisation, and inventory writing to do. Engaging university students to work on these projects has been fruitful. We benefit from having a person focused on a single project, while students are able to handle art historical raw material that relates to their course of study. It is perhaps curious but we find students who are not familiar with a particular artist are often best suited to do very detailed inventories. Having no prior knowledge means that each document is treated equally and with complete neutrality.

The archive collections are never complete. We collect and collect and collect. But while the Gallery is closed we acquire more collections, better describe the documents in our care, and relish seeing researchers use the archive.

The Christchurch Art Gallery Archive collection can be searched using Christchurch City Libraries' online catalogue. We welcome visitors who may wish to view items in the archives by appointment.

 

 

Poem with drawings by Rudolf Gopas. Box 7, Rudolf Gopas Archive, Robert and Barbara Stewart Library and Archive, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū  

Poem with drawings by Rudolf Gopas. Box 7, Rudolf Gopas Archive, Robert and Barbara Stewart Library and Archive, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

 

Related

Notes
Julie King, 1945–2018

Julie King, 1945–2018

It was with much sadness that the staff of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū heard of the sudden death of local art historian Julie King in early December. Julie had developed a close relationship with the Gallery over the years, not only as a curator, researcher, writer, speaker and key member of the Friends of Christchurch Art Gallery, but also as a regular visitor to exhibitions, talks and events.

Commentary
Finding Barry Cleavin

Finding Barry Cleavin

Exploring and documenting the contents of Barry Cleavin’s archive in the Robert and Barbara Stewart Library and Archives was both a novel and an invaluable experience for me.

Article
Hidden in Plain Sight

Hidden in Plain Sight

In 1997, I went to see an exhibition called White Out, curated by William McAloon for Auckland Art Gallery’s contemporary space. The show’s subtitle unambiguously promised ‘Recent Works by Seven Artists’, but as I completed my circuit I realised I’d come up one maker short. 

Exhibition
Unseen: The Changing Collection

Unseen: The Changing Collection

A selection of exciting recent additions to Christchurch's public art collection.  

My Favourite
Peter Stichbury's NDE

Peter Stichbury's NDE

Anna Worthington chooses her favourite work from the Gallery collection.

Director's Foreword
Collections Matter

Collections Matter

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.

 

Artist interview
Patrick Pound, gathering thoughts through things

Patrick Pound, gathering thoughts through things

Based in Melbourne Patrick Pound is simultaneously artist, collector, curator, visual list maker and lecturer in photography. He spoke with Serena Bentley, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Victoria, about the logic of documents and museums of things.

Collection
Untitled
Leigh Martin Untitled

For the exhibition Yellow Moon: He Marama Kōwhai (28 October 2017 – 28 October 2018) this work was displayed with the following label:

How does it make you feel, this much yellow? Auckland-based Leigh Martin invites us into something big and simple – to feel and experience this colour strongly, up close, glowing, without distraction. Although minimalist it is not empty or silent, and feels generous; a vast surface loaded with carefully poured and layered colour.

Notes
Kauri tree landscape by Colin McCahon

Kauri tree landscape by Colin McCahon

This article first appeared as 'Mighty kauris inspired McCahon' in The Press on 10 February 2015.

Collection
Dead Head
Tjalling de Vries Dead Head

Intrigued by the deceptions inherent in the act of painting, Tjalling de Vries often exposes tricks of the trade that usually pass unnoticed, while incorporating falsehoods of his own – like painted-on masking tape, counterfeit spills or creases and intricately layered surfaces designed to confuse and misdirect the eye. In Dead Head, transparent polyethylene takes the place of a canvas support, destabilising the picture plane as a site of illusion and suspended disbelief and allowing a view ‘through’ the painting to the wooden stretcher behind.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
Cerulean Slipping
Marie Le Lievre Cerulean Slipping

Marie Le Lievre’s paintings persuade and frustrate the eye, gracefully sidestepping our inclination to fasten them down with meanings. In this work, recently acquired for the collection, the intense, heavenly blue of the title gives way to a more turbulent and uncertain – though no less beautiful – surface.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Notes
NUD CYCLADIC I by Sarah Lucas

NUD CYCLADIC I by Sarah Lucas

This article first appeared as 'A visible means of support' in The Press on 26 September 2014.

Collection
Bucket, Croagnes
Bill Culbert Bucket, Croagnes

Since the early 1970s, Bill Culbert has explored the creative possibilities of light, capturing it in wine glasses, windows, lightbulbs, fluorescent tubes and even – as here – a simple plastic bucket. Set down on grass and fallen leaves in a wooded area close to Culbert’s home in France, this unassuming prop takes on a glowing, transcendent beauty as the sunlight fills and illuminates it.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Notes
How Did You Do That?

How Did You Do That?

How often have you stood in front of an art work and wondered how the artist did that?

 

Notes
Lift of a gift

Lift of a gift

Staff here at the Gallery have enjoyed finally getting the opportunity to see Dust, Smoke and Rainbows (2013), a major new painting gifted by Shane Cotton, which was brought out of storage to be photographed recently.

Collection
Kauri tree landscape
Colin McCahon Kauri tree landscape

In 1958 poet and arts patron Charles Brasch, a great supporter of McCahon, said of the Titirangi works: 'These Auckland paintings seem an entirely new departure. The colour and light of Auckland are different from those of the rest of New Zealand; they are more atmospheric, they seem to have an independent, airy existence of their own, and they break up the uniform mass of solid bodies, hills or forests or water, into a kind of brilliant prismatic dance. Some of the paintings are explorations, evocations, of the kauri forest of the Waitakeres. In some you seem to be inside the forest, discovering the structure of individual trees, with their great shaft trunks, their balloon-like cones, and the shafts of light that play among them. In others you look at the forest from outside, as it rises like a wall before you, built up of cylinders and cubes of lighter and darker colour, with its wild jagged outlines against the sky.'

(From the Sun Deck: McCahon’s Titirangi, 17 September 2016 – 6 February 2017)

Notes
Eye Candy

Eye Candy

We've got tasty art all wrapped up down at ArtBox.

Collection
Monument #15
Callum Morton Monument #15

Australian artist Callum Morton is renowned for works that recast structures and building materials as repositories for human dreams and memories. Here, modern architecture’s humblest unit – the cinder-block – receives a rainbow paint-job that confuses and complicates its purpose. Are these the building blocks of a brighter future or the wistful relics of a destroyed utopia?

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
Red Form
Glen Hayward Red Form

Works of art aren’t as well behaved as they used to be. Once upon a time, they stayed where they were put, hanging obediently off picture rails or perching politely on pedestals. Since the arrival of the Duchampian readymade, however, many require a second glance to distinguish them from the world around them, as everyday objects are pressed into service in new, perspective-tilting contexts. There’s another kind of work too, the type Glen Hayward is known for: the readymade’s stealthier cousin. Meticulously, even obsessively, crafted to resemble objects you wouldn’t give another glance, these unobtrusive double agents aim to blend in, adding a subversive frisson to the gallery experience.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
Dust, Smoke and Rainbows
Shane Cotton Dust, Smoke and Rainbows

Partway through the development of The Hanging Sky, Christchurch Art Gallery’s touring survey of Shane Cotton’s work, Cotton told curator Justin Paton that he wanted to donate a new work, Dust, Smoke and Rainbows, to the Gallery in honour of the way Christchurch had faced the challenges presented by the earthquakes and in recognition of the Gallery’s continued commitment to his exhibition, despite circumstances that could easily have derailed it. Here, Cotton transports a Māori modernist sculpture forward in time and space, allowing it to re-materialise in a context that crackles with supernatural energy. Part-ruin, part-redemptive vision, this halfway space is alive with omens; charged with the echoes of the recent and distant past and full of anticipation at events to come.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
Typo
Glen Hayward Typo

Works of art aren’t as well behaved as they used to be. Once upon a time, they stayed where they were put, hanging obediently off picture rails or perching politely on pedestals. Since the arrival of the Duchampian readymade, however, many require a second glance to distinguish them from the world around them, as everyday objects are pressed into service in new, perspective-tilting contexts. There’s another kind of work too, the type Glen Hayward is known for: the readymade’s stealthier cousin. Meticulously, even obsessively, crafted to resemble objects you wouldn’t give another glance, these unobtrusive double agents aim to blend in, adding a subversive frisson to the gallery experience.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
NDE
Peter Stichbury NDE

NDE made its public debut high on Christchurch Art Gallery’s external south wall, when the immaculate surface of this canvas was minutely photographed then blown up onto tautly stretched vinyl as a glowing, seven-metre-wide billboard. Now, the fretful gaze that discomfited passers-by on the street outside cuts across the exhibition space instead. Have we, as the acronym in the title might suggest, stumbled upon a person on the cusp of the hereafter? Whatever this too-perfect young woman may have witnessed, it has, at least temporarily, removed her from our sphere into another. We’re uncomfortably close, yet worlds apart.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
Closed circuit
Glen Hayward Closed circuit

Works of art aren’t as well behaved as they used to be. Once upon a time, they stayed where they were put, hanging obediently off picture rails or perching politely on pedestals. Since the arrival of the Duchampian readymade, however, many require a second glance to distinguish them from the world around them, as everyday objects are pressed into service in new, perspective-tilting contexts. There’s another kind of work too, the type Glen Hayward is known for: the readymade’s stealthier cousin. Meticulously, even obsessively, crafted to resemble objects you wouldn’t give another glance, these unobtrusive double agents aim to blend in, adding a subversive frisson to the gallery experience.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Article
Drawing from Life

Drawing from Life

In the beginning art was drawing.

Collection
Untitled
Brenda Nightingale Untitled

In 2012, a suite of Christchurch artist Brenda Nightingale’s delicate, brooding ‘Christchurch Hills’ watercolours were reproduced in a limited edition publication, which was given away for free as part of Christchurch Art Gallery’s post-quake Outer Spaces programme. Focusing on the Port Hills that dominate the city’s southern skyline, Nightingale’s paintings subvert the picturesque conventions of the watercolour tradition; privileging, instead of idealised vistas, the often-ordinary objects that complicate our readings of them – lamp-posts, rubbish bins and walking track signs. Here, the trigonometric station at Godley Head offers an unexpected interruption to the view out across the Banks Peninsula headlands. (Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
The Saviour
Wayne Youle The Saviour

In the weeks and months that followed the devastating earthquake on 22 February 2011, many Christchurch people looked in vain for a ‘hero on a white horse’ to lead the city out of crisis. Galloping creakily to nowhere, Wayne Youle’s riderless Saviour punctures the notion of a knight in shining armour. Instead, it emphasises his belief that this city’s salvation lies in the hands of ordinary people: all those who stayed – through choice or necessity – and contributed to the recovery in countless, unsung ways.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Notes
There is only one direction by Colin McCahon

There is only one direction by Colin McCahon

This article appeared as 'Divine Innovation' in the The Press on 31 August 2012.

Collection
Walt's Wet Dream
Jason Greig Walt's Wet Dream

Back in the 1990s, Jason Greig famously said that heavy metal band Black Sabbath was the thing that got him up and going and wanting to draw. It’s a line that’s often been quoted in relation to his work, probably because it seems to be at odds with the refinement and virtuosity of his printmaking technique, or the venerable tradition of artists in which he works—Redon, Goya, Piranesi. Greig said that Black Sabbath’s music was fuel: “the imagery and the weight of it […] I do heavy, laden drawings, dense. When I hear some really loud guitars it gives me the same sort of feeling.”

The images collected here span nearly two decades and reveal a remarkably consistent imagination, forged in Greig’s reading of nineteenth-century gothic novelists such as Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe, and what he describes as the “battle of good and evil” in mid-twentieth century movies. Light falls across blasted volcanic landscapes; isolated figures clutch books or brandish scythes; sinister deals of one sort or another appear to be in the process of playing out. The corners of most of the images are dark, vignetted like an early photograph. For Greig, the past is full of unfinished business. “I guess it’s about wearing your lineage on your sleeve. I reckon that images of last century are catching up with this.”

Greig’s figures are versions of himself, “but I try to disguise it a bit”. They evoke psychological states of alienation and estrangement, and depict life as a long strange journey into the unknown. “My art is about love, lost and found. It’s about dark lonely places, imagined and real. And it’s about the constant naggin’ thought that the end is always nearer. I have dealt with my demons, in life and on pieces of pummelled paper. The road I have travelled has been paved with gold that shines, and with bile that fumes.”

(Your Hotel Brain 13 May 2017 - 8 July 2018)

Collection
Latimer Square, Christchurch, 2012, from Adaptation, 2011 - 2012
Tim J. Veling Latimer Square, Christchurch, 2012, from Adaptation, 2011 - 2012

Tim J. Veling's photographs of post-quake Christchurch are studies in memory and transformation. From a body of work titled Adaptation, this nocturnal image reveals the strangeness of the transitional city, not least its moments of surprising, eerie beauty.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
River Pool, Somerset
Frances Hodgkins River Pool, Somerset

This work belongs to a small group of related compositions from the same viewpoint, thought to have been painted by Frances Hodgkins while she stayed at The Croft, a cottage in Somerset owned by the writer Geoffrey Gorer. Completed in Hodgkins’ distinctive style, in which form and colour are blended to create an intense and lyrical impression of place, it rewards sustained viewing with a gradual unfolding of content – trees, reflective water, a model boat. Considered one of New Zealand’s greatest painters, Hodgkins pursued her practice with originality and tenacity, noting: “[I]t is so easy to paint like your master & to think other people’s thoughts, the difficulty is to be yourself, assimilate all that is helpful but keep your own individuality, as your most precious possession – it is one’s only chance.”

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
Red house
Stephen Bambury Red house

Stephen Bambury has said of the titles he gives his works: “I like to put down a scent that can be followed.” In this case, that trail leads us towards the Russian painter Kazimir Malevich (1879–1935), who in 1932 painted a work he named Red House. Malevich’s suprematism – geometric forms painted in a limited palette to represent the supremacy of ‘pure feeling’ – sought to reset the ‘givens’ of painting and perception, recognising how the relationship between two-dimensional objects on a pictorial plane could suggest movement, volume and symbolic meaning. On longer looking, the initial flatness of Bambury’s simplified house motif – which recurs frequently throughout his practice – gives way to a sense of perspectival depth, opening the image up to considerations of shelter and containment.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Notes
Populate! update #8 (face up)

Populate! update #8 (face up)

The waning sun and lowering weather have one nice side-effect, which is to create the perfect conditions for viewing Peter Stichbury's backlit billboard NDE, newly installed on Worcester Boulevard.

Notes
A major boon to the Gallery in the direct aftermath of the earthquake

A major boon to the Gallery in the direct aftermath of the earthquake

English artist Sarah Lucas was installing her show in Two Rooms, Auckland, when the 22 February earthquake struck.

Notes
Max's gift

Max's gift

In early 2010 Max Gimblett announced his intention to give the Gallery a substantial gift of works on paper. The only complication was that someone had to go and select them...

Notes
Subtly engaging security

Subtly engaging security

We've all heard the stories about confusions occurring on the edge where art meets life. The London cleaning lady, for instance, who threw out hundreds of cigarette butts that turned out to be a Damien Hirst. Naturally, no self-respecting gallery professional wants to see their favourite artworks confused with mere stuff.

Collection
Sydney Harbour
Don Peebles Sydney Harbour

Don Peebles travelled to Sydney in 1950, in search of a more modern art training than was available to him in Wellington. (‘Nothing much was going on in Wellington other than us being taught to draw a foot that looked like a foot,’) he said. His teacher John Passmore (1904–1984) introduced his students to early twentieth-century European modernism: Bonnard and Picasso, Cézanne and cubism. ‘That was modernism to me. That was the latest thing as far as I knew in those days.’ Passmore also encouraged his students to paint around the waterfront, a regular subject for his own work in the early 1950s. Sydney Harbour reveals Peebles moving towards the abstraction that would characterise his mature work, but not yet completely there (he made his first completely abstract work a few years later in London). A Cézanne-esque concern for planes, facets and the structure of forms is evident, even while buildings, water and distant hills remain visible.

(March 2016)

Collection
rainwob ii
Francis Upritchard rainwob ii

The work on the three tables at the centre of this room is part of a series of sculptures artist Francis Upritchard has described as “an attempt at an unsuccessful utopia”. Like the flipped-back word in its title, it seems to set off in one direction – towards a kind of visionary, psychedelic paradise – but overturns our expectations to arrive somewhere much less certain. Locked away in intensely private reveries, the delicate, marionette-like figures that inhabit it are curiously enigmatic: part-primeval bog people, part-countercultural prophets, they live out their radiant existences somewhere between the ancient unknowable past and the distant unknowable future.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
NUD CYCLADIC 1
Sarah Lucas NUD CYCLADIC 1

Classical sensuality or in-your-face eroticism? As with many works by renowned British artist Sarah Lucas, NUD CYCLADIC 1 has it both ways. Combining humour and provocative imagery to challenge expectations about gender and sexuality, Lucas also references the stylised and strangely modern female figurines of Cycladic culture, which flourished during the Early Bronze Age on the islands of the central Aegean.

NUD CYCLADIC 1 entered the collection via multiple, compounded acts of generosity. On 22 February 2011, Lucas was in Auckland, installing an end-of-residency exhibition. On hearing of the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, she insisted that her share of the proceeds from exhibition sales go towards supporting the recovery of the arts in the city. Her Auckland and London gallerists agreed to donate their commissions to the same cause. Soon afterwards, in a third gesture of solidarity, Auckland collectors Andrew and Jenny Smith offered to purchase one of Lucas’s works for Christchurch Art Gallery – and we couldn't go past this one, with its cheeky nod to the sinuous sculptures of Auguste Rodin (1840–1917).

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
Crouches with moths
Peter Madden Crouches with moths

In classical times, a gold coin was inserted into a dead person's mouth as a ‘Charon’s obol’, a ritualistic payment for the ferry ride across the river Acheron to the underworld. With its blackened skeleton, crawling flies and shroud-like canopy of moths (cut free from the pages of National Geographic magazines), this work evokes an atmosphere of death and decay – but a closer look also reveals small signs of regeneration.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
Springing Fern
Eileen Mayo Springing Fern

English-born Eileen Mayo excelled across a remarkable range of media, including drawing, linocuts, wood engraving, lithography, tapestry and silk screening. She also became a sought-after commercial designer, known for exquisitely detailed and balanced images that appeared on stamps and coins in Australia and New Zealand. Mayo had lived in New Zealand for twenty years when she made this screenprint of young fern fronds in the lush native bush. One of her last prints, it combines an enduring appreciation of the natural world with extraordinary technical ability, conveying not only the beauty of the plants she depicts, but a sense of their place within a complex and interconnected ecosystem.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
Shrink wrap
Glen Hayward Shrink wrap

Works of art aren’t as well behaved as they used to be. Once upon a time, they stayed where they were put, hanging obediently off picture rails or perching politely on pedestals. Since the arrival of the Duchampian readymade, however, many require a second glance to distinguish them from the world around them, as everyday objects are pressed into service in new, perspective-tilting contexts. There’s another kind of work too, the type Glen Hayward is known for: the readymade’s stealthier cousin. Meticulously, even obsessively, crafted to resemble objects you wouldn’t give another glance, these unobtrusive double agents aim to blend in, adding a subversive frisson to the gallery experience.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
Depot
Philip Trusttum Depot

In 2009, renowned Christchurch painter Philip Trusttum surprised us with an exceptionally generous offer: a gift of twenty paintings, selected by the Gallery and with no limitation on scale or value. The first ten works entered the collection the following year, and rumbling in amongst them was Depot, this colossal gas-guzzler of a painting that hums with Trusttum’s trademark physical energy. The audacious scale belies the work’s diminutive origins; the artist found his inspiration in the toy trucks his young grandson William played with in his studio.

Collection
Untitled [Quentin (Kin) Woollaston Shearing]
Sir Toss Woollaston Untitled [Quentin (Kin) Woollaston Shearing]

Mountford Tosswill (Toss) Woollaston was the eldest of five sons of share-milking dairy farmers in Taranaki. His working life started divided between rural manual labour – mainly seasonal fruit and tobacco picking – and artistic pursuits, initially poetry before he found his vocation as a painter. Early study included two terms each at the Canterbury College School of Art in 1931 and the Dunedin School of Art in 1932. Woollaston held his first solo exhibition in Dunedin in 1936; his commitment to modernism at this time marked him out as singular. By the early 1960s, when he made this vigorous drawing of his youngest brother shearing, the by-then Greymouth- based artist was gaining increased recognition. In 1966 he began to work on his art full-time.

(Beneath the ranges, 18 February – 23 October 2017)

Collection
Certainty
Max Gimblett Certainty

For the exhibition Yellow Moon: He Marama Kōwhai (28 October 2017 – 28 October 2018) this work was displayed with the following label:

Max Gimblett is a New Zealand artist living in New York who makes art for contemplation and healing. For him, the art-making process embraces awareness of the unknown and the idea of being part of something bigger. He says: “Human is a tiny part of things. The ocean, the unconscious – these are things that are not knowable. Sometimes you can participate in a work from and in that source.” Gimblett also values “the curiosity that’s endless in beginning a drawing or a painting”, and attempts “to find a voice that will deliver the maximum content in the cleanest, clearest aesthetics”.

Collection
Christ in Majesty - after Fra Angelico
Max Gimblett Christ in Majesty - after Fra Angelico

At its simplest, a quatrefoil is constructed from four perfect, intersecting circles. Found in both Eastern and Western religious art, it has also been used to order and understand the physical world, most familiarly through the quartered segments of the clock and compass. Once described as a secular artist with a great respect for religious traditions, Max Gimblett has frequently opted for this shape over the more usual – but no less arbitrary – rectangular canvas. Here he combines it with gleaming gold leaf that has been finely scored to create a painting that seems to rush out towards us while simultaneously drawing us into its centre. Though his work is abstract, Gimblett’s title summons up the view of an enthroned Christ as depicted by the early Renaissance painter and friar Fra Angelico; surrounded by a shimmering aureole of golden light, radiating knowledge, power and glory.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Collection
Grandparents at Okains
Jeffrey Harris Grandparents at Okains

This icon-like work is one of twenty-four extraordinary, jewel-like paintings Jeffrey Harris made between 1974 and 1977, in which he channeled the luminous colours and spatial clarity of the fifteenth-century Italian artist known as Il Sasetta to recast his own life, and that of his family, as a kind of monumental narrative cycle. On a strangely weathered surface, the artist’s grandparents project what art critic Peter Ireland called “an oppressive solitude”. With their grimly pursed mouths and aged hands gnarled like monstrous tree roots, there’s as much holding them apart as bringing them, momentarily, together.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)

Notes
Hiding in plain sight

Hiding in plain sight

We've all heard the stories about confusions occurring on the edge where art meets life.

Notes
Max's Gift

Max's Gift

Having the opportunity to spend over a week in New York recently to work closely with the artist Max Gimblett and his studio assistants in making a selection from Max's extensive collection of works on paper for a gift to Christchurch Art Gallery rates as one of the highlights of my job as a curator.

Notes
New York

New York

Curator Peter Vangioni and I have been in New York City since last Wednesday, selecting a gift of works on paper from New Zealand artist Max Gimblett, who has been resident in New York for some 35 years.

Article
Wunderbox

Wunderbox

A collection of collections from the collection.

Being an exhibition of bell jars, boxes, cabinets, dolls, display cases, tabletop universes, several bees, two monkeys, hundreds of hooks and one miniature coffin.

Article
Brought to Light

Brought to Light

Finally, it's finished! It is now four months since we closed the doors on the previous incarnation of Christchurch Art Gallery's collection exhibition, and the intervening period has been a very busy time for all our staff. When Christchurch Art Gallery opened in 2003, the plan, reiterated in the Paradigm Shift document of 2006, was to refresh the hang of the collection galleries after five years. Since then the display has of course not remained entirely static, and visitors will have noticed regular changes as new works entered the collection, light-sensitive works were changed and small focus exhibitions created. But Brought to Light: A New View of the Collection is something altogether more-a refreshment of our entire collection display (not just what, but why) and a re-evaluation of the physical space of the galleries themselves.

Collection
Wanton Eye
Barbara Tuck Wanton Eye

Shifting fluidly between abstraction and representation, Barbara Tuck’s intricate, interwoven paintings trace an imaginative path through real landscapes – the ancient mountains, rivers and valleys of New Zealand’s South Island. With multiple horizon-lines, oscillating viewpoints and lyrical juxtapositions, she reinvents this much-painted terrain, inviting us into a startling and enthralling dreamworld.

(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)