Looking back to when Christchurch Art Gallery’s Outer Spaces programme was launched in 2008, I'm struck by our easy confidence in the future—which seemed to stretch out ahead with reassuring predictability—and by the excitement we felt at the prospect of expanding art’s reach beyond our usual exhibition spaces and out onto the building's external walls, forecourt and other operational areas. It felt adventurous—ambitious even—as Fiona Pardington’s ghostly image of a glass Charlotte Jane glowed from our giant backlit billboard over Worcester Boulevard and André Hemer deployed molten, oozing colour to reactivate our water feature with Things to do with paint that won’t dry. By early 2011, the programme was in what felt like full swing, with a regular beat of projects enlivening an increasing number of sites across the Gallery footprint.
That February’s earthquake, however, which within a few, frantic hours transformed the building into an operations centre for Civil Defence, forced a rapid and radical adjustment of the Outer Spaces boundaries. With our public locked out, and no known reopening date—or at least, none that stuck—we 1 had to think past our collection and our art-friendly, environmentally-controlled building, shifting our sightlines instead to the violently changed, and still changing, expanses of the central city.
We had our doubts. How would people respond to art touching down in a city still raw from disaster? What kind of impact could we hope to have in the context of such widespread destruction? How, in city streets left unrecognisable as familiar landmarks were relentlessly demolished and trucked away, would audiences find our projects, supposing they even wanted to? And yet, as the weeks wore on, it became increasingly clear that Christchurch’s new enemy was not the still-frequent aftershocks, but the insidious, grinding bleakness of the recovery. Stoked in no small part by the enthusiasm of then-senior curator Justin Paton, our confidence grew that art could be part of the solution. Press releases from that time declare our intentions with considerably more assurance than we felt: we’d establish a gallery without walls, we declared, injecting ‘moments of surprise, humour, colour and wonder into the post-quake Christchurch streetscape’.
The first two projects unfolded on our own forecourt: Julia Morison’s Aibohphobia wrapped our unsightly carpark bunker with a dizzying pattern in on-trend hi-vis, and Matt Akehurst’s signpost sculpture You are here referenced our complicated, long-distance relationship with international culture. Then, in December 2011, the Gallery collaborated with Gap Filler to help Wayne Youle pull off I seem to have temporarily misplaced my sense of humour, his super-sized mural in Sydenham. What we didn’t know then (and we didn’t know a lot) was that the Outer Spaces programme would not only expand geographically, but also accelerate. In the almost-five-years between our closure and (imminent) reopening, the Gallery eventually realised 101 individual projects in and around the central city.
Even now, there’s plenty that’s shocking and disorienting about central Christchurch, but in those first years it really was like venturing onto a new frontier. Several of the sites we co-opted were at the edge of the emergency cordon, and during installation we’d encounter far more civil defence workers, engineers and army personnel than casual passers-by. There’s a great photograph, taken by Gallery photographer John Collie, of Australian artist Ash Keating. He’s in the midst of creating his huge, colourful wall painting Concrete Propositions, a Gap Filler/Christchurch Art Gallery collaboration that involved Keating firing paint from numerous devices, including the fire extinguishers he’s carrying. He’s making an artwork, of course, not bringing down a government, and his once-pristine tracksuit was acquired specially for the performance, yet something about his post-apocalyptic attire and sense of grim purpose sums up for me the wild-west/urban-revolution ambience of those times. As envoys from a public institution, we were working well outside our comfort zone, but there was also an intoxicating whiff of freedom in the air, as though the earthquakes had somehow recalibrated and democratised Christchurch’s unwritten rules of access, replacing its customary default resistance to public art with a new (and, we assumed, temporary) tolerance. For a while at least, the challenges we faced when siting works in the cityscape were primarily logistical, rather than political.
Unpredictable, and often excruciatingly inconvenient, weather may not have been scientifically verified as a post-quake phenomenon, but we certainly had our share of it, from the sleet and snow that accompanied the set-up of Sian Torrington’s How you have held things, an intricate installation constructed from salvaged materials on an empty section in Avonside’s Red Zone, to the typhoon-like weather-bomb that dropped in just as Ronnie van Hout’s Comin’ Down went up on the roof garden of the old post office in High Street. The Gallery team meticulously painting Wayne Youle’s mural—not only the 95 objects, but each of the more than 10,000 dots—baked in the hot sun for most of the installation period, then found themselves running for cover as rain poured down on the last available day. Just as they were huddling together, working out how to explain to the curator (Justin Paton) that they’d warned him it was a weather-dependent project, the sky cleared. Scrambling, they finished on time, wiping up the by-now dripping paint as they went along.
As time went by, the post-quake art scene grew considerably, with an increasingly diverse range of players, from institutions and collectives to independent artists, ensuring that a wide spectrum of practice emerged throughout the city. Accustomed to the relative hermetic sanctity of our institutional white cube, it required an undeniable adjustment of perspective to see our carefully orchestrated projects bump up against art works (graffiti included) with a completely different aesthetic. There was no telling what our works might end up sitting next to; once up they were released into an evolving context as the city changed around them. Judging by the response of one tagger—who objected to us pasting up a large-scale reproduction of Tony Fomison’s No! over a pre-existing tag, the sense of frisson was mutual. ‘Keep your shit 4 the Gallery,’ it hissed. Fair enough, we felt like replying, we would if we could. If it wasn’t a new artwork going up around the corner, it was a wall coming down—sometimes one we had pegged for a project: the chaotic and rapidly changing nature of the urban environment could not have been further removed from the serene constancy of the Gallery. We honed our flexibility and Zen-like acceptance by the day, but, as usual, the artists we worked with were always far cooler about this sort of thing than we were.
Working from site to site on one-off projects proved as exhausting as it was invigorating, so three temporary spaces gave us a welcome place to hang our hats and—crucially—restore some kind of continuity for our visitors. In 2012, we leased an upstairs room in the NG building at 212 Madras Street, a Victorian warehouse lovingly restored and strengthened by Roland Logan and Sharon Ng. The conversion of this space into a gallery involved not only clearing it of several years’ worth of accumulated furniture and other objects, but wire-brushing sections of the ceiling that had been charred from a previous fire, installing lighting tracks and, later, a degree of environmental control. Steel reinforcing beams gave the space an appealingly rugged character and the view out of the end windows, across the most ravaged parts of the city, was jaw-dropping from every angle. It’s hard to imagine a better location for our first show there, Julia Morison’s Meet me on the other side, a tense and disconcerting meditation on the transformation and loss that characterised the earthquakes.
Fulfilling a promise the artist made to the city following the quakes, Michael Parekowhai’s Venice Biennale exhibition On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer was reconfigured for the NG space—with the intricately carved red piano, He Kōrero Pūrākau mo te Awanui o Te Motu: Story of a New Zealand River, installed upstairs, overlooking two bronze bulls on pianos on the rough ground outside. One of the Gallery’s visitor hosts, Michael Purdie, remembers standing at the window, looking out over the devastated cityscape in the winter twilight, while a pianist played ‘something quite beautiful, Chopin I think’. Parekowhai’s bulls prompted many connections during that exhibition—children swarmed over them, helmeted motorcyclists patted glossy black rumps with grudging admiration, and they caused near-misses as drivers gave them a too-long second glance—but it was the sound of that piano, combined with the end-of-the-world-as–you-knew-it view, that brought several of our visitors to tears.
ArtBox, constructed from a cluster of modular steel cubes, was set up by CPIT on an empty section in the CBD as part of a short-term creative precinct and we were invited to programme its first year of exhibitions. The compact layout, intersecting views and natural light presented some challenges, but it proved an ideal venue for Bodytok Quintet, an interactive video installation by New Zealand sound artist Phil Dadson. After that, it hosted the ebullient Burster Flipper Wobbler Dripper Spinner Stacker Shaker Maker, an exhibition of contemporary work by New Zealand and Australian artists that placed the emphasis on the act of making, and was intended to appeal to children and families. A temporary onsite classroom allowed our educators to accommodate regular school groups and holiday classes. When we planned the show, in response to extremely limited opportunities for young art viewers in post-quake Christchurch, we weren’t certain that parents would want to bring their children so far into the city, still resounding with the impacts of constant demolition. When we opened with a family fun day, however, around 2,500 people attended, and a steady flow of visitors continued throughout the exhibition’s run.
Our third temporary gallery (only recently vacated) was situated above C1 café in the old post office building on the High/Tuam corner and had the most conventional fit-out. First hosting Huggong, Seung Yul Oh’s enormous, space-hogging balloons, it was later divided into two rooms, which facilitated a range of exhibitions, from a meditative Tai Chi ‘time-slice’ by Daniel Crooks 2 to the elegant, thoughtful group show Shifting Lines.
We continued to refresh our existing sites on the Gallery’s exterior and forecourt with new works, and added a few new locations nearby. Tim J. Veling’s photograph of a brick wall 3 took up temporary residence across one of our closed-off entrances, and the old villa opposite the Gallery on Worcester Boulevard housed a series of increasingly off-beat projections by the likes of Ronnie van Hout, Justene Williams and Steve Carr. 4 Tjalling de Vries’ monumental paste-up of paper sheets on the rear wall of the CoCA building, revealed new layers of imagery as the wind and rain gradually peeled it away. 5 The new Central Library Peterborough provided both the setting for a work by Richard Killeen and also a venue for a series of book-related exhibitions. 6
Above all else, the post-quake environment fostered adaptation, and many of our projects were realised in ways that we might not have previously considered. They included a poster run featuring Elliot Collins’ delicately optimistic word paintings 7 and special artist publications in the form of Christchurch Hills, a hand-stitched book of watercolour drawings by Brenda Nightingale and Unreal Estate, Tony de Lautour’s mordant commentary on the post-quake property market. Realised as a series of printed billboards that stretched down Worcester Boulevard, Reconstruction: Conversations on a City traced the history of Christchurch Ōtautahi through its built heritage and the walk-through format proved surprisingly satisfying and rewarding.
The motivation for most of our projects was simple; where we saw an opportunity to make good art happen, we tried to grab it. Rolling Maul had an additional purpose, addressing the desperate lack of exhibition venues for local artists. Conceived as a single, multi-artist exhibition to which new works were added each week, it was originally slated for the Gallery’s eagerly anticipated reopening in July 2011. When that date was indefinitely deferred, Rolling Maul was put on hold until we established our temporary space in the NG building—it eventually ran out as a nine-part exhibition series, featuring solo and small group exhibitions by 18 artists with Christchurch connections.
In all of this activity, a lingering regret remained—the continued absence of the city’s collection, locked in secure storage back at the Gallery. In fact, the collection was not static at all; it had to be shifted several times to accommodate repair work within and beyond the building, but although we lent as many works as we could to institutions throughout the country, for insurance reasons, we were largely unable to display collection works elsewhere in Christchurch. To counteract this, we exhibited Faces from the collection, a series of reproductions on walls around the city. Not quite the real thing, they nevertheless allowed the public to reengage with the collection and the combination of historical portraits with contemporary urban life provided for intriguing and often rewarding juxtapositions.
These days, as Christchurch Art Gallery's reopening draws closer with every Fulton Hogan shift, our focus is squarely back on getting it alive and humming with great art. Rediscovering our exhibition spaces, we’re imagining them filled again with people, who'll be renewing their connections with our collection, marooned in storage for almost five years. Beyond our newfound (and heart-felt) appreciation for luxuries like a well-stocked tool cupboard, environmental controls and a stable address, it’s yet to be seen how the experiences of our earthquake years will affect the way the Gallery operates in the years to come, and how far we’ll stretch our programmes beyond the boundaries of our site. Like most institutions, we’d talked often in the past about the power and importance of art, but seeing it in action, during moments when even brief interactions could have a lasting impact, inevitably strengthens our sense of purpose. Outside our walls, projects felt more peripheral than when they took centre stage in the gallery environment, but they were also somehow more alive in the rough and tumble of the real world. It seems to me to be entirely appropriate that the work that signs off our gallery without walls years is Martin Creed's 45 metre technicolour beacon Work No. 2314, reading ‘everything is going to be alright’. If the last half-decade is anything to go by, we might best regard it as less of a comforting platitude and more of a call to arms.
Natalia Saegusa: Tomorrow Still Comes/He Rā Anō Ki Tua
A fragmented and poetic wall painting by Natalia Saegusa.
Take yourself on a flight of fancy with Wayne Youle's latest exhibition Look Mum No Hands.
Wayne Youle: Look Mum No Hands
He’s been called a cultural prankster, an agent provocateur and a bullshit artist (that last description came from his dad, but it was bestowed – he’s pretty sure – with love). While we’re at it, add ‘serial pun merchant’ to that list; in art, as in conversation, Wayne Youle can spot a good one-liner a mile off and has never knowingly left an entendre undoubled.
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.
I’ve been continually fascinated by the plethora of creative interventions inserted into the wasted post-quake city. A number of works have offered sharp reminders that what we have been witnessing in the past five years is not normal.
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.
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.
On Saturday, I spoke at the launch of a major new work of art in public space—Wayne Youle's installation The House of Wellbeing ALL WELCOME, at the CPIT Aoraki campus on Madras Street.
An obsessively ordered, subversively witty re-imagining of Wayne Youle’s studio, ALONE TIME also evokes a more abstract space: the creative sanctuary any artist must carve out from everyday life for the serious business of making art. A bunker, a tree-house, a ‘room of one’s own’, it’s full to bursting with references to the humour, self-doubt and daily work ethic required to build and sustain an artistic practice – not to mention the magic wand.
(Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)
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.
Dear John/ Welcome Back/ With Love
It might be old-school, but everyone likes to get a postcard, and Wayne Youle’s latest project invites visitors to communicate their Gallery experience, create their own art mail or just write a letter to their mum.
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.
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.
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.
Voluntary work is work done of one's own free will, unpaid, for the common good.
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.
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.
It seems a lifetime ago that we combined with Gap Filler to launch the Gallery's first post-quake Outer Spaces project in Sydenham.
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.
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)
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.
Coming across an undamaged, fully standing, curved brick wall in the battered eastern suburbs is something of a rarity.
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.
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.
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.
Wayne Youle ran a two-day workshop for 25 teenagers over the weekend. Students from an array of local Christchurch secondary schools were challenged to keep up with Wayne's non-stop energy... and to learn creative and design skills.
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.
Let it not be said that Christchurch's vandals, ahem, street artists, lack a sense of community spirit.
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.
Just one last weather report, before this blog starts looking like a franchise of metservice.com...
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.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Wayne Youle is giving the French Bulldog a big hug.
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'.
Your father or grandfather probably had one. Maybe you've created one of your own. Possibly there's one on a wall at home, left there by a previous owner.
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