‘What’ll it be, New Zealand? The money or the bag?’
It’s little wonder that when finishing high school my ambition was to study to become an animator. I wanted to reside in my imagination and create fantastic and surreal worlds to get lost in. When I entered the Ilam School of Fine Arts I was completely naïve as to what life had in store for me. As the saying goes, I learnt pretty quickly – not without cajoling by lecturer Glenn Busch – that reality is sometimes much stranger than fiction. It was then that I first became aware of Peter Black’s work and declared I wanted to be a photographer.
Glenn talked of driving Peter around while he photographed out of his car window. He said that he couldn’t walk down the road with him and have a conversation because Peter would always be side-tracked and on the hunt for images. Glenn reckoned Peter was an obsessive breed of photographer that could transform everyday, banal things into extraordinary moments with his camera. I quickly learnt that this was no mean feat. To recognise the potential of a good photograph, to see something happening before you, and to frame and photograph it is one thing, but to articulate and sustain a personal voice within a series of photographs is quite another. Sitting in the studio at Ilam, I’d study my own proof sheets and compare them to Peter’s. We were photographing similar things; why were his so
much better? Then came a revelation. It was what his photographs implied, not what they depicted that carried weight. I realised the ambiguous mental space that fell just outside of view was just as important as the space rendered between the edges of each frame – that magic mixture of content, perspective, light, timing and composition. This changed my way at looking at art forever.
The first time I saw Peter’s Selwyn Toogood, Levin, I remember stopping in the City Gallery exhibition space and staring at Selwyn’s teeth, rendered bright white and Bugs Bunny like between awkwardly pursed lips. I imagined him being caught mid-sentence asking: ‘What’ll it be, New Zealand? The money or the bag?’ When I was a kid I’d shout ‘The bag!’ back at him, believing good fortune comes to those who take risks. Put in the contestants’ shoes now as an adult, pragmatism would dictate I’d choose the money – no matter how meagre the figure – to pay my astronomical power bill. From Selwyn’s teeth and lips, my eyes wandered the surface of the print and, after failing to adjust to the harsh light emanating through the window blinds, were drawn to the pot plants lining the top of the frame, the Formica table in the bottom right corner, the garish wallpaper. I then noticed the cash register and painted sign on the window of the door. This is a typically small town, Kiwi, dining establishment. A fish and chip shop, maybe? The angle of view is skewed just enough to imbue the image with a sense of unease.
Considering the context surrounding this photograph, I began to think about the social-political climate of New Zealand in 1981. After the Springbok rugby tour and with the country heading into steady economic decline, Muldoon’s National Party would soon be narrowly elected for a third term in government. Their time in power would be cut short with Muldoon calling a snap election. Many who care to remember cite this moment as the end of the ‘good old days’ and the birth of hardline, neo-liberal politics in New Zealand. In hindsight, perhaps what Selwyn was really uttering was a warning of things to come – the money or the bag?
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.
Hidden Light: Early Canterbury and West Coast Photography
Uncovering the remarkable, largely unseen work of early New Zealand photographers.
Representing Women: Ann Shelton’s Dark Matter
What is ‘dark matter’? For theoretical physicists it is matter that cannot be directly observed but whose existence is nevertheless scientifically calculable – productively present yet simultaneously invisible. In a similar vein, the everyday phrase ‘dark matter’ describes objects, conditions and situations that harbour unease or trauma. Trauma that is often concealed, repressed, or buried. Both definitions are active in Ann Shelton’s mid-career review exhibition Dark Matter, and they provide a rich point of entry into this compelling collection of her photographic work. These are photographs that bristle with intensity and refuse to let their subjects die a quiet archival death.
Ann Shelton: Dark Matter
An expansive view of Ann Shelton’s tightly conceived, large scale and hyperreal photography
New Zealand artist Laurence Aberhart is internationally regarded for his photographs of unpeopled landscapes and interiors. He photographs places redolent with the weight of time, which he captures with his century-old large-format camera and careful framing. But he’s always taken more spontaneous photographs of people too, particularly in the years he lived in Christchurch and Lyttelton (1975–83) when he photographed his young family, his friends and occasionally groups of strangers. ‘If I lived in a city again,’ he says, ‘I would photograph people. One of the issues is that I even find it difficult to ask people whether I can photograph a building, so to ask to photograph them – I’m very reticent. I also know that after a number of minutes of waiting for me to set cameras up and take exposure readings and so on, people can get rather annoyed. So it’s not a conscious thing, it’s more just an accident of the way I photograph.’
Aberhart Starts Here
Iconic and unseen early photographs of Christchurch by Laurence Aberhart
The Devil’s Blind Spot
Te Puna o Waiwhetū Christchurch Art Gallery has a long-standing tradition of curating exhibitions of emerging and early-career artists. We do this in order to contribute to the ecology of the local art world, as well as because – quite straightforwardly – we’re interested in the practices of artists at all stages of their careers, and would like to bring the work of outstanding younger artists to wider public attention. The Devil’s Blind Spot is the latest in this ongoing series, but unlike earlier exhibitions, it’s concerned with a single medium – photography.
The Devil’s Blind Spot: Recent Strategies in New Zealand Photography
Recent photography by an emerging generation of New Zealand artists.
The Camera as a Place of Potential
To Māori, the colour black represents Te Korekore – the realm of potential being, energy, the void, and nothingness. The notion of potential and the presence of women are what I see when I peek at Fiona Pardington’s 1997 work Moko. And I say peek deliberately, because I am quite mindful of this work – it is downright spooky. Moko is a photographic rendering of a seeping water stain upon the blackboard in Pardington’s studio, taken while she was the recipient of the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in Dunedin in 1997.
Joyce Campbell: Flightdream
Joyce Campbell’s immersive video work takes the viewer on a journey into the ocean’s fathomless depths, exploring processes of creation and annihilation.
Death, sex, flesh and the female gaze are among the many themes explored in the Gallery’s newest exhibition, Fiona Pardington: A Beautiful Hesitation.
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.
Fiona Pardington: A Beautiful Hesitation
A survey exhibition by a leading New Zealand photographer explores sex, death and the female gaze.
Kamala, Astral and Charlotte, Lyttelton, March 1983
Laurence Aberhart's 1983 photograph of Lyttelton children is displayed on our Gloucester Street billboard.
A generous, multimedia selection of animal-themed works, both lively and thoughtful.
Peter Stichbury's NDE
Anna Worthington chooses her favourite work from the Gallery collection.
Julian Dashper's Untitled 1996
Sound artist Paul Sutherland chooses his favourite work from the Gallery’s collection.
Taryn Simon's known unknowns
In 2003, the American photographer Taryn Simon embarked upon a four-year heart-of-darkness journey. In response to paranoid rumours of WMDs and secret sites in Iraq, she turned her gaze to places and things hidden within her own country.