Welcome to 2017! We’ve all bounced back to work at our favourite gallery – and we’ve loved seeing a range of familiar faces at our exhibitions and events as well as the many new visitors enjoying what we have on display.
A Torch and a Light
Shannon Te Ao is an artist of Ngāti Tūwharetoa descent. In 2016 Te Ao won the Walters Prize for his works, two shoots that stretch far out (2013–14) and okea ururoatia (never say die) (2016). Working in video and other performative practices Te Ao investigates the implications of various social and linguistic modes. Assistant curator Nathan Pohio, himself a nominee for the 2016 Walters Prize, discussed working practice with Te Ao in December 2016.
Such Human Tide
The exhibition He Waka Eke Noa brings together colonial-era, mainly Māori, portraiture alongside objects linked to colonisation – it’s a predictably uncomfortable mix. While the degree of discomfort may depend on one’s background or degree of connection to an enduringly difficult past, objects related to emigration and colonisation can be a useful lenses. As relics from a specific period in global history, when the movement of (particularly) European people was happening at an unprecedented scale, they hold stories with a measure of complexity that obliges an open-minded reading. There is no denying that they speak of losses and gains, of injustices and rewards.
The Borrowings of Francis Upritchard
Arriving at the studio and home of Francis Upritchard on a Tuesday morning in East London, you’d hardly know she was opening a solo booth at Frieze Art Fair later that day, launching a fashion collaboration with Peter Pilotto the following day, and juggling studio visits and interviews throughout London’s hectic art-focused week. She’s the picture of tranquillity. The calm doesn’t last long though, as discussions of Christchurch’s rebuild, the Christchurch Art Gallery, our friends and memories are quickly interrupted by an escalating flurry of visitors and family dropping by and couriers collecting objects, packing crates, dropping off documents.
Don Peebles: A Free Sense of Order
There’s a wonderful film on Don Peebles in the Gallery’s archive that provides a fascinating insight into the artist’s practice. Produced around 1980, it shows Peebles working in his studio and walking through his garden, past the fruit trees to his shed down the back, with an audio interview overdubbed. My favourite scene shows the artist in the shed with a box full of various wooden shapes that he has collected over the years, which he takes out and loosely assembles on a small sheet of plywood – a free sense of order created out of these seemingly random pieces.
I hope you are doing better and healing, slowly but surely. It has been four years since I moved to Maastricht and life here is pretty good. I am now director of the Master Arts and Heritage at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands (an exciting international and interdisciplinary programme).
Don Binney’s Canterbury Garden Bird
I have chosen Don Binney’s Canterbury Garden Bird (1970) as my favourite painting in the Christchurch collection. This painting was a major work that my husband, Brian Muir, bought for the Robert McDougall Art Gallery when he was director in the 1970s. Don came down to Christchurch in an old Kombi van specifically to paint the work. The painting shows a very solid black bird in the foreground, a fantail, resting on large green leaves. In the background are the Cashmere hills.
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.
Anticipation and Reflection
This is a time of considerable anticipation at the Gallery: Bridget Riley’s new work for Christchurch is due for completion in late May 2017. A wall painting, it’s the fourth of five significant works chosen to mark the long years of our closure for seismic strengthening following the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010–11. It has been paid for, sight unseen, by a group of wonderful women donors, with further support for costs associated with its installation secured by auction at our Foundation’s 2016 gala dinner.