Robert Herdman-Smith's Framed Presentation to Hugh Duncanson Buchanan
I’m often drawn to art that’s attached to a specific time and place, and so it was that I came across Robert Herdman-Smith’s beautiful piece – commissioned in honour of the departure from Little River of a wealthy landowner (Hugh Duncanson Buchanan) in 1908. Behind the intricately carved wooden frame, the tiny perfect lettering embellished with paintings and art nouveau-ish decorations, is a story that I’d like to know more about.
Pauline Rhodes – Land Extensums, Banks Peninsula
I only have to set a direction towards Horomaka Banks Peninsula, and I feel an energy, a charge. The ritual of a takeaway coffee at Wairewa Little River. A flicker of shadows from the centenary lime trees lining the road at Cooptown. Picking up speed to begin the swinging ascent to the Crater Rim. A rush of air, sweeping up over the summit and along the wide expanse of the Peninsula, hilltops encircling a traveller like comforting arms.
Jacqueline Fahey's Mother and daughter quarrelling
I first encountered Jacqueline Fahey’s Mother and daughter quarrelling (1977)—in reproduced form—in Art History class during my final year at Shirley Boys’ High. We’d just entered the new millennium and at some point amid that final year our entire form group lost access to our senior common room for a week because a couple of boys had sellotaped a selection of pages from some off-brand Penthouse onto the roll-up projector screen that hung from the ceiling. That’s just to give you an idea of the prevalent gender politics of the time and place.
Margaret Hudson-Ware's Let me see the paralysed man walk
Of the many pieces I love to visit at the Gallery, Let me see the paralysed man walk by Margaret Hudson-Ware is particularly special to me. “Ms. Hudson-Ware” was my art teacher from age 14 to 17 at Cashmere High School. She was a very stylish, bird-like woman – a kind of Coco Chanel in a pant suit. In the eighties, she managed to look utterly timeless; she sculpted her cheeks with burnt umber blush, a colour I could only imagine she’d mixed herself. The whole palette of her clothes and make up was very much what you see in the colours of this work.
Juliet Peter's Harvesting, Rydal Downs
I grew up in a house in Glandovey Road, Fendalton—twenty-two bedrooms! Back then, my options were to be a nurse or a school teacher, but all my life, I’d wanted to be a farmer. My father encouraged that practical side of me. He was a keen fly fisherman and called me “sonny”. I had my hair cut at the barbers; I wore long pants in winter—I thought I was a boy.
Elizabeth Kelly's Margaret
Many of us have works of art that are favourites, and these are often works that resonate with us or speak to us in some way. Margaret is one of those works for me. The portrait spends most of its time safely in storage at the art gallery but, for the summer of 1996–7, it and twenty-two other portraits by Elizabeth Kelly were shown at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery – Margaret graced the cover of the catalogue. The show brought a small ﬂurry of excitement around Christchurch and, about sixty years after she had sat for her portrait, Margaret turned up to the show.
Fiona Pardington’s Still Life with Barley Grass and Freesia, Waiheke
The most magical book I held in my hands as a child was called Ratsmagic, and it belonged to my sister. It was a dark, threatening masterpiece of a picture book, in which a bluebird is kidnapped by a witch, right when she is due to lay her egg. The animals in the valley where she lives whisper to one another “Bluebird is with egg, BLUEBIRD IS WITH EGG” with a fierce and mythological importance. A clever rat is sent to save her from her terrible fate.
Robin Neate's In a Lonely Place
I still fondly recall my initial exposure as a teen to Ian Curtis’s final and uncannily premonitory composition with Joy Division, In a Lonely Place. But with its violaceously autumnal palette, Robin Neate’s work of the same name feels far removed from the dismal granite grey of a Manchester morning, or even the stark monochrome of the 1950 Nicholas Ray film that both of these pieces appropriate their title from.
Tony de Lautour's Underworld 2
Underworld 2 is a must-see. I know, I know. Everything is a must-see or a must-read or a must-do in this society of superlatives and imperatives. But you really do need to be in the same room as this work. Underworld 2 is immense. You need to be in front of it—to be immersed, to be overwhelmed, to be confronted. I start at the left-hand side and plot my journey as if I am planning a road trip and this is my map; first south around the mountains, turn left, then keep going until you pass a lion on the right-hand side. Stop and take in the scenery, go down a dead-end road or two. There’s no rush. You’ll know when you’re there.
Ane Tonga's Seta
There’s a moment in my play Black Faggot when a gay Samoan man describes the moment he sees ‘this fine chocolate piece of mmmmmm’ on the dancefloor at a nightclub.
‘…he looked over at me and then he smiled and then I was like, Damn, he’s a Tongan. He had a mouthful of gold in there…’