Peter Vangioni: It’s late June, and you haven’t been outside for 16 weeks? Is that right? How are you and Barbara coping with the shelter in place order and are you able to work under these conditions?
Max Gimblett: Well, I’ve been out to put the garbage out twice a week—I cross the pavement and come back to the door. Some people are out there walking with their masks. Barbara is super cautious, you know because of our age, we can’t even come close to anybody. But we are doing very well in this lockdown, and have no plans to leave the loft.
It’s been a very strange time. We’ve spent the last month or so asking after each other’s bubbles, and imploring people we barely know to stay safe. Depending on your beliefs, this was the month that the world demonstrated that we could put the interests of people above those of finance, or the end of freedom. Everyone, in every industry and every sector of every society has been affected in some way. But our core business is art, and we’re very conscious of the effects of a global shutdown on artists. It’s too early to know what changes this will bring to our sector, so we’re concentrating on the here and now. If your life is focused on making art, how are you going? We asked eighteen New Zealand artists to send us a picture of their lockdown studio set-up, and asked them a few simple questions.
What’s your Covid-19 studio set-up? Is it the same as pre-lockdown or are you in something more makeshift?
How are you finding this time? Is it hard, or is it a gift of time, or maybe a bit of both?
What are you finding essential during lockdown? Is there a piece of equipment/view/song you couldn’t have lived without?
It is mid-summer in Venice, and the pervasive cacophony of cicada song cuts through the heat and oppressive humidity. New Zealand’s presence at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia is housed within the former headquarters of the Instituto di Scienze Marine, the Palazzina Canonica. Located on the Riva dei Sette Martiri, on the southern edge of the island, it is only a few hundred metres to the entrance of the Biennale’s Giardini, with its permanent national pavilions.
This is an audio recording on CD, which includes a portable battery-operated CD player and speakers, in a pic-pac crate adapted to look like a ghetto-blaster. A voice (the artist’s) reads a lengthy text adapted from self-help books; the words address an art institution instead of an individual. “Trust your director’s intuition!” the voice instructs. “Quietly affirm that you will define your own reality from now on and that your reality will be based on your inner wisdom… You will remain a whole and worthy gallery among worthy galleries.”
The circular enso is a sacred symbol of enlightenment in the Zen school of Buddhism. For Max Gimblett this form, painted in a single fluid motion, is also a key to his painting process: “All mind – no mind. You empty your mind, and you don’t have any activity, and you operate out of your body in that space in relation to your soul where you’re poetic and soulful. You just let it come.”
The unbroken line and its trail of floating dots was created in seconds, yet it somehow suggests the eternal. It’s an infinite universe, a shimmering moon and an empty zero – everything and nothing, all at once.
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.
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.