Vivian Lynn

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1931, d.2018

50s Models Series

  • Purchased 2012
  • Collage
  • 800 x 650mm
  • 2012/042:a-n
  • 1977-1979

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū acknowledges the significant contribution made to art, culture and political thought by artist Vivian Lynn, who died on 1 December 2018. Best known for her large-scale sculptural installations, Lynn also produced a major body of subtle yet hard-hitting works on paper (her 50s Models Series you see here is a significant example). She was one of the first New Zealand artists to address feminist issues and the lived experience of women in her work.

Lynn studied at the University of Canterbury’s art school in the late 1940s. She found it on the cusp of change, its student body increasingly interested in modern art. She said later that it was there she learned to see; most importantly, she said, her conviction that she was, and would be, an artist was upheld.

Through her long career Lynn was interested in the social and political construction of female identity. She employed many metaphors and substitutes for the female body in her work. In later life, she wrote that her practice drew on her personal experience. Rejecting the idea of a stable enduring inner self, she said she was “in favour of a corporeal, visceral, neural, erotic mind self in the world, where identity emerges, ebbs, flows and mutates from behaviour in the lived space we inhabit. No awful inner self but an epidermal self, where, as Sappho said, ‘a subtle fire has stolen beneath my flesh’.”

(We do this, 12 May 2018 - 26 May 2019)

earlier labels about this work
  • When Vivian Lynn attended the School of Fine Arts at Canterbury College between 1949 and 1951, she was confronted by life models still arranged according to classical ideals: men outfitted with spears and posed in heroic stances; women positioned passively as beautiful muses or submissive victims. Years later, Lynn returned to the life studies and classical drawings she had made at art school, cutting them up and layering them with fragments from newer works, found images, family snapshots and dot-printed acetate sheets. In tightly balanced compositions that seem to graft together not only materials and images but moments of time and history, the fourteen works in the 50s Models Series consider the sexual politics of the Western art historical tradition.

    (We do this, 12 May 2018 - 26 May 2019. The artist died on 1 December 2018 and this label was rewritten accordingly)