Doris Lusk

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1916, d.1990

Landscape, Overlooking Kaitawa, Waikaremoana

Daughter of an architect, and married to an engineer, Lusk was keenly attuned to structure. While artists such as Rata Lovell-Smith, Rita Angus and Christopher Perkins juxtaposed natural and constructed elements, such as bridges, telegraph poles and railway stations, Lusk chose more dominating features that resonated with weight, energy and a sense of industry. Artist Anne Hamblett recalled: “Doris always did a different sort of thing. Buildings and water stations. […] She liked doing big water pipes and machines.” This view of the newly built Kaitawa hydro-electric station and associated settlement was painted when Lusk visited her friends Ian and Adelaide McCubbin in 1948. Ian McCubbin was a construction engineer for the Waikaremoana hydro-electric power scheme, which included power stations at Piripaua and Tuai (also painted by Lusk and part of this exhibition). Here, the massive pipeline in the foreground seems to continually shift in scale, looming hugely over the miniature houses but dwarfed in its turn by the distant mountain ranges.

(Doris Lusk: Practical Visionary, 4 June – 30 October 2016)

earlier labels about this work
  • Kaitawa is one of the three power stations that form the Lake Waikaremoana Hydro development scheme, inland from Wairoa in the North Island. Kaitawa was opened in 1948, the year Doris Lusk visited friends in the area. Lusk’s style shows similarities to the work of British artist Paul Nash (1889 -1946) in which he contrasted landforms and man made structures. Here the power station buildings are surrounded and dominated by the almost impenetrable barrier of the mountain ranges.

    Lusk was born in Dunedin and studied art at the King Edward Technical College there from 1933 to 1939. She held her first exhibition in 1936. Lusk and her husband, Dermot Holland, moved to Christchurch in 1943. She exhibited with both the Canterbury Society of Arts and The Group. A potter as well as a painter, she tutored pottery from 1947 and was a foundation member of the Canterbury Potters Association in 1965. From 1966 to 1981 Lusk taught at the School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury.

    This painting was first exhibited with 'The Group', 1948.

Related

Notes
Onekaka Estuary by Doris Lusk

Onekaka Estuary by Doris Lusk

This article first appeared as 'Lusk grabbed any chance to draw the power of places' in The Press, 20 July 2016.

Exhibition
Doris Lusk: Practical Visionary

Doris Lusk: Practical Visionary

Intricate landscapes and imaginative explorations by renowned New Zealand painter Doris Lusk.

Collection
Power House, Tuai
Doris Lusk Power House, Tuai

Lusk described the power station at Tuai to art historian Lisa Beaven as a “gothic building in the middle of the wild hills”. Certainly, this striking oil painting plays up its strange incongruity, combining an abruptly elevated viewpoint with a heightened, stylised approach reminiscent of the unsettling streetscapes of Italian metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978). The tiny human figures moving briskly across the wide driveway accentuate the immense building towering over them, while the angled cars, curved road and power lines marching into the distance suggest a confluence of dynamic forces, barely contained.

(Doris Lusk: Practical Visionary, 4 June – 30 October 2016)

Collection
Towards Omakau
Doris Lusk Towards Omakau

Through her tutor, Robert N. Field, Lusk discovered the work of Cézanne, who famously stated his desire to represent nature, rather than record it. Lusk readily manipulated reality, describing in a 1987 television interview how her landscapes were “controlled and restricted, composed into pictorial space”. Painted in 1942, the year she married and moved to Christchurch, 'Towards Omakau' is an exhilaratingly expansive view of a landscape near Alexandra, in Central Otago. It’s undeniably modern; a sharp rebuke to those commentators who sought to relegate Lusk to the ranks of pragmatic regionalist.

The composition of this work is designed to accentuate the numerous lines that stretch over its surface, curving around eroded cliff faces, extending in darting tangents as rivers and roads, forming regimented shelterbelt verticals. Sheep trails crisscross gently rounded hills, echoing clouds that swirl overhead. Reflecting on her practice in later years, Lusk stated: “[I] have tried to get to the heart of the matter, involved with the complexity rather than simplicity in describing the nature of our land.”

(Doris Lusk: Practical Visionary, 4 June – 30 October 2016)