Exhibition

Doris Lusk: Practical Visionary

4 June – 30 October 2016

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

Presented to honour the centenary of her birth, this exhibition features a selection of paintings from across the remarkable career of Doris Lusk (1916–1990). A key figure in the development of contemporary New Zealand art and core member of the celebrated Christchurch 'Group', Lusk was known for her deft brushwork, technical innovation and keen eye for structure, both natural and industrial. From intricately constructed early landscapes through to later, imaginative explorations in luminous acrylic and watercolour, Doris Lusk: Practical Visionary highlights how Lusk combined observation with invention to create paintings that resonate with an insistent and authentic sense of place.

Related

Collection
Onekaka Estuary
Doris Lusk Onekaka Estuary

Built in the 1920s to load pig iron bound for Australia the nearby ironworks, the Onekaka wharf in Golden had begun decaying long before Lusk first saw it in By then, it was no longer connected to the sea and found its dramatic break at the low tide mark irresistible: “It was almost a geometric situation, the way it protruded through the quiet surf.” Years later, Lusk recalled how she had set out determined not to paint the wharf, only to return with a sketchbook full of little else. The interplay between light and shadow, structure and fluidity, strength and decay intrigued and she would paint it almost exclusively over thefive years, in watercolours executed on the spot and a series of brooding oil paintings. This rapidly worked study, observed at a greater distance from the wharf most of Lusk’s Onekaka works, emphasises the estuary’s luminous quality and constantly changing tides.

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

Notes
Imagined Projects II, Limeworks by Doris Lusk

Imagined Projects II, Limeworks by Doris Lusk

This article first appeared as 'Work evolved from years of practise' [sic] in The Press on 3 November 2016.

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.

Notes
The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have It

Commentaries on Doris Lusk’s work often talk about her ‘eye’; for telling details, for spatial complexities, for colour, for line. Many of those who met the painter personally remember her eyes too, but for a different reason, recalling how she would peer out inscrutably from behind thickly rimmed spectacles, with a gaze that was simultaneously intimidating and engaging. It seems appropriate then, that when Kevin Capon photographed Lusk in 1985 the result was this extreme close-up. After setting up his camera and lighting, Capon invited his subjects to approach the camera however they preferred, catching them in the act of looking back. Lusk’s face fills the frame, the black lens of her glasses creating a portal-like opening, connecting us with her in that moment and suggesting both her curiosity and her reticence.

Notes
Finale

Finale

I bike past this relatively new building on the corner of Peterborough and Victoria streets every morning and marvel at its demise.

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)

Collection
Landscape, Overlooking Kaitawa, Waikaremoana
Doris Lusk 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)