Exhibition

Leo Bensemann: A Fantastic Art Venture

11 February – 22 February 2011

A comprehensive retrospective of the influential Canterbury artist and designer Leo Bensemann, who was at the centre of a dynamic revival in New Zealand art in the mid-twentieth century.

This exhibition was originally scheduled to run from 11 February until 15 May 2011. Unfortunately its run was ended by the 22 February Christchurch earthquake. However, you can still buy the book in the Gallery Shop.

A comprehensive retrospective of an influential and talented Canterbury artist and designer. A painter of portraits and landscapes, Bensemann (1912–1986) is equally well known for his significant contribution to New Zealand graphic design and typography through his work with Christchurch's The Caxton Press. Bensemann was a colourful individual and iconoclast who was at the centre of a dynamic and broad-ranging artistic revival in New Zealand from the 1930s to the 1950s. Through his work at Caxton Press and with The Group, Bensemann provided an important connection between writers and artists and was closely associated with major figures such as artist Rita Angus, poet Denis Glover and composer Douglas Lilburn.

Exhibition number 865

  • Exhibition number: 865

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Artist Profile
Leo Bensemann: an art venture

Leo Bensemann: an art venture

Leo Bensemann (1912–1986) was a pivotal figure bridging the worlds of literature and visual arts – a go-between like no other. Peter Simpson is an authority on this distinctive artist.

Collection
Pass in Winter
Leo Bensemann Pass in Winter

'Whichever pass this is, it reminds me of something Te Aue Davis of Maniapoto, the great supporter of Kāi Tahu, once said: ‘They’re beautiful, but what’s the use of them? You can’t grow kumara up there.’ You can see why our people headed for their coastal villages in winter.

'In Kāi Tahu tradition, the snow-capped Southern Alps, the spine of the South Island, Te Waipounamu, are the ancestors upon the waka [canoe] called Te Waka o Aoraki, where we reside. When you’re looking at these mountains, you inevitably come to Aoraki in the creation myth. The demi-god Aoraki’s mokopuna [grandson] 
Tu-Te-Raki-Whanoa has gone looking for him and comes across the wreckage of Aoraki’s waka. He finds his tūpuna [grandfather] – or father, depending on your whakapapa [genealogy, or which iwi or tribe you descend from] – and the crew all turned into stone, sitting there with snow on them. He finishes his tangi [enduring Māori ceremony to mourn the dead] for them. He then looks at the wreckage of the upturned waka: he sees the high side – the mountains sitting there are his ancestors; and then the low side, buffeted by the south easterlies running up and down. Then he sets out to make the land fit for living.' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

Notes
Leo Bensemann's centenary

Leo Bensemann's centenary

Today is the centenary of the birth of Canterbury artist Leo Bensemann and Peter Simpson, Leo's biographer, has contributed an insightful article on the Christchurch Art Gallery's collection of Leo Bensmann's work which you can read here

Notes
40 Years of Leo Bensemann

40 Years of Leo Bensemann

A wonderful collection of paintings by Leo Bensemann opened in Christchurch last night at W.T. MacAlister Gallery.

Notes
Huntsbury Press

Huntsbury Press

The Gallery was very fortunate to receive a collection of books from Leo Bensemann's library this week.

Notes
Wharariki Dreaming

Wharariki Dreaming

Located at the top of the South Island's West Coast, near Cape Farewell, Wharariki Beach is a stunning area where the land meets the sea in dramatic fashion.

Notes
The next best thing

The next best thing

We had three great exhibitions on display in February. De-Building, Van der Velden: Otira and Leo Bensemann: A Fantastic Art Venture all opened within three weeks of the earthquake, and all three had their runs cut very short.

Notes
Light work

Light work

With Leo Bensemann: A Fantastic Art Venture set to open at the Gallery in February, I've been working on Bensemann's St Olaf to get it ready for exhibition.