This exhibition is now closed

Emerging from the hidden bowels of the McDougall's basement this April comes Unstretched an exhibition of unstretched canvases from the contemporary collection.

It was Colin McCahon who first shocked the New Zealand art world in 1958 when he discarded not only his easel and frame, but his stretcher as well. Instead he began painting on unstretched canvas, using the floor as a support, and hung his finished works from the rods and eye screws, and later simply by eyelets, declaring:

'I'm finished with frames and all that they imply. I want paintings to pin or nail up or tie with string - I think it gives them more freedom to act.'

Although pioneered in New Zealand in the late fifties, the unstretched canvas did not become a common sight in New Zealand galleries until the 1970s. One of the main reasons for its increased popularity was sheer practicality. Without the weight and constraints of a stretcher, large canvas paintings could be inexpensively made and transported, and stored with ease. The unstretched canvas also provided artists with a format that was highly flexible and full of possibilities. Canvases could be painted on both sides and suspended in mid-air rather than clinging to the wall, fabric could flop and drape, taking on a sculptural element, bits could easily be added and removed, and paintings could run the length of a roll of canvas if an artist so desired. To leave a work unstretched was also an act of defiance - a subversion of the "institution of the frame" and "the old boys" club of the stretched canvas.

Unstretched will feature a rich selection of loose canvases by Philippa Blair. Robert Ellis, Ralph Hotere, Linda James, Robyn Kahukiwa. Don Peebles. Philip Trusttum, Peter Wolden and Jane Zusters.

('Unstretched', Bulletin, No.95, April/May 1995, p.3)

This exhibition was held at the McDougall Art Annex in the Arts Centre.

  • Date:
    6 April – 14 May 1995
  • Exhibition number: