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7th May 2020

City Art Reader 31: Gallery Guide – What’s on at your place 2

In the early days of lockdown Level 4, as galleries across the country remained closed to visitors, the City Art Reader asked Christchurch artists, curators and art writers to describe their favourite work on the walls of their home. The responses, appearing in Reader 29, proved so popular we have invited a second group of Cantabrians to take another look at the art in their bubble.


Rachael King, writer, programme director WORD Christchurch Festival
Colin McCahon, Study for catalogue cover for North Otago landscapes exhibition (1968), ink on paper

I didn’t know about my father’s ‘tiny McCahon’, as he referred to it, until after he died and I inherited his art collection. There it was, hanging above his writing desk. He named it in a letter to a fellow writer as one of the small things that brought him solace as he underwent treatment for throat cancer. Now it hangs in my hallway and reminds me of him whenever I walk past it.

A few years ago, I drove alone from Christchurch to Wanaka, passing through incandescent landscapes that moved and changed with the light and with each bend in the road. I came around a corner and there it was: the tiny landscape drawing writ large.

I have always enjoyed writing that drops a few sparse but sharp details onto the page and invites the reader to bring their own imagination to the scene; this simple picture, with its two curved lines and eleven straight lines, has the same effect. To see it is to be transported in an instant, to a road in north Otago, and to a writing desk on the Coromandel peninsula.

 

Jamie Hanton, director of The Physics Room
Miranda Parkes, Time Warper (2013), acrylic on wood

My favourite artwork also happens to be one of the smallest in my collection; a classic Miranda Parkes work that plays with the received convention of the frame and the plasticity of paint. Miranda gifted Time Warper to me on my 30th birthday. I’d reviewed her exhibition, ‘Stunner’, at 64zero3 in 2008, in extremely complimentary terms. I’d never met her and I really was blown away by that suite of paintings. So blown away that I thought it was a good idea to reference Georgia O’Keefe. Sorry, Miranda.

Three years later, when I had my first full-time job in the arts, I attempted to buy a painting from Miranda. I couldn’t quite afford the full price for Booster so she bartered an essay into the equation. I love Booster, but I really wanted something with gold in it. I must have mentioned this at some point so, thoughtful as ever, Time Warper now sits in my bedroom above a small chest of drawers. The very uneven light in the room and the angle from my bed means I can’t quite see what’s down the hole at the centre. It’s a magic work that always reminds me there’s something on the other side.

 

Shannon Williamson, artist
Tineke Van der Eecken, Mouse Lungs with Garnet (2012), solid silver cast with set garnet

With many of my favourite works still in storage post-move I return always to reflect on this small piece in my collection which, literally, remains close-to-heart. The piece is a silver cast of a pair of mouse lungs with a garnet set into the trachea. The use of precious metal and stone is intended to immortalise and pay tribute to the deceased (mouse) and to serve as a memento mori of the animals ‘sacrificed’ to medical research.

Mouse Lungs with Garnet is made from medical-research waste sourced from the Lung Institute of Western Australia (of which the artist was Chief Executive Officer) and is part of a series made in response to Van der Eecken’s 2011 residency with SymbioticA (University of Western Australia). I met Van der Eecken in 2012 when I was SymbioticA’s new resident and later purchased the piece from a 2013 exhibition of her work at Melody Smith Gallery in Perth. I was drawn to the conversation between art and science that this piece generated while also seduced visually by its delicate anatomical form. Aesthetically I adore this piece of jewellery – the fragility of bodily tissues juxtaposed with the cold heavy grey of metal and sanguine lustre of cut garnet which doubles as a blood clot. Though, as a vegetarian and long-time avoider of animal-tested products, the piece continues to sit uncomfortably with me ethically (I seem to like to own art that makes me uncomfortable for some reason). Avoiding animal-testing for vanity is easy but a blanket denouncing of the use of non-human animals for medical research aimed at human outcomes is more debatable and multi-layered. I find myself in circular internal conversations often without conclusion when I wear this piece. I think these conversations are hard and important.

 

Robyn Webster, artist
Mark Adams, In a howling southerly early Autumn 1972, on a rise above the road between Tai Tapu and Birdlings Flat. Portrait of Tony Fomison (1993), platinum photographic print

I have been staring at my walls a lot over lockdown and there are several contenders for favourite art work. But today it’s a Mark Adams photograph. It’s a platinum print made in 1993, printed from a 4 x 5 inch negative. The dark shadow edges of the negative or maybe the negative carrier are a sort of frame. Since it is a moody grey work, the more definite black of those broken edges somehow strengthens the darkness of the man’s hair and eyes.

The landscape swoops down and passes behind the man’s head. He is close to the edge of the picture, almost leaving the frame, but his eyes are cast back at us which brings his face around towards us while his body fills the bottom corner and is still leaving the frame. It’s like the land is passing through his mind, and all is soft and textured and dim in low light. His nose makes a mirrored angle of the hill behind him; his lips echo the lines of the ground. His expression is at once slightly sneering and questioning: who am I and how much do I love this land?

It is a photograph of Tony Fomison. On the back Mark has written, “In a howling southerly Early autumn 1972 on a rise above the road between Tai Tapu and Birdlings Flat.” His mother lived to about twice his age, she dying very recently at 99. So they as a family are front of mind just now. It’s a spectacular little work of Mark’s which I traded for and gave to my darling Llew [sculptor Llew Summers] for his birthday a few years ago. Since his death last year, it has come back to me.

 

Robin Neate, artist, senior lecturer in painting at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts
Nathan Pohio, untitled (2011), lenticular photograph

This photograph was generously given to me by Nathan some years back after I wrote a piece on him for Art New Zealand. What I enjoy most about this work is it often becomes a conversation piece. The subject was styled to look like the silent-movie star Buster Keaton and duplicates Keaton’s famous deadpan look-down gaze. Lenticular means it works like those 3-D postcards where the girl winks at you. When visitors see the work in our house, at first, they don’t comment. At some point, they shift their view and say – Hey, it moves. Then they say – Is that Marlon Williams? When I say it is, they respond – how come you have a photograph of Marlon Williams? I then tell them how the photograph was taken a long time ago when Williams was a member of The Unfaithful Ways and only a few people in Christchurch knew who he was. Now Marlon is a film star. I think Nathan recognised something.

 

Grant Banbury, art consultant and writer
Joan Campbell, Raku Form (c.1978)

I got very excited when I spotted this pot in an Auckland auction catalogue last year and thrilled my absentee bid was successful. Some 40-plus years earlier at the CSA Gallery, now CoCA, I had acquired a partner pot (now sadly broken) from the same series. Based in Fremantle, Perth – and with an international reputation and a spanking new MBE for services to pottery – Joan Campbell arrived in March 1978 with thirteen works as a guest at Canterbury Potters’ annual exhibition. She enthralled local potters with her earthy pots, work ethos, enthusiasm and charm through lectures and a raku firing held outdoors at the Arts Centre. This form presents an eye-catching silhouette suggestive of a mushroom cloud. It grows skyward into a large sphere topped with horizontal lip. At 39 cm tall it looks precarious as if defying gravity. The subtle grey, salmon-pink and yellow colouring suggests tracings of smoke as if breathed onto the porous surface. Right now, the pot rests on a low bookshelf in our lounge, one of eight pieces by contemporary ceramicists – all stand proud, in dialogue with each other and, more importantly, in dialogue with us too.

 

Simon Palenski, writer and co-runs Paludal
Dave Marshall, Yunomi cup (2016), ceramic

I’m drawn towards ceramics and I think it’s because of my dad who used to take me, when I was a kid, to the dump shop in Bromley and he’d sift through stacks of cutlery to find pieces of Crown Lynn which he’d buy by the bag for a dollar or something. He put together at least a dozen, probably more, complete, multi-piece sets by doing this – cup by cup, saucer by saucer – most of which he’s since sold on TradeMe. He also gave a few sets to my friends (he had to downsize his collection when my parents moved house after the earthquakes). I have a few of Dave’s yunomi cups now, the ones he’d sell at Kadett, but this is the first one I bought and it’s my favourite, perfect for a hot chocolate, whisky or tea. Dave’s an unbelievable ceramicist/artist, and I think I like this cup so much because there’s just a pleasing sense of ease to it. I have my own hotchpotch collection of ceramics now, bits and pieces made by friends, found at op shops and been given to me, a few from my dad.

 

James Hope, assistant curator at the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui
Alice Bray, untitled (2017), mixed media

I am currently living in Whanganui, working as assistant curator at the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Artwork that currently surrounds me is a combination of what I brought up with me from Christchurch, works I got framed at the (very good value!) framers here, and things that I have either made, been given by friends or purchased since I arrived.

One that I brought up with me is a 2017 untitled work by Alice Bray. I purchased the work from the Next Gallery Christmas show that year. It immediately struck me as I walked into the space, hanging on the opposite wall to the entrance. Painted directly onto hardboard, all elements are built with thick black lines composing what appears to be a cloaked figure in large chunky shoes, one leg crossed over the other knee, and its own head in its lap. It reminds me of a Julian Opie image, sans the colour blocks but with an added dark fairytale element.

 

Sandra Thomson, artist
Nicola Jackson, Phantom for Practising Eye Operations (1988), papier-mâché, acrylic paint

Nicola and I met in the print room at art school and have remained close friends ever since. Over the years I have been lucky enough to swap a number of works with Nicola. I have picked Phantom for Practising Eye Operations – although it is over thirty years old, it has many of the traits or ingredients that make up a Nicola work.

The materials Nicola has used – papier-mâché and acrylic paint – and the eye-shaped format still feel surprising and original. The eye lash spikes turn this painting into a three-dimensional object.

The vibrancy and intensity of the colours are something that I have always enjoyed about this work and they are an example of Nicola’s fearless use of colour. Likewise, her use of pattern and the fine detail of the hair and glasses are characteristic of her style and provide visual contrast.
This work reflects Nicola’s continuing interest in historic medical practices and anatomy. I am also fascinated by this subject matter, another reason to be drawn to the painting.

And of course, there is the self-portrait aspect. I have a little bit of Nicola in my living room.

 

Jackie Watson, manager Art on the Quay, Kaiapoi
Aaron Scythe, untitled, yobitsugi style slim cup

My favourite piece of art is my most recent purchase. A beaker, only 10cm tall, by Aaron Scythe, the most exciting New Zealand potter working at the moment. After 16 years of working in a Japanese pottery he was drawn to the Momoyama period of sixteenth-century Japan. His more recent work is sometimes referred to as Hip Hop as it combines influences from today as well as the Japanese past. I first came across his work in The Vivian gallery in Matakana, which luckily for me is across the road from where my son and his family live. I had missed the exhibition when I visited last year, but this was one of the few remaining pieces unsold that was affordable to me.

I have since delved into Aaron’s career and prolific output of such stunning pots with their unique graphic designs, and follow him on Facebook where he posts videos of him throwing these unique forms.