The opening is cancelled, the gallery door is closed, the café wall is dark. Time now to turn our attention to the works of art hanging or sitting in quiet familiarity in our own homes. As we enter the fourth week of the lockdown, the Reader asks Canterbury artists, collectors and art writers to describe the favourite work in their personal collection.
Blair Jackson, director Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū
Guy Ngan, Habitation No. 47 (1973), mixed media
Guy Ngan’s Habitation No. 47 is one of my many favourite things in our house. It’s made of cast aluminium on a wooden base and is about 20cm high. It’s a quiet work, but it’s something that I’ve always loved. It was given to me by my wife Kim’s grandmother. Olive lived in a small council flat in Dallington, here in Christchurch. Her unit was a sunny and warm spot, filled with her favourite things, including paintings and this 1973 work by Ngan. Olive had lived and worked in Wellington for many years and had collected a number of interesting works along the way. On our visits, this is the work that I enjoyed looking at the most. Obviously, Olive noticed my affection for the work, as she gave it to me a few years before she passed away. Much like in Olive’s flat, it sits in our home surrounded by books and other favourite things. It’s a work that I look at and enjoy every day. Thanks Olive!
Clare Logan, artist
Chikako Neale, Tall Vase (2016), high fired red clay with dry dolomite glaze
I encountered Chikako’s work at the 2016 Canterbury Potter’s Association Annual Exhibition at Canterbury Museum. I think it was one of the first pieces of pottery I had bought that was contemporary, rather than a serendipitous treasure found at an op shop, and that felt special and significant. I was immediately drawn to it. It looks like something you could encounter wandering through a strange landscape – a sort of stalagmite, an accumulation of matter from above, pulling down, bound to the earth while stretching up towards its origins. The dry dolomite glaze is pale, ashen, it brings to mind a furry lichen, or mould, a chalky skin that you could run your finger along and come away with it clinging to your own skin. The green blue glaze around the lip and dotted along one side blushes as it meets the dolomite, a series of small interruptions, moments of luminous iridescence. It lifts as it descends, a vessel for the imagination, a transportive object I love to live alongside.
Anthony Wright, director Canterbury Museum
Reuben Paterson, The Nubian (2010), glitter on canvas
It was on one of our early winter escapes to Rarotonga in 2012. We’d scootered in to town, Avarua, to catch a movie at the Empire Cinema. Arriving early, we popped over the road to the Beachcomber to sneak a peek through the windows of our friend Ben Bergman’s BCA Gallery at his latest show, Pacific Collection.
There, literally sparkling in the last rays of the setting sun, was this glorious work, and an instantaneous bonding the art lover knows so well. Over the next 24 hours, it wormed its way into “can’t live without you” territory, necessitating another trip to town to see if there was a red dot alongside.
In our old house, it hung at the end of my favourite reading sofa. I spent hours gazing beyond my book at it, dreaming. In its kaleidoscope of bright colours I’d conjure up memories of sunny Raro: tropical flowers, fresh papaya for brekkie, climbing in the mountains, lush forests. Even the at times pitch-black night sky, punctuated by glittering stars.
Ed Lust, artist
Fiona Clark, Johnny Terilli winning ‘Mr Best Australia’ 1980 – Sydney (1982), photograph
This is “Johnny Terilli winning ‘Mr Best Australia’ 1980 – Sydney”, a photograph I purchased from Fiona Clark in 2011. It’s from Clark’s 1982 exhibition of photos taken at bodybuilding tournaments. One day I hope to get another of Clark’s photographs to hang beside it: Diana Adams and Perry at Miss NZ Drag Queen Ball, Peter Pan Cabaret, Auckland. 1975.
This was my Christmas present to myself in 2011. I was very likely living at my parents’ at the time after my partner and I lost our flat in the quakes. Its meaning has changed for me over the years.
I consider it my finest art purchase to this day and the thing I would tie to my bike should a tsunami come.
It’s framed in a beaut gesso-finish frame, made by City Art Depot, with 8ply mat board and UV blocking glass.
Audrey Baldwin, artist
James Robinson, Untitled (2005), mixed media on paper
To save myself the heartache of choosing a favourite work from my walls, I’ve gone with the first artwork I bought from a gallery – Untitled by James Robinson, mixed media on paper.
In 2005 I was in my first year at Ilam and was, essentially, a ball of anxiety in the shape of a human being. I’d brave shows at 64zero3 which was across the road from the restaurant where I worked part time. I slunk in shyly one afternoon, James Robinson and Scott Flanagan were in a two-person show called Between Warhead and Warhorseand the dark hues drew me in. Helen Calder welcomed me warmly and talked me through the show. My favourite part of the exhibition was actually a pile of dry, dirty wet wipes set to one side of the suite of drawings. Robinson had worn bare feet or jandals while on residency in New York city, and these carried the collected grime from his soles over the month.
The ‘expression-ish’ work I bought features a monster with a city on his head. Long bodied, tail ended and held up by what I imagine as a spindly tripod to aid its journey from a sea of people into a razed city. Smoke stains and ink scritches, disembodied limbs flailing. It’s grimy, ambiguous, surreal and vaguely ominous. The work puts me in mind of biblical allegories, medieval manuscripts, comic book scenes and dreamscapes. Perhaps a portrait of my state at the time? It also symbolises the turning point at which I started being more determined to occupy space – not just in galleries but in general.
Selene Manning, art collector and supporter
Simon Edwards, Time For Reflection (1999), oil on board
It was 1999 and I had recently purchased a large charcoal work by Simon and was keen to add one of his oils to our wall. Warren Feeney, then-director of CoCA, found this work for me – it was instant, butterflies-in-the-tummy attraction. Little did I know my fate was now sealed and a passion for collecting art by emerging artists was born.
I love the brooding, languid atmosphere of this painting and how it draws me toward its radiant horizon. Is that moisture laden cloud rolling in at sunset, or is it being dispelled by a breaking dawn? Depending on my own mood, it is both. For all its midnight edges, there is a veiled, ethereal beauty in that luscious, bluey-green perimeter. I often marvel at the pure stillness I feel when looking at this evocative landscape. I do enjoy it when artists provide a revealing title for their works. Time For Reflection is still in my top 3 favourites after all these years, its DNA clearly embedded in Simon’s established practice today.
Andrew Paul Wood, cultural historian and critic, sometime independent curator
Rebecca Harris, Landscape Poses as Still Life #1 (2016), oil on board
I am a huge fan of Rebecca’s work, and this particular painting with its flesh-toned phallic and orifical biomorphic allusions amused me greatly. That it was a gift from the artist, a dear friend, also attaches great sentimental value to it. I enjoy the way it mingles landscape with still life, the way Giorgio Morandi did when he took his cue from Giorgio de Chirico, but maybe in this case mediated by way of Salvador Dalí and Roberto Matta. It should be noted that Rebecca is an infinitely better painter than I am a photographer, and the image does not do it justice.
Francis van Hout, artist
LV (signed bottom right – not sure who the artist is, does it matter?), Untitled
I always called it the Windmill but it could be a mill for grain or it could have been a pump station, to pump the water from the low lands into the canals.
My mother had brought the work with her when she immigrated to New Zealand in the mid 1950s. It hung in pride of place above the fireplace and was the centre of the living room until the television arrived and that became the centre of our attention. It was just one piece of the Netherlands that we grew up with alongside delft tiles, plates, and the Dutch boy/girl figurines. Just pieces to remind us of who we were, where we had come from and the start of endless stories from our parents on where they had grown up and the times they grew up in and why they had come to New Zealand. So a piece of home in a strange land, a piece of our heritage. It was always strange to me as a place as there was nothing like it here (Christchurch) – no one lived in windmills here and the colours were somehow different, different light. I always liked the way the artist portrayed some things, like the birds – two or three strokes of the brush and you have a bird – or the quick looking strokes that make up the sails of the mill, the big bold stroke to form big billowing clouds, the white strokes on the red roofs of the buildings to suggest roof tiles. But the there was always something a little bit scary about a glowing path leading up to a dark blue door, a Hansel and Gretel thing, or was that from watching horror movies on TV in the same room as this picture? Maybe it was this work that inspired me to pick up a paint brush and start to record my place in this land called New Zealand?
Warren Feeney, arts writer, commentator, editor and publisher of Artbeat
Annie Baird, Kim and Lucy (1988).
This was the first painting that Tina and I collectively purchased and probably our only agreed-together acquisition. The decision was an alternative to wedding rings when we married in 1990. The painting has been in our home for 30 years and we still treasure it. In 1988 I was teaching night classes in Art History at Hagley High School and one of my students was an art consultant at Fishers Fine Arts. One evening he told me about the gallery’s most important artist, Dunedin-based painter Annie Baird. When I saw Kim and Lucy I immediately agreed. The painting’s subject was the artist with her daughter-in-law, Kim, and grand-daughter Lucy. That resonated with us as we started our family. Our daughter, Rosamund, is now community programmes coordinator for Nelson’s libraries and she recently met Kim, who is Kim Taiti, University Librarian at AUT. She made the connection with our painting through Baird’s book cover for Michele Amas’ (1961-2016) After the Dance. Rosamund and Kim are colleagues and friends and Annie Baird’s Lucy and Kim just keeps on giving to our family.
Henry Turner, artist
Nick Harte, Visage of the Living (2019), oil and acrylic on 12’’ cardboard record cover
I acquired this painting in the way that lots of artists acquire such things; by exchange, late last year (although due to circumstances beyond our control I have yet to reciprocate, though my painting for him is set aside for the purpose). This painting is by Nick Harte, an artist, philosopher and musician I first met in October. This painting uses shimmering fluorescent teal-green, and is based on the cover of the LP of Charles and Diana’s wedding with the two contracting parties obscured with stiff peaks of liquorice black. It has been a defining feature of Nick’s works of recent times that they have been mostly executed on cardboard LP covers; the imagery upon the same usually becomes twisted up with the thrust of the painting, which is applied with subtle fingers in a voluptuous mass or a thin film of acrylic which sometimes obscures and at other times draws a veil over the image beneath – this is reminiscent of the cunningly contrived photographs of spirits in the 19th century. The presences are often ghostly; there is something of Tuymans and something of de Keyser, but to me these paintings have visited strange realms where these artists did not venture.
Louise Palmer, sculptor and senior lecturer in Sculpture at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts
Miranda Parkes, Judy Darragh, Tim Middleton, wall in kitchen/living room (2016-2017)
I moved into my rebuilt house in November 2016. The following November I curated an exhibition, Homeshow, 90 Canon, commissioning and selecting works that addressed the domestic context setting up relationships between personal spaces, sites and architecture. My friend, the artist Miranda Parkes, had use of the only full white wall in the kitchen-living room, and was given free rein to make a work for this space. The resulting work Sunjunkie, 2017, acrylic paint and self-levelling medium, sets the tone for this area; warm and light. Although I’d always planned to hang more art on this wall, and discussed this with Miranda, it was over two years later when I finally did this. I’m not sure why it took so long to hang these artworks, as now they are up the wall seems more complete. This wall has been the background for recent Zoom meetings, the works much more exuberant than my own. The large framed drawing is by Judy Darragh for the Physics Room fundraiser Girls on Hope, 2017. I’m wearing the perfume that came with it as I write this for a burst of energy. The cast plaster frame is an untitled work by another friend, Tim Middleton (c.2016). This was a very generous gift, but I prefer to think of it as part of a swap yet to be fulfilled. The ceramic popcorn by Madeleine Child serve as bright punctuation points. The electrician’s level is my addition after Aidan used one when helping me hang the works. It serves as a reminder of balance and equilibrium, something that is especially relevant now.
Hugh Campbell, librarian and art collector
Wayne Alexander and Hugh Campbell, A Kiwi (undated), mixed media
This kiwi was made for my wife, Lynn’s, birthday in the Britten Motorcycle factory about a dozen or so years ago where my friend, Wayne, was the manager. The outline and ribs were formed with brass rod and the feathers are made of burnt scrap copper cable. The feet and beak are copper sheet. The eye was sourced from the Bead Shop in Manchester Street, remember that one?
We have a few artworks; mostly New Zealand, mostly Canterbury, mostly paper, so this piece provides variety.
It is unique and I’m quietly chuffed about my small contribution to its construction.