Thursday 30 October 2008

On Photography - Paul Hewson’s Polaroid portraits of Robert Muldoon

In light of New Zealand’s current election campaign, I profile some political art in this week's post.

The Gallery only holds a few portraits of local politicians. Two of the most powerful are also amongst our smallest works – both measure 79 mm square and both have the same title: Muldoon T.V. 2

During 1975, I believe Paul Hewson attended the National Party’s election meeting in Auckland’s Town Hall where he photographed Robert Muldoon. Mr Muldoon was then the leader of the National Party and would soon become New Zealand’s Prime Minister, a position he held until 1984. I cannot find any records of Hewson’s photographs taken at this party political meeting being held in any public collection.

Mr Muldoon (1921 – 1992) brilliantly understood the ability of television to deliver political messages and he was renowned for his forceful political presence during television interviews.
An infamous example of his media style occurred when Simon Walker for TV1 interviewing him during 1976. Here is a link to archival footage of the interview.

Mr Muldoon tells Walker:

‘You are not going to set the rules my friend, this is an important matter and we are going to get to the truth of it’.

During 1976, Paul Hewson used his Polaroid SX70 camera to record these colour photographs from his television set’s black and white monitor while Mr Muldoon appeared in TV2’s live studio interview. The resulting images are digital portraits and result from Hewson's documentation of the television broadcast. The instantaneous results are two miniature portraits that have a visual wallop. Muldoon’s eyes look as if they are closed, an effect due to the camera’s slow exposure time. The Prime Minister seems utterly determined. These are portraits of a politician certain of his opinions, which is unsurprising, as the Prime Minister was known for his incisive thinking.

We see a similarly potent confidence in Tony Fomison’s political paintings from the 1970s, such as Jack in the Box 1978, where a Muldoon-like face intimidates a tiny person. This small work (419 x 333mm) came to the Gallery from the late Denis Cohn’s personal art collection.

Paul Hewson’s Muldoon T.V.2 reveals a Prime Minister who is assertive, powerful and authoritative. Fomison similarly understood that the physical scale of a portrait does not limit an artwork’s expressive potential.

Click here to read more On Photography by Ron Brownson

Credits (top to bottom)

Paul Hewson
Muldoon T.V.2 1977
colour SX70 polaroid print
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

Paul Hewson
Muldoon T.V.2 1977
colour SX70 polaroid print
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

Tony Fomison
Jack in the Box 1978
oil on linen
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

Wednesday 15 October 2008

On Photography - Sports photography in Canterbury

Edward Wheeler (active 1877 – 1912)
Trout in New Zealand Rivers, the Upper Selwyn. A good days sport 38 fish with the fly, two rods
circa 1890
gelatin silver print

Wheeler & Son maintained a major photographic studio in central Christchurch from about 1864 until 1912. Edmund Wheeler (1800 – 1877) and his son Edward (active 1877 – 1912) managed the family business. As well as being well-known studio portraitists, they produced many memorable landscape images. I have always thought that their sports photography was memorable as it shows their commitment to pre-planning and to recording significant events in Canterbury's sports calendar.

Edward Wheeler’s photograph of 38 trout dates from the early 1890s and must be one of the earliest angling records of a large catch. The trout are all young, as the species had only been in the Upper Selwyn River for less than two decades. It is likely that the bait used was live cockabully (freshwater Eleotris gobiodes), a major food for introduced trout. Perhaps the photograph marks one of the regular Canterbury Angler’s Associations competition days where the weight of the catch was often commented upon rather than the size of the trout. Apparently, night was a good time to fish in the Selwyn River.

Edward Wheeler (active 1877 – 1912)
Canterbury Rowing Club on the Avon
circa 1890
gelatin silver print

Photographs of the opening day of the Canterbury Rowing Club’s annual rowing season were relatively common during the period 1890 to 1910, according to photography historian William Main. This image is one of the earliest known images of the annual rowing event and was later issued as a printed postcard. The rowers are all members of the CRC and wear their ‘all whites’ which rowing historian Evan McCalman has kindly informed me are the correct club colours.

The Auckland Art Gallery does not have many sports photographs but this pair by Edward Wheeler are outstanding early examples in this genre of our photographic history.

Click here to read more On Photography by Ron Brownson

Monday 13 October 2008

Opening of the Walters Prize 2008

Here are a few images of the opening of the 2008 Walters Prize. Oscar Keightly gave a brilliant and funny opening speach, welcoming everyone to the exhibition and there was certainly a buzz in the air that night.
Opening speaker Oscar Keightly

Edith Amituanai with Oscar Keightly

Lisa Reihana with Steven Ball

John Reynolds with Clare McLintoc

Peter Robinson with Ava Seymour

Witi Ihamaera, Jenny Gibbs
(one of the Founding benefactor and donors of the Walters Prize)
and Hart Reynolds

Everyone enjoyed a night to celebrate the opening of fourth Walters Prize. now we just have to see who judge Catherine David will choose as the winner of the 2008 Walters Prize. The winner is announced at a gala dinner on 31 October 2008.

Thursday 9 October 2008

Gallery Development - work begins

The development project seems to be moving along really quickly at the moment. Odd to see the staff room and below that the office that I occupied for six years being removed

Experienced Hawkins staff tell me that this part of a project - setting up for construction, clearing the site, putting up the hoardings and generally getting established is part of the busiest time from the public's point of view. So much seems to be changing each day. Looking at today's photos it seems hard to believe that it was only last week that we attended the plaque unveiling ceremony to mark the commencement of the project!

Rt Hon, Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand and His Worship, John Banks QSO Mayor of Auckland City at the plaque unveiling ceremony on 2 October 2008

It is good to see that some trees have already been planted along the boundary of the site on the Albert Park side. Watching trees be removed from the site by crane was one of the more dramatic sights to date!

Once the Edmiston wing, that is currently being demolished has been cleared, we will all be able to understand much more clearly the layout of the heritage buildings along Wellesley and Kitchener Street, and exactly where the new building will be constructed.

Thursday 2 October 2008

Packing up and moving on

The exhibition Turuki Turuki! Paneke Paneke! closed at the Auckland Art Gallery on the 24th August 2008. But that's not the end of it.

TTPP as it was affectionately know by staff here, is going on tour to Whangarei Art Museum.

I'll be following the exhibition's progress, from the de-installation at the Auckland Art Gallery, through its travels up the country and eventual opening in Whangarei.

To start with, here are some images of the registrars and preparators taking down the exhibition and packing it up safe and sound.

Registrar Penny Hacking with preparators Rod MacLeod and Dareen Sheehan packing artwork.

Sculptures in their specially made crates (thanks to the preparators).

Preparator Shane Norrie carefully putting an artwork in it's crate.

Photos by Jennifer French