Tuesday 30 March 2010

Don Peebles, ONZM (1922-2010)

Canvas relief, brown 1979
acrylic on canvas
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, purchased 1980

We learned the sad news of Don’s passing on the weekend, and tributes have already begun to flow. We wanted to offer our sympathies to his wife Prue and his children and extended family on behalf of the Auckland Art Gallery. He will be missed.

There is a quote that I have always admired by Don, when talking about his students who “come here experienced, and they leave (I hope) as beginners.” The quote says a lot about Don, his passion for teaching, indeed for learning, but underscoring it all, is that spirit of risk taking and testing that are essential for a life of artistic enquiry and that we appreciate so much in him.

The recognition that Don achieved during his lifetime was remarkable and a testament to his personality and his skill. His status as an Arts Foundation Icon testifies to his life-long achievements. We know that the spirit of experimentation so implicit in his work will live on.

The legacy of his prodigious artistic activity over more than 50 years will be sketched for many years to come of course. The first work acquired by the Gallery in 1960 was Wellington XII and since then we have acquired 15 works that demonstrates some of the extraordinary breadth of his creative output. The latest acquisition in 1997 came to us via the Chartwell Collection, who have also been enthusiastic supporters. His work was shown in the influential exhibition of  Aspects of New Zealand Art 1983, and more recently, his work has been on display at the Gallery in the collection exhibition, A Feeling for Form in 2005. Both exhibitions echo that character of testing and teasing the limits of his work, which is one of the ways in which we will remember him.
The lyrical exploration of form that sees his work erupt from the static picture plane of two dimensions and into the physical space of sculpture or painted relief is just one aspect of his impact on artistic production in New Zealand.

Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

Hanna Scott
Acting Contemporary Curator

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