Friday 28 October 2011

More Hamar

I’ve had some luck in researching Raymond MacIntyre’s portrait of Haraldur Hamar c 1923, he’s the distinctive looking man with the great brows.

Hamar was born in Reykjavik in 1892. He was the son of a poet and a headmaster, Steingrimur Thorsteinsson, and later changed his name from Thorsteinsson to Hamar.

A Reference Librarian at the National Library of Iceland found two articles about Hamar, you can see them under the following links. They are of course in Icelandic, but we can see that Hamar was painted more than once.

In Osbert Sitwell’s biography: Left Hand, Right Hand!: an autobiography, London 1951 in the fifth volume he writes about Hamar, who associated with the Bloomsbury group in London, they called him Iceland.

I’d love to catch up with any Icelandic speakers, is there someone out there keen to translate this article?

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Sir Peter Siddell KCNZM, QSO

The Gallery’s staff is much saddened to learn of the passing of Sir Peter Siddell. We extend to his family and friends our heartfelt condolences.

Peter and his late wife Sylvia were close friends of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki over many years. At the launch of the impressive illustrated book dedicated to his work, I spoke to those present about how much the public admire Peter’s paintings as being about their shared memory and experience of Auckland.

In particular, I mentioned his renowned Homecoming that is a valedictory work where Peter remembers his childhood. His visits to this Gallery over many years are recalled by the inclusion within the house of his favourite New Zealand paintings in this collection. This work includes the impressive 19th century merchant’s house in Ponsonby Road that is now occupied by the ASB Trust. Siddell places the building against a volcanic landscape that is typical of Auckland but impossible to identify as being in any one particular suburb. The landscape and the house reveal memory as being inseparable from how we experience a place. Peter once noted that 'Most of the time I paint what I know . . . usually from childhood recollections'. He had delivered the New Zealand Herald newspaper in early-morning Auckland as a boy, so he knew the streets of the city very well.

Peter stated that his ambition is 'to achieve a stillness in my paintings. It's something to do with wanting to freeze a moment in time and regain a bit of the past'. His cityscapes bring together the volcanic landscape and colonial buildings from throughout Auckland. People are almost never included; instead their habitat is focused on. The dramatic late afternoon sky in Horizon 1987 is both dramatic and menacing. This painting was a special gift to the people of Auckland by the Friends of the Gallery.

Some years ago, the Hon John Banks, then Mayor of Auckland City, personally hosted a mayoral luncheon for Peter, Sylvia, their family and friends. It was a happy event where all present saw how much Peter and Sylvia had contributed to this city’s art community for decades. Their passing is mourned.

Dr E H McCormick noted in his 1957 inaugural Friend’s lecture: ‘There are, in fact, several Aucklands: there is an ecclesiastical Auckland finely expressed in the frail perfection of the Selwyn churches; there are the homes of Epsom and Mount Eden redolent of a more spacious past; there are the acres of decaying wood that stretch from Ponsonby to Parnell Road.’

Peter understood Auckland with a true valuing of its history. I once said to him that he was an artistic heir of the Reverend Dr John Kinder, arguably one of New Zealand’s finest colonial painters and photographers. With that marvellous and quizzical smile of his, Peter replied ‘Oh Ron! I am never so preachy but I much appreciate your compliment!’ He knew that ‘seeing’ Auckland is about much more than recognising its topography. We will miss this lovely and generous man.

Sir Peter Siddell (1935 -2011)
Homecoming 1976
acrylic on hardboard
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
purchased 1977

Sir Peter Siddell (1935 -2011)
Horizon 1987
acrylic on hardboard
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
gift of the Friends of Auckland Art Gallery, 1988

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Grace Joel

The Gallery was recently visited by Mr Hartley Joel. Hartley is the nephew of Grace Joel (1865-1924) and it was from him that we were able to secure her painting Girl with Scarf c1896.

This informal oil portrait is one of the most important nineteenth century portraits created in New Zealand. It was Hartley’s specific wish that his aunt’s great painting, dating from her Dunedin period, remain in Auckland and be accessible to the public. Through his generosity, and with the auspices of the Lyndsey Garland Bequest, the Gallery was able to acquire this exceptionally rare portrait.

Like Rita Angus, Grace Joel has a number of residential villages named in her honour of her contribution to the arts.

Hartley Joel with Grace Joel's Girl with Scarf, 2011
photograph: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

How to Read a Rugby Photograph

One of the most interesting publications on New Zealand photography published by a local dealer gallery is Michael Graham-Stewart’s Crombie to Burton – Early New Zealand Photography. It was issued by the John Leech Gallery in Auckland during 2010 to accompany their exhibition of the same title. If your library does not hold a copy, it can be obtained via the following ISBN: 9780473165390.

John Gow, Director of the Leech’s kindly gave me access to one of the photographs that Michael discovered to include in my presentation named How to Read a Rugby Photograph at the Pecha Kucha event held at Auckland Art Gallery last week.

I told all the Pecha Kucha attendees that this was one of the earliest group photographs of an Auckland rugby team. It is also one of the rarest rugby images.

Wrigglesworth and Binns was a Wellington photography studio, so it is likely that this portrait was made on the Auckland representative team’s visit there to play against the local team in what later became known as a famously disputed match.

In terms of 'reading' a rugby photograph, look at how casual and relaxed the Auckland team looks. This was a shot taken for the team members themselves. Few better shots exist of a bonded group of players.

By the way, I have discovered the best rugby shot taken during the World Rugby Cup. More about that later....

Wrigglesorth and Binns
Auckland Touring Team 1883
Gelatin silver print, 153 x 197mm
Courtesy: John Leech Gallery, Auckland

Friday 14 October 2011

Jim Allen – Toi Aotearoa

With our current collection exhibition Toi Aotearoa, I thought it worthwhile to generate on-going research about the artworks. As Jim Allen’s sculpture Polynesia is exhibited for the first time at the Gallery, I asked Jim to respond to some questions.

RB: When did you begin work on Polynesia?
JA: Polynesia was the stone carving component of my final year at Royal College of Art in 1951-52.

RB: Was this your first large scale direct stone carving?
JA: No, I had completed at least five others. The first carved in Oamaru limestone when I was a final year student at the School of Art, Canterbury University during 1948. At the Royal College, a bird shape in Hoptonwood marble, in private ownership in Auckland; a second bird shape in Alabaster, now in possession of Santa Barbara Art Gallery, California. There was also a boy figure in Portland limestone, since destroyed: and a horizontal figure in green Hornton stone.

RB: How did you choose the Ancaster limestone?
JA: I chose it in consultation with Barry Hart, our lecturer for stone carving. Barry was anxious that we had a broad experience of working of different kinds of stone. Occasionally we chose stone from the school's stockpile. Others, Barry would order in a special block. I think my Ancaster came within that category.

RB: Were there any preliminary drawings?
JA: No. I think I made a rudimentary clay figure maquette as a means of talking through my ideas, but we were encouraged with direct carving to working out the solution within the block itself.

RB: Is it an imagined figure or did you utilise a model to assist your work?
JA: No, definitely imagined. We were expected to carefully examine the block of stone and work out the disposition of shape accordingly.

RB: Did you physically carve it at the Royal College?
JA: Yes. In the studio designated for stone carving at the School of Sculpture.

RB: What was the reaction of staff and students to Polynesia?
JA: Very little from other students, all very much concerned with their own efforts and where they might come in the ensuing assessments. I am sure Barry Hart was pleased. I valued his advice, we became good friends over the three years, and we continued to keep in touch even after I had returned to NZ.

Barry came from generations of workers in stone, and was good friends with Henry Moore. He was something of a character, always wore a dark blue suit with bow tie. Never physically helped with your work and concentrated on working on the theory of working with the material and activating your own thinking processes in dealing with problems. Professor Frank Dobson and staff must have approved as I gained First Class Honours.

Images: Jim Allen, Polynesia, 1951
Ancaster limestone, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the artist, 2007

Monday 10 October 2011

Three cheers for the preps!

The creation of an exhibition is a huge team effort, and at the end of the process it all comes down to the team of preparators and technicians who physically install the artworks in the galleries. Each exhibition comes with its own challenges - whether it's moving very large, heavy or fragile objects, installing 7,081 tiny objects in the right configuration, or abseiling down a wall to hang a work in a tricky spot. The photos below show the Gallery’s install teams in action - from 1954 to today.
1954: The Museum Microcosm: Items from the Auckland War Memorial Museum

1971: Morris Louis (In 1971, not only was it okay to handle artworks without wearing gloves – it was okay to handle artworks while smoking your pipe!)

1981: Artichoke. The legendary exhibition where every painting in the collection was put on display.

1995: Transformers. Installing the 5000 polystyrene balls of Nike Savvas’ installation Simple Division.

2001: Bambury: Works 1975-1999. The installation of this exhibition of Stephen Bambury’s work required a steady hand and a head for heights.

2001: 1st Auckland Triennial: Bright Paradise: Exotic History and Sublime Artifice; Ashley Bickerton, Them [detail], 1998

2002: Love and Death: Art in the Age of Queen Victoria.Before the development project, large works like Frederic Leighton’s The Syracusan Bride, 1865-6 had to enter the building via crane over the café balcony …

… and then be shuffled past the muffins and paninis in the café …

… before finally arriving in the gallery for installation. Of course, large works would also have to exit the building using the same circuitous route. Hooray for our new, spacious loading bay and goods lift!

2005: Mixed-Up Childhood. Assembling the fragile glass structure of Louise Bourgeois’ Cell 1990-3.

2005: Mixed-Up Childhood. Unpacking a fragment of Jake and Dinos Chapman’s The Return of the Repressed 1997.

2005: Framing the Past

2006: Summer Daze. Don Driver’s McKechnie Brothers Mural, 1967.

2008: The collection was packed up and moved into offsite storage before the building development project was begun.

2008: The Walters Prize. Installing the 7081 tiny canvases of John Reynold’s Cloud, 2006.

2009: The Julian and Josie Robertson Promised Gift: An Exclusive Preview. With only nine hours to install, this exhibition went up in double-quick time. (Artwork shown: Pablo Picasso, Mère aux enfants a l'orange (Mother and children with an orange), 1951, promised gift of Julian and Josie Robertson)

2010: Call Waiting: A Celebration of the New Gallery 1995-2011 (See our previous blog about the installation of this artwork here.)

2011: Toi Aotearoa: New Zealand Art 1965-1900. The first work to be hung in the developed Gallery was Colin McCahon’s 1952 painting On Building Bridges.

2011: Installing Choi Jeong Hwa’s Flower Chandelier, 2011 in the North Atrium.

2011: Whizz Bang Pop. Installing the Boyle Family’s The Gisborne Triptych, 1990 in the Parkview Gallery.

2011: Whizz Bang Pop. Installing Luc Piere’s Tower, 1973 in the Parkview Gallery.

Friday 7 October 2011

Thursday 6 October 2011

Jeremy Leatinu’u and Dead Mileage

Auckland’s Heritage Festival has grown rapidly to be New Zealand’s largest event concerned with regional heritage.

The event has this mission: “to encourage people of all ages to celebrate, embrace and learn about the unique social, cultural and built heritage of the Auckland region. Its agenda is to foster Auckland as the ‘world’s most livable city’.”

This year, the event that caught my eye was scheduled for 12 hours from midnight on Sunday 2 October until 12 noon. This 12-hour performance was presented by Jeremy Leatinu’u at East Street in Newton.

Curated by Louise Tu’u for We Should Practice the promotion material stated, “Witness between midnight and midday on Sunday morning a twelve-hour traversing of an Auckland inner-city street.”

I visited on Sunday at 8 am. The paths of about two-thirds of East Street were inscribed in coloured chalk with immaculately written lists that stated the dates and names of the persons and businesses associated with each of the street’s properties. Rather than being a bland transcription of names and dates, it came across as a lyrical invocation of the past. I recognised some of the names as being well-known Auckland families: Stead, Semu, Garrett.

More than any of the other Heritage Festival events, Jeremy’s performance invoked the past with a cherishing regard. A simple concept carried through with elegance, respect and sincerity. Impressive in every way and without any cynicism or false irony. Real and refreshing. The type of performance and interaction that we expect from this talented artist.

Check out We Should Practice

Kate Sylvester AW12

Kate Sylvester showcased her Autumn/ Winter 2012 collection at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki on Tuesday night. Inspired by Steven Shainberg’s film Secretary (2002), her designs cat-walked out from the mise-en-scene onto our mezzanine.

Many Zhu