Thursday 26 April 2012

Have you seen Degas to Dalí yet?

Degas to Dalí has been getting a great response from our visitors - we're loving hearing the comments made to our Gallery guides, volunteer guides and other front of house staff. In addition to this feedback, everyone who visits the show gets handed an entry form to win a trip to Melbourne, on which we ask them:

‘What would you tell someone, who hasn’t yet been to the exhibition, about Degas to Dalí?’

It seems the artworks on display have our visitors’ creative juices flowing, as some of the answers we’ve seen are downright poetic.

So here, in our visitors’ own words, are 10 great reasons to come and see Degas to Dalí

10. It’s here, now, right in front of your eyes

  • ‘This is a once in a lifetime chance to see the works of the best modern artists in the world.’
  • ‘Go and see it! You rarely see a touring show of this calibre in Auckland.’
  • ‘A wonderful collection of art rarely seen down under!’
  • ‘It's an amazing experience to see the masters' work in real life and to see the scale and textural detail of the work.’
  • ‘The best exhibition to hit town in ages: Broad in scope, informative, intelligently presented. Some truly iconic works!’
  • ‘It is a must-see, and how lucky we are to have an exhibition of this calibre here at a reasonable cost.’
  • ‘Please go - you will see the best of the best and be home in time for tea.’
  • ‘Go! I am so privileged to have seen, first hand, masters' works here in New Zealand. A rare and precious opportunity.’
  • ‘Unprecedented close access to major artists of the period in a coherent precise and relevant order. Must-see show for all.’

9. It’s alive!

  • ‘Really special exhibition, so great to see the works leap out of their frames with aliveness.’
  • ‘You have to see the originals. Even the best copy lacks the "aliveness" of the originals. Amazing!’
  • ‘The atmosphere, from the ticket seller to other members of the public, was warm and friendly. Could go again.’
  • ‘Vivid liveliness of original paintings. One off chance to see work of famous artists.’
  • ‘Just go! The pictures are alive and waiting to enrapture.’

8. There’s art in it. Lots of art.

  • ‘An impressive journey through outstanding areas of art.’
  • ‘Lots of various styles of art so something for everyone.’
  • ‘An amazing walk through time!’
  • ‘A sizzling spin through modern art.’
  • ‘Grand variety of artists of the period.’

7. You’ll learn something new

  • ‘Make a point of seeing this watershed exhibition. It shows you how art changed so much in those crucial years.’
  • ‘Go, see, listen and hear. The artists speak to us through their work, of history, of change, challenge the conflicts of emotion of society, theirs and ours. You'll come away excited by new ideas and with a fresh perspective about our life and our place in this place, New Zealand.’
  • ‘It vividly illustrates the ideas behind the way art has evolved.’
  • Degas to Dalí is not just about artists beginning with D but gives a great presentation and insight into the birth and evolution of modern art.’
  • ‘Ever wondered what happened to painting after the invention of photography? Go to Degas to Dalí and see.’
  • ‘Do Go! It is an exemplary exhibition-stimulating, thought-provoking, captivating.’
  • ‘It’s not only interesting but also very “edumacational”.’

6. It’ll stimulate your senses:

  • ‘A feast of colour and light.’
  • ‘Go, see, listen and hear the artists speak through their work.’
  • ‘You will walk into the gallery and approach the first frame. Your eyes will grow wide and you will quietly mouth "wow!"’
  • ‘I was blown away by the light, the colour, and the knowledge that I was viewing original paintings!’
  • ‘An adventure in colour and time.’
  • ‘It was a real P-art-y for my eyes.’
  • ‘A stunning range of work in gorgeous galleries- the works really sing!’
  • ‘You’ll come away excited by new ideas and with a fresh perspective.’
  • ‘The whole exhibition is enchanting and will lead you into visions of European rich culture, colourful and imaginative beyond words.’
  • ‘The explanations given were enlightening. I was enthralled to learn details of familiar paintings. It gave me new eyes.’

5. It’s something the whole family will enjoy

  • ‘A great introduction to art for my kids aged 9,7 and 5. Beautiful gallery extension.
  • ‘Bring a child - it's wonderful to experience art through their eyes.’
  • ‘Definitely go! Great for the kids also with fabulous interactive spaces. The exhibition makes art easily digestable even for those not inclined to peruse. Fabulous opportunity to see who has shaped what art is.’
  • ‘DON'T MISS IT! A superb exhibition, breathtaking to be in the presence of such masterpieces. Even my teenage son enjoyed it.’
  • ‘If you have teenage children (or any children at all) grab them and take them to it. My 16-year-old daughter was reluctant to come but is coming back with her friends.’
  • ‘It was great to take my mum to this great exhibition.’

4. The building’s not too shabby, either…

  • ‘You must go! What a treat to have such a fabulous collection in Auckland. It's a super excuse to check out the new gallery and all it has to offer.’
  • ‘Superb exhibition almost a spiritual experience. After many visits to the gallery of NSW in Sydney our gallery is so south pacific in its outstanding beauty.’

3. It’s a chance to meet old friends (and make new ones)

  • ‘Degas' brushwork will mesmerize you and that's just the first room!’
  • ‘Outstanding, most of the gang are here!’
  • ‘There is a head with a building inside by Dalí and it's beautiful.’
  • ‘I was thrilled to see a Lowry, my favourite artist.’
  • ‘Enjoy the colours of Van Gogh's Olive Trees.’
  • ‘I knew that Degas’ ballet paintings were good but to see them was just fantastic.’
  • “No better place to see the Scots get an exotic makeover or to glower at a Lowry.”
  • ‘Look for The Lustre Bowl, 1911, by Sir William Nicholson.’
  • ‘Stunning to see the masters’ works in person! Loved the Lichtenstein – grand and exhilarating!’
  • ‘There were many paintings/sculptures I loved and felt touched by, eg Picasso’s Mother and Child.’
  • ‘Really enjoyed the variety and excellence of the exhibition – Warhol’s daschund was worth the price of admission.’

2. It will inspire creative outbursts on your feedback form:

  • ‘Degas to Dalí... delightful, daring, delirious, dazzling, delectable, divine... don't delay.’
  • ‘Delightful Exhibition Giving Absolute Satisfaction To Dedicated Art Loving Individuals.’
  • ‘Green light means GO, red light means STOP and look – treasure this journey into the minds of great artists.’

1. Look, haven’t we convinced you yet? Just go!
  • ‘Go, go, go!! Something for everyone, the ambiance, the quality, all awesome.’
  • ‘Well, naturally I would impore and beseech them to see it too!’
  • ‘Go! Fascinating seeing and reading about the paintings through that era.’
  • ‘JUST GO’

And if you’re now sold on coming to see Degas to Dalí, our visitors have even left some handy tips for you:
  • ‘Be sure to catch the art bites!’
  • ‘Walk through the exhibition twice as by the second time you realise the impact of the art on your mind and soul. Also the gift shop sells great small art replica gifts.’
  • ‘Take plenty of time, as there are a lot more artworks than expected. Appreciate the new art gallery as well.’

Degas to Dalí is open until 10 June. Take a look at our website for information on ticket prices, FAQs, the full list of works and exhibition floorplan, useful tips and resources for visiting with children and more. Everyone who visits the exhibition can enter the draw to win a trip for two to Melbourne, including tickets to Napoleon: Revolution to Empire at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

The colour known as Greige Drab Gamboge

Farrow and Ball is an English paint company renowned for their promotion of heritage colours. They make emulsions and distempers as well as lime washes. I have an addiction to colour in both interiors and for decoration. It informs how I think about visual art experienced by the public.

The names which Farrow and Ball’s utilise for their colours art are partly traditional to the 18th century and partly the result of colour work done by Nancy Lancaster, John Fowler and David Mlinaric.

Here is a sample: Savage Ground, Mouse’s Back, Blackened, Elephant’s Breath, Porphyry Pink, Eating Room Red, Churlish Green, Railings. Their lists go on like a fusty hoot to colour terminology.

A few days ago, I attended the weekend viewing for the auction sale at Lord Ponsonbys – a purveyor of antique furniture, timepieces, men’s attire and enamel signs. I was able to go upstairs of the shop for the first time.

There were a pair of built-in wardrobes that were painted in original shade of Greige Drab Gamboge.

Thursday 19 April 2012

James Franco's book cover

Sunday Studio: 'It looks like Boyd Webb has travelled into space with some curtains!'

Boyd Webb, Blessed, 1985
cibachrome photograph, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1986

After recapping on all the things we have learned about different ways of mapping, we headed up to the Toi Aotearoa exhibition again, this time to look at the photographic print called Blessed by Boyd Webb.

The childrens' hands flew up the moment they were seated in front of the work, each desperate to share ideas about the work! Each child had something really interesting to say about what they noticed in the work, whether by describing what they saw or by offering a suggestion as to what it could be about.

The children thought the circular form was a moon at first until closer inspection revealed a leaf pattern over the surface of the 'moon'. We talked about where you might see a pattern like that, and the children thought it looked more like fabric than the moon. Charlie L commented that 'It looks like Boyd Webb has travelled into space with some curtains!'. After some careful looking we also began to notice a few toy cars travelling around the surface of the fabric planet and the surgical gloves on the hands.

This was a great work for firing up the imagination and getting the children ready to make creative use out of the patterns and textures we documented in the Gallery the week before. Back in the studio the children were straight into the task of changing the context of the textures we photographed last week, by creating new worlds and maps by cutting and collaging.

We had a great studio course with some great ideas and explorations in the Gallery and the Studio. Catch up with us in Term 2 when we focus on Animals in Art!

Saturday 14 April 2012

When interviews say 'Speak to Us'

Do you know the Great Interview series published by the Guardian?

There's some seriously memorable chats.

Truman Capote speaks with Marlon Brando during 1957 -

'The more sensitive you are, the more certain you are to be brutalised'

Richard Meryman interviews Marilyn Monroe in 1962 - 

'When you're famous you run into human nature in a raw kind of way'


Friday 13 April 2012

Thinking about William McAloon's acquisitions

Everyone who worked with William McAloon appreciated his perceptive eye. William was a curator who could recognise quality in a nano-second. We laughed about this together as it sometimes surprised me to learn what he liked. He was as equally eloquent an advocate for Pat Hanly as he was for Jeffrey Harris. Jörg Immendorff’s dark visions delighted him, although the real-life notion of going to a nightclub like those which Immendorff adored was anathema to him. They were too louche.

Bill Sutton’s panoramic Plantation series of the 1980s fascinated William and I remember him saying you could smell their pine trees. Max Gimblett’s shaped panels of the early 1990s intrigued William. He discussed with me the significance of Eastern Buddhist gilded lacquer work in this period of Gimblett’s career. He spoke of Richard McWhannell as being one of New Zealand’s finest portrait painters, and he was spot on there.

I cannot list here every work of art which he brought to the Gallery’s collection, but I have selected some of the artworks that I immediately associate with his insight. You will note that William was wide-ranging in his choices.

A work that William was particularly proud to acquire is the Gordon Walters’ Untitled (Triptych) of 1993. He bought it for the Gallery shortly before the artist’s death in 1995. Walters was thrilled to have such a staunch example of his late painting enter the collection. William gave me a one-to-one outline of the way Untitled operates as a triptych. He spoke superbly when discussing art he was passionate about. It was at these moments when you understood that William really looked at art. He never looked at art’s ‘surface’; he looked subcutaneously. What an eye you had, William!

Michael Stevenson, One Baptism, 1988
oil on panel, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1996

Ellsworth Kelly, Black Diamond, 1997
from the series: Coloured Diamonds
lithograph, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1998

Brice Marden, Cyprian Evocation, 1992
etching and aquatint, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1998

Marie Shannon, Fluff, 1998
hand-coloured, selenium toned gelatin silver print
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1998

L.Budd, the story of, 1991–1998
light fittings, paper, heater, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the Patrons of the Auckland Art Gallery, 1997

Judy Darragh, Rock and Rose Bed (The Bed You Make Is the Bed You Lie in), 1989–96
plastic and polystyrene, gift of Denis Cohn and Bil Vernon, and the artist, 1996, reconstructed with funds provided by Auckland Art Gallery

Gordon Walters, Untitled (Triptych), 1993
acrylic on canvas, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1994

Shane Cotton, Picture Painting, 1994
oil on canvas, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1994

Thursday 12 April 2012

Sunday Studio: A Sticker or Dart to help you make art!

Here are some more images of works made by the children in the 6-8 year olds cARTography studio course. The children have been exploring ideas around mapping in art as they think about ways of charting their personal journey from home to the Gallery. We love the colours the children have chosen to use for their works. They are so vibrant and energetic, and give a real sense (we think!) of how excited they are about coming in to the studio on the weekends!

Our second studio session was spent looking at the works and processes of the artists known as Boyle Family. Mark and Joan (father and mother) work collaboratively with their children Sebastian and Georgia (Mark passed away in 2005 and Boyle Family continue to make and exhibit collaboratively).

The Gisborne Triptych (1990) was a great work for the children to look at for our investigation into mapping in art. Partly because of the unique way Boyle Family make three dimensional casts of the surface of the earth to record and document sites, but also because of the process they use in the 'random' selection of these sites. In the case of their works in World Series (from 1968) 1000 sites were chosen at random by visitors to the artists’ studio and the ICA exhibition. Participants were blindfolded and either threw a dart or fired an air rifle at an unseen wall-sized map of the world, which now forms part of the work itself.

The children loved this idea! We decided as a group that perhaps darts and air rifles might not be the best choice for our work in the Gallery, and settled on closed eyes and colourful stickers to help us randomly select sites in the Gallery to document.

Once we had randomly selected places to go, we split into two groups and headed off with our map and our camera to document an interesting texture at each site as way of representing the Gallery through a collection of colours, materials and textures.

Here are some of the great shots taken by our 6-8 year old students!

These images will form the basis for a collaged map of the Gallery inspired by the work of Boyd Webb in the next studio session!

William McAloon

With William’s passing I am struggling to find words which can express the grief we feel. To his partner Courtney and to his family and friends we extend our aroha at this time of bereavement.

William was an exceptional curator, and he was also an admired and dear friend. I would need to write many paragraphs to explain why William was such a uniquely gifted advocate for New Zealand’s visual arts. We understand Gordon Walters, Milan Mrkusich and Colin McCahon more comprehensively because of William’s dedication to their work. We realise why Rita Angus is one of the ‘greats’ because of the commitment that William, and his close colleague Jill Trevelyan, applied to their superb exhibition and publication project.

The Auckland Art Gallery and Te Papa are indebted to the incisive and innovative curatorial work of William McAloon. His contribution to these museums is immense, and enduring. I have followed William’s career since he graduated from the University of Canterbury. His superb exhibitions, research, acquisitions, publications and lectures bore witness to his thorough knowledge of art history. William’s contribution to New Zealand’s art and artists has been impressive and of outstanding merit.

Dear William, I remember your faith. I know your respect for prayer. I recall the 8th-century honouring of Saint Patrick of Ireland and know that you would like these words:

Christ be with me
Christ within me
Christ behind me
Christ before me
Christ to win me
Christ to comfort and restore me
Christ beneath me
Christ above me
Christ in quiet
Christ in danger
Christ in hearts of all that love me
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger

Image credit: William McAloon at the opening event for Rita Angus - Life & Vision at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Photograph: John McIver.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Conservation Bite! Part 3

Paintings conservator Ingrid Ford continues our series on the treatment of On the Sea-Beat Shore by William Calderon. View the first two installments here.

So onto the treatment!

Once the painting was laid out, we needed to come up with a plan on what steps we could achieve in the time the work was in the lab.

Our first step had to be to clean and consolidate the cracked and damaged paint. Constant rolling and unrolling of the work to access the back and the front meant added stress to the paint layer that we hoped to avoid.  By consolidating the damaged paint we could safely turn the painting back over to work on the repair of the tears, but that will come later!

After a number of tests to sections of the painting, we were able to determine which cleaning solution was the most effective.  Although the areas of damaged paint certainly needed to be stabilised, we had to clean the dirt off first otherwise we would be adhering dirt to the surface! 

After settling on a suitable cleaning solution, the surface dirt of general dust and grime from decades of age and storage came off easily. By rolling the damp cotton swabs over the surface we were able to remove the dirt without disturbing the fragile paint around the damaged areas.

Nel and Ingrid cleaning the paint surface

Although the swab came of dark and dirty, the overall image didn’t change much, highlighting to us just how discoloured the varnish truly was beneath the layer of surface dirt.
Dirt from cleaning the surface layer

As previously mentioned, many of the losses were a result of creases to the support, whereas some involved more significant and deeper losses.

Deep paint loss exposing canvas

 Paint losses caused by creases

Our next step required the consolidation of the damaged paint around the losses.  Using Isinglass, (a conservation grade fish glue) the fragile paint was carefully re-adhered to the support with a fine brush soaking the adhesive between the lifting paint and the canvas support. 

Sarah and Nel consolidating the damaged areas of paint

Having successfully cleaned and consolidated the paint layer, we were ready to turn the painting back over and tackle the repairing of the tears, but that is for the next instalment.  

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Sunday Studio: The Inside Story (‘Have fun in art and know you tried your hardest’)

The first session of our 6-8 year olds studio course, cARTography, was a whirlwind of brainstorming, research, gallery discussion and visual map making. After brainstorming a few rules for our group (Poppy’s suggestion to ‘have fun and know you tried your hardest’ rule was unanimously accepted!), we made a mind map of different types of maps (maps of journeys, minds, treasures, streets, countries etc). We also looked at a slideshow of different ways artists have used maps and the concept of mapping in their art practice (making clothes out of maps, painting over maps, charting their own journeys, recording mind maps, changing the text on maps to alter meaning).

Setting off with great gusto into the ground floor exhibition Toi Aotearoa we looked at works by three New Zealand artists.

Robert Ellis’ painting Motorway/City (1969) prompted an energetic discussion centred around the idea of the bird’s eye view (or ‘aerial photograph’ as noted by George!) of a city.

The children said that it reminded them of being in an aeroplane flying over a city, and that the combination of dark colours with the orange sky made them think it was sunset.

The children thought that Ruth Watson’s painting Tour of New Zealand (1985) reminded them of a board game as well as trips they had taken around New Zealand.

They easily identified with images of the landscape, and concluded that the work seemed to be about a journey through New Zealand. Benny particularly liked that the path across the painting seemed to make the shapes of the North and South Islands.

We ended our gallery discussion in front of John Pule’s Take These With You When You Leave (1988). The boats, cars, planes and passports made the children think the work might be about travel and journeys.

We took this idea of mapping a journey back to the studio where the children began a painting of their journey that morning from home to the Auckland Art Gallery. Check out our next blog for some photos of the children’s paintings as they build up their map using pencil, dye, acrylic paint, ink and pen.

We took all those ideas back to the studio to create some fantastic and varied paintings of maps.

In our next studio session we explore the unique art making processes of The Boyle Family as we map our journey around the Gallery!