Tuesday 31 December 2013

Mark Adams

For more than three decades Mark Adams has followed a singular direction in his art. History is always present as is the presence of people. This does not mean that one sees images of people posing in his photographs. In fact, he rarely includes humans but their lives are always there in spades. As is Mark's view of colonial New Zealand history.

"History" painting is rare in New Zealand and always has been. Not so with photography which always has history inserted into its own reality, even if it is consciously avoided. What Mark does is capture history as a visual tracery of the past. He travels to places that have substantive human history.

Very many places have such a significant history for our culture's reality. There's an old trope used about New Zealand that critiques its newness as a country appearing to have a short past. Such as believing there's no history here. Just look around, we may not recognise our visual archaeology of place but it is forever present.

To an extent, looking at a Mark Adams photograph is to look at oneself looking at the past. What can we recognise and what do we recognise? This proactivity, of expecting us to see more than surfaces is everywhere in Mark's art. Not only does it look at history, it comments on how we look at history.

These two photographs complicate this issue of where time sits even more, they are looking at another artist looking, but in the past. In this case it is the art of the Reverend Dr John Kinder. These two images are included in Kinder's Presence, which is currently on show.

Mark has gone to two sites that Kinder himself made famous through his watercolours of the same location painted over more than a century ago.

In his photograph Outlet of Lake Rotokakahi, Mark turns his back on the view which Kinder made of Rotokakahi. 1866. Outlet of Lake 1866 and looks back from what the painter would have been recording when he visited the Thermal regions in the mid 1860s.

What we see in Mark's shot is the road's path into the view that Kinder was making. In his image Te Wairoa, The Buried Village, he carefully attempts to replicate the place that John Kinder stood at to make his watercolour view The Wairoa near Lake Tarawera with Mission Chapel of Te Mu January 4 1866 circa 1886. At left is the stone pataka for storing food.

In Mark's multi-part panoramas the company of time is even more obvious. In After William Hodges' 'Cascade Cove', 21 May 1995 2005 he commemorates the visit of Lt Pickersgill with three companions to the waterfall at Cascade Cove in Dusky Sound on 23 April 1773.

Made famous by William Hodges's painted view of the same waterfall, this place is one of the few sites that one could now visit and see it essentially the same as it looked to Cook's men. How many other of 'Cook's Sites' are still able to be seen as they were? Oddly, there are very few photographs of this actual location available on-line, one has to visit it to get a true sense of its sublime qualities; the very same awe-inspiring feeling that caught Hodges's imagination.

Yet, when one surveys the four parts of Mark's panorama you see how difficult this photograph was to make with large format photographic equipment. It would be a challenging task at any time, let alone in the middle of the winter of 2005. To move from one image to another requires the camera to be adjusted with planned acuity, which is why the panorama has to be fitted together like image building-blocks.

Mark Adams's approach to time is also evident in his 1978 portrait of Tony Fomison's home in Gunson Street, Ponsonby, Auckland. Tony lived in a late nineteenth century kauri villa, whose kitchen/dining area was decorated as if it remained from the time when this house was new. Tony called it the parlour and it was filled with the naive paintings that he assiduously sought from places like Dominion Road's emporium named Antique Alley. The parlour had many visitors and wasn't like the front room kept for best.

Tony's decorating style mimicked and cherished Victorian notions of walls stacked to the brim with pictures and nick-nacks; which would then be left on the walls for decades. This tableau is the faux-past and is done with more aplomb than anything I have seen in any publicly owned local historic house. Mark sees how Tony pricked time in that Grab-the-day-way (a better translation than Seize) of Carpe Diem.

Tony really liked to tastefully flout taste as an art political act. In doing so he got way closer to truths about things. Mark's image could have been a carefully-won shot of a local identity's private interior, but he preferred to create a portrait of his friend Tony through an archaeological record of his mate's parlour at night.

Is it a portrait of Gothic local? Too right and now only existent in this image gifted by the artist and the partners of Ernst & Young. Style and time are always best kept in the tightest of tension. To paraphrase Mario Praz.

Image credits:

Outlet of Lake Rotokakahi
silver gelatin print, toned
courtesy of Mark Adams

Te Wairoa, The Buried Village 
silver gelatin print, toned
courtesy of Mark Adams

After William Hodges' 'Cascade Cove', 21 May 1995
gelatin silver prints, toned
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki,
purchased 2005
courtesy of Mark Adams
gift of the Deane Endowment Trust, 2005

Note: I am grateful to Sir Roderick Deane and Gillian, Lady Deane for their close support in the acquisition of this Mark Adams panoramic photograph. I considered it to be an essential addition to the Gallery collection and the Deane Endowment Trust generously purchased the artwork and presented it to the Gallery.

Parlour at Gunson Street, Ponsonby 1977 1995
gelatin silver prints, toned
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki,
gift of Mark Adams and the Partners of Ernst & Young, 1995

Sunday 29 December 2013

Ava Seymour

I recently recommended that the Gallery acquire Ava Seymour's suite of photo-collages Health, Happiness and Housing. I consider these images central in any history of photography in New Zealand. The 15 photo-collages' unforgettable title signals the work's ambition, which is a unique sequence of completed by Ava soon after her return to New Zealand from living in Berlin.

The entire suite is currently on show in Natasha Conland's contemporary group exhibition Freedom Farmers. They have been glazed and framed and are exhibited as the original collages for the first time. Even though the entire artwork has a laudable notoriety it is still essentially under-known to the public.

Health, Happiness and Housing is a perceptive and astringent portrait of New Zealand. This country had lived through a period when Robert Muldoon devised his 'think big' projects while the population had comprehensive unemployment. The change wrung by fiascoes created because of the 1981 Springbok Rugby Tour led to a demonstrative population; one prepared to make loud statements about society neither cowered nor frightened by state authority. This is the time when War time baby boomers' children were young adults and expressing how they felt about life.

Dada Moon Dance
After the first exhibition of Health, Happiness and Housing at Auckland and Christchurch during 1997 and 1998, the suite of montages gained a cult reputation as provocative photographic statements about New Zealand in the 1990s. If you try to find local parallels it's likely you'll find them in the performing arts, especially in punk's proto-grunge noise. Auckland punk's intensity was equally raw and declamatory. Think of the Suburban Reptiles songs and their aggressively effective performance style. Urban anger meets louche ennui while provoking the ever necessary disruption, anger and annoyance. Performance that likes not being liked at all, a lot.

G.I. Girls
These collages resulted from a road-trip that Ava undertook during late 1996 documenting state house communities in locations from Invercargill to Auckland. Surprisingly, her research was the first large-scale visual project initiated by any New Zealand artist depicting the template-like architecture of post-War State Housing and the consequent population of blue-collar workers and immigrant communities. It is political art. 

Devised initially as a social experiment in postwar housing, State Housing began profiling negative issues within community housing which had been unpredicted and unexpected. Seeing Health, Happiness and Housing was to see the unwanted. The series acutely reinforces the social reality of wealth versus poverty.

White Wedding, Invercargill

Valley of the Fruitcakes
While conceived as a critique of mass state housing with its archly humorous vision, the collages show how a Government-funded housing project actually addressed a genuine social need while not seeing its future implications. These communities are rendered as modular in plan while fostering human psycho-dramas that some fiction writers have also imagined as happening here.

Ava Seymour noted that New Zealand’s state housing project fostered "whole communities such as Otara and Porirua that became notorious and stigmatized for both their tenants and the appearance of their dwellings’ while further ‘depicting the dilapidation of such areas and the deterioration of our social dream."

Using her automatic fixed-focus Olympus camera, Ava recorded State housing communities at times when there appears to be a uniformly overcast sky. There may have been a blue sky on the day she visited, but Ava carefully manipulates the atmosphere to appear monochromatic and stifling.

Contrasting this shadow-less daylight is a local ‘population’ collected, sourced and derived from medical textbooks and magazines. This utilisation of such off-shore imagery is innovative for our art context. It makes foreign images relocate and immigrate to here. The people are both local and immigrant making this portrait more powerful than simply clipping from New Zealand printed sources. It also reduces recognisable sentiment and derides nationalism.

Betty and Nancy Gordon
These imported images contrast with the sort of humane social portraiture created a decade earlier by photographer Robin Morrison who concentrated on discovering and then affirming local identities, sited in their private domestic environs.

In contrast, Seymour’s humanity normalizes what we might previously have categorised as being images of freaks. We become the freaks by proxy and this provocation holds a mirror to us.

Corsophine Queen

Welfare Mom
Such an apparently shocking and uber-Gothic response to New Zealand’s people is paralleled in the paintings of artists such as Jeffrey Harris, where animated faces frequently stand as evidence of distorted relationships. Other parallels of familial dystopia can be found in Barry Cleavin's searing prints, Jacqueline Fahey's autobiographic paintings and Andy Leleisiu'ao's early paintings of relationships gone asunder. Some would call it living in a psycho drama.

Gas Mask Wedding

Tea Time

Day Care Walkabouts
Health, Happiness and Housing was not intended to be a sequence of inter-related collages that saw New Zealanders as living in ‘a half-gallon quarter acre Pavlova Paradise’. Ava Seymour's New Zealanders are rendered as socially controlled people underpinned by state subsidies and through the ghettoisation of a damaged working class, reflecting the underbelly of suburban dreams.

By being equally a critique and an affirmation, the sequence remains as challenging as it was a generation ago. In another generation it will still be regarded as tough and truthful. By shouldering images of real places with irreal inhabitants, Ava makes a social portrait which is fun, fearful and a lesson I am still being taught.

Minnie Dean

House at Cannons Creek

State Highway 1

Bandy Candy

Enema Nurse
Image credits: 

Ava Seymour
Health, Happiness and Housing 1997
1. Dada Moon Dance
2. G.I. Girls
3. White Wedding, Invercargill
4. Valley of the Fruitcakes
5. Betty and Nancy Gordon
6. Corsophine Queen
7. Welfare Mom
8. Gas Mask Wedding
9. Tea Time
10. Day Care Walkabouts
11. Minnie Dean
12. House at Cannons Creek
13. State Highway 1
14. Bandy Candy
15. Enema Nurse
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
purchased 2013

Saturday 28 December 2013

Rachel Whiteread

I've long been a fan of Rachel Whiteread’s artwork. Ever since I encountered during 1993 the many news images showing the three story concrete cast she had made of an abandoned Victorian terrace house sited at 193 Grove Road East in London. That cast may well have been the largest one ever made in Britain.

That project deservedly earned Rachel the Turner Prize. Yet, the Tower Hamlets London Borough Council demolished this massive urban sculpture in January 1994 – arguably destroying what's become known as a key item of contemporary sculpture.

The Independent hit the mark when it printed that House was simply "A strange and fantastical object which also amounts to one of the most extraordinary and imaginative sculptures created by an English artist this century."

Another of Rachel’s powerful architectural creations is Vienna’s Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial from 2000, which is also known familiarly as the "Nameless Library".

Commentators have frequently noted that her art conjures absence and death but I feel that it is always more about the presence and loss of people. The Judenplatz is notable as a memorial because it has an innate stillness while expressing a welling energy about so many lives being lost. It celebrates life while facing Austria's role in the death of countless Jews during World War II. That it is placed centrally in Vienna has made it a much visited monument.

The Gallery recently received on loan from Aucklanders Erika and Robin Congreve the remarkable pair of Rachel Whiteread sculptures that are now sited on the terrace overlooking Albert Park.

Visitors are often surprised to learn that the forms are made from cast bronze, coated with a seamless patina of white automotive lacquer. We have displayed them very close together which encourages people to walk around the sculptures rather than between them.

Rachel Whiteread frequently creates such life-sized casts of objects with a diverse range of both precious and everyday materials. Untitled (Pair) dating from 1999 are beguiling and enigmatic objects. I thought I might shudder in knowing that I would recognise the object that this sculpture was cast from. Rachel gives us a clue with in the residual impression of the negative channel shape making a hollowed channel that runs to one end. The second piece is a direct cast made from this object.

The sculpture is uncanny because its feel like a sleeping couple without the couple being present. Each mirrors the other and they would fit together if placed one on top of the other. While Rachel evokes the close relations between physical objects and the human body, she makes us think about love and tenderness.

The title of the sculpture – Untitled (Pair) – references an irrevocable partnership, as with male and female companions, while allowing the shapes to evoke ambiguity and what is inexplicable. In fact, the two elements are cast directly from one mortuary slab. You know this when you see the slightly hollowed surface made for collecting bodily fluids and channeling them towards the foot.

Like partners, they rest side by side like a knight and lady from some medieval tomb. Principal Curator Zara Stanhope noted this sculpture refers to death and companionship. The artwork dates from a point in the artist's career, just after her Venice Biennale representation and the exhibition of her work at the New York's Museum of Modern Art.

These sculptures appear intimate and majestic at day and night. They have the candor of an Emily Dickinson poem where you feel close and scared, cherished and frightened, delighted and terrified by the honesty of one's encounter with art which is really about life.

They look light but are massively heavy in their own physical reality. They remind me of Emily Dickinson's lines:

As this phantasm steel 
Whose features day and night 
Are present to us as our own 
And as escapeless quite.

Image credit: 

Rachel Whiteread
Untitled (Pair) 1999
Cast Bronze and cellulose paint
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
on long term loan from Erika and Robin Congreve

Thursday 19 December 2013

Peter McLeavey – The life and times of a New Zealand art dealer

I devoured Jill Trevelyan’s biography of Peter McLeavey in a sitting. This fascinating book about the life and times of New Zealand’s renowned art dealer is a magnetic text filled with treats about art and artists. Many Aucklanders may be unaware of McLeavey’s significance but Wellingtonians sure know who he is and what he does. Peter is recognised on the city’s streets.

Since 1968, Peter McLeavey’s life has been dedicated to promoting our visual artist’s achievements. I reckon he has achieved more positive outcomes for New Zealand’s cultural scene than many MPs. Growth within the arts has occurred hugely over the last 40 years and Peter’s professional life has helped foster this creativity.

Peter is the pre-eminent New Zealand art dealer. No question! He has been a catalyst for numerous artists’ success. Not only has he had the longest term as an art dealer in Australasia, he has worked longer with more artists than any New Zealand curator or collector. Simply put, Peter has not only helped create a national foundation for our contemporary art scene he has been one of the key reasons why our visual art scene is as vibrant and international in its outreach.

Peter initiated his vocation as art dealer on 4 September 1968 with his first exhibition – M.T. Woollaston: Paintings, drawings and watercolours. Jill Trevelyan deftly sets the scene quoting McLeavey, 'It was a big thing for me, the gallery opening, but I didn’t want to push it as a big event. I was taking it one day at a time. I thought to myself, Don’t pump it up too much because it might not last.' The first artwork Peter sold was purchased by scholar Margaret Orbell and artist Gordon Walters. News spread of the show’s success and Milan Mrkusich conjectured, 'If sales keep up it could mean exhibiting in Wellington would be worthwhile for artists in other centres.' Jill is good at progressing Peter’s story as a narrative intertwined with close relationships to artists.

His family is brought into focus also and this is one of the searingly honest features of this book – it shows that the artist’s family has been integral to the Peter McLeavey Gallery. His wife and children knew at all times Peter was ambitious for the gallery to succeed and there was a cost to the family for the dealer’s dedication and obsession with work. His wife Hilary saw her partner’s personality and drive clearly and this honesty contributes to the impressive integrity of the biography because it mixes good with bad, negative with positive in fair measure. I felt that I was closer to the reality of the McLeavey family than I often feel when reading art-related biographies.

Jill Trevelyan keeps away from much art commentary and her book concentrates on the work and life of the art dealer rather than the art itself. For me, there is much creativity in Peter McLeavey himself. While he never claims to be an artist, he had a talented artist’s ability to make art look terrific in the simple and austere architecture of his premises. Everything was always about the art, it always came first.

No other New Zealand book so convincingly reveals our art scene’s milieu as it has been lived by one of its key figures. Here is the biography that Peter McLeavey well deserves. The Wellington art dealer is the real deal. A mutual friend called Peter 'a bona fide saint'.

A review of: Jill Trevelyan, Peter McLeavey – The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer, Te Papa Press, Wellington, 2013 

Image credit:
Marti Friedander
Peter McLeavey 2000
gelatin silver print
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Marti Friedlander
with assistance from the Elise Mourant Bequest, 2001

Tuesday 17 December 2013

What did the Reverend Dr John Kinder look like?

Since the exhibition Kinder's Presence opened, I've been getting asked what John Kinder looked like. There aren't many known portraits of him. The studio portrait above is in the Auckland Libraries's collection. I believe it was taken during the early to mid 1870s, when the artist was in his fifties. Kinder was apparently bald from early manhood and he wore a beard for his adult life. He apparently believed that he was one of the few Anglican clergymen to sport facial whiskers. There is certainly the look of a patriarch about him and the beard does make him seem older than he was.

This portrait is currently credited as being taken by James D Richardson by the Sir George Grey Special Collections of Auckland Libraries but it is too early for Richardson to have made it himself. It is more likely that Richardson printed it from someone else's glass negative.

Below is the portrait painting of Dr Kinder that Gottfried Lindauer was commissioned to produce by Kinder's students at St John's Theological College. Kinder is dressed formally both as a Doctor of Theology and in the formal Anglican ecclesiatical attire that he is said to have much liked. The Lindauer portrait is undated but must come from the last years of the priest's life. The look and ceremony of High Church Anglicanism fascinated the priest and is said to have alienated him from his Church cohorts at Auckland.

John Kinder was, in fact, proud of his sartorial elegance according to Professor Michael Dunn, who spoke about Kinder's personality here last week. Michael also suggested that Kinder always seemed to appear old.

I reckon that Lindauer used this late photographic portrait of John Kinder as the basis of his painting. Kinder had one of the most important private libraries in New Zealand and it is totally appropriate that he be photographed as if momentarily interrupted in his reading.

Image Credits:
attributed to John D Richardson
John Kinder

collection: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-1289

Gottfried Lindauer
Reverend Dr John Kinder

oil on canvas
Saint John's College, Auckland
gift of the students of Dr Kinder

John Kinder photograph

Cycloepedia of New Zealand

Friday 13 December 2013

Learning about archival practice: The Dennis (Knight) Turner Archive at Auckland Art Gallery

Dennis Turner Archive, E H McCormick Research Library, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2013
Recently I started a practicum at the E H McCormick Research Library to learn what the work of an archivist is like within an art institution. I started out having a limited amount of knowledge of what archiving is all about after taking an archive paper at Victoria University as part of the Master of Information Studies programme. Having a background in art, I wanted to use my new found knowledge from my studies in a practical work setting that combines both of my interests.

Archiving consists of many ‘steps’ that require patience, combined with careful handling of materials. Dennis Turner’s archive arrived at the gallery in well-used boxes (as pictured on left, above), which once opened smelt musty, and of cigarette smoke. A lot of the paper and clear files were brown with age. Sometimes archives can be in a damaged condition and it can pay to check them before deciding to acquire them for an institution. However, Turner’s work was in good condition despite the smell. It was important to keep the original order of the papers as Turner had already ordered the material into folders in date order. By keeping the archive in a similar state to how it arrived, it gives a sense of the way Turner worked and ordered his own life.

The archive contains a variety of media. There is a box of personal photographs sorted into enclosures with the original captioning. In addition, there are two boxes of research drawings and four boxes of associated press clippings, photos of artworks, catalogues and a bit of correspondence. Turner was a handsome man and not shy of the camera. There are photos where he poses with his artist’s palette, violin, at the beach, studio, with friends and his artworks. The archive focuses a lot on the time when he returned to NZ in 1992 for an artist’s residency at the Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui. His exhibition Turner’s Tiki is reflected in the archive with a large series of research drawings of tiki, moko, koru and symbol motifs dated 1991–3. Turner stated that he threw out a lot of his work from London, seemingly as a cathartic ritual for him and returned to his earlier motifs of the 1950s. I got the sense from the materials in the archive that he primarily wanted to share his experiences and interests from his time in New Zealand rather than his London years, perhaps because he was no longer interested in that work or because he thought no one here would be. Although, some of his later work can be seen on a video recording of his works called Here there here, selected works 1943–93.

The archive is a useful resource for anyone interested in Oceanic and Māori motifs and symbolic art. Reading about his frustrations with the New Zealand art world is interesting in his biographical notes. I have always been interested in looking at another’s life and their accumulated ‘stuff” which has a fascination that can touch on voyeurism. Turner has been very selective as to what he has included in the archive and does not get very personal, staying quite businesslike in the documentation of his work. If you look or read closely however, you can start to get a sense of the real person that was Dennis (Knight) Turner. His name change (which happened three times) is another interesting story explained within the artist file. In his later years, he preferred the name Dennis Turner without the Knight part, even though that is how others recognise him.

Preserving artists’ archives helps art historians to trace the context behind an artwork and adds another dimension to an artist’s legacy. The Dennis Turner archive can be viewed by appointment at the E H McCormick Research Library and Auckland Art Gallery has four of Turner’s artworks in the collection. There will also be a show on at the Gus Fisher Gallery early next year, curated by Richard Wolfe who liaised with Turner and the Auckland Art Gallery to acquire the archive.

- Hayley Webb, Intern, E H McCormick Research Library

Thursday 21 November 2013

Activities as ways to engage with original works of art – solutions

Experience of teaching Landscapes to Year 5 students. Read part one here
Ralph Hotere's 10-panel work Aramoana, currently on display as part of the collection  show Toi Aotearoa
We were looking at Ralph Hotere’s Aramonana 1982, to get children to think about how artists are inspired by, and reflect on place. And how artists can react to that place being threatened. So the following makes some sense….all our programmes have a critical thinking framework of: observe, describe, compare and contrast, make connections, interpret, synthesize and evaluate.

This is what I did:

Observed and described the work - after the delicious descriptions of the metal, the colours, the application of paint I have now started asking:

So if this was a place that you were in, what type of place would it be?

Whereas before, their observations and descriptions were not given valid purpose by me and were falling into an abyss.

Responses to this question were:

  • Somewhere dark
  • It’s like a forest of dead trees
  • It looks Smokey and like it would be hard to breath
  • It would be abandoned, haunted, there would be no life there


I introduced a drawing activity. They have 60 seconds to sketch the artwork. They then swap the drawing with a neighbour. They then look back at the artwork and ‘finish’ the sketch with formal and descriptive language). The language they produced got more sophisticated: Such as:

Rust Sharp Empty Haunted Mysterious Space Quiet Old Broken


I introduced content (meaningfully – not just as a ‘hey look what I know about this work!) about Aramoana, the smelter, the protests, and why people were against it.

I then asked: with this new information about the work, how does that change how you see this artwork?

And then: How is this reflected in the artwork? Think about the words you have used in your sketch

The Responses ranged from:
  • It makes sense why he chose metal as his materials because of the smelter! That’s why he has used metal! 
  • It would make the landscape lifeless that’s why he has left so much empty 
  • • No one would want to go there that’s why it looks abandoned 
  • • All those dots and white could be the dead trees 
  • • The pollution and smoke in the dark colours, the splatters etc. it looks like it would be hard to breath in this artwork 
Their responses used language they had developed in the activities, which gave their interpretation a sense of ownership, but linked directly to the artwork where they found evidence to justify their responses.

I then said: 'Ok so now I will show you images of what Aramoana looks like! Have a look at this photograph – how has the artist referenced this place in the artwork?'

'What is the same/different about this photograph and the artwork?'

Oh the white is like the sea foam! The waves are like the ripples in the metal! It’s a really empty place

So why has Hotere not just showed us how this place is? Why choose these colours/materials etc?
  • Because he is worried this is what it will become 
  • Because like this people will listen more 
  • Because it is a warning to people 
So what I had discovered was: In my teaching practice, don’t not do embodied activities, don’t not do activities – there is a real place for them within Gallery sessions. But always be clear to yourself, and your students, why you are doing the activity and how you want this activity to be a way into the work.

It will forever be a challenge to keep the pendulum swinging evenly, when something is new it is so natural for our brains to purely focus on this because it is not yet second nature. But what is important, is that I remain critical and reflective about my practice, be observed, take feedback and adjust. And then I just might get the teaching moments that keep me out on that floor every day.

- Selina Anderson, Senior Gallery Educator

Ralph Hotere
Aramoana 1982

lacquer on corrugated iron and wood 
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki 
gift of the Transfield Corporation, 1985

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Activities as ways to engage with original works of art

Experience of teaching Landscapes to Year 5 students

The motivation for this blog comes from a recent observation that was done as part of our professional development here at the gallery. My manager sets up a camera and films my teaching session, while taking notes about how I ask questions, use content, and scaffold the session. After talking about this in a meeting, I noticed that I have been grappling with a constant tension within working in such a unique environment. Once I had got over the shocking reality of what I look and sound like on camera, I had a mission!

To give some background and context, the purpose of our programmes in the Gallery and the studio is to encourage critical and creative thinking, through engaging with original works of art. We try to cater for different learning styles, and engage students in different ways as much as we can, given we don’t know the students and only have them for one hour. Although lessons inevitably lean towards the oratory and visual learners (the nature of visual arts perhaps), it is important we give space for those who learn more kinesthetically for example. It is also important that all styles of learners, experience learning something in a new way.

So my tension was this: how do I focus on the original artwork in front of me (the whole reason for being in this space) while using activities as a way to make meaning, and interpret this original artwork? The activities are there to support the artwork, not detract from it. The artwork is not there to support the activities. Even as I am writing this my brain is starting to get tied up still! Deep breath.

The way we had written the current Landscapes programme gave space for multiple embodied learning opportunities (a current focus within our Educator team because of a past enquiry by a colleague). There are touch boards, sketch activities, standing up and pretending to ‘make’ the artwork…however, why was I doing these activities? Was it to fill in time? Was it to give children a chance to move for the sake of moving? What they were not doing was encouraging close looking – but the activities were not the problem, it was how I was (or wasn’t) linking them back to the artwork meaningfully. Another ‘light bulb’ moment came to me when my manager said that exciting and engaging conversation can be an activity in itself.

So something had to change.

Armed with new purpose and determination I taught my next group of students the same programme.

Read part two here

- Selina Anderson, Senior Gallery Educator

Friday 15 November 2013

Farewell Flower Chandelier

Flower Chandelier 2011 by Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa. Photo: Jennifer French
Having enthralled visitors young and old, Choi Jeong Hwa's spectacular Flower Chandelier was deinstalled from the Gallery’s atrium on Monday. The eye-popping work, which was suspended from the ceiling for over two years, features illuminated blooms which periodically open and close. A colleague calculated that the work ‘bloomed’ approximately 4.5 million times!

Flower Chandelier was originally planned as a one-year commission in celebration of the Gallery’s reopening in September 2011, but was extended another 14 months due to the public’s (and staff’s!) love for the work. Over a million visitors have seen the work since then and it has been one of the most photographed works in the Gallery during this time.

Objects Conservator Annette McKone and Gallery Technician Dave Balcom deinstalling Flower Chandelier. Photo: John McIver
Flower Chandelier has come down for some much-needed maintenance and a well-deserved rest. Meanwhile, planning is under way for a new installation in the atrium space, to be on show from next year.

Image credit:
Choi Jeong Hwa
Flower Chandelier 2011
fabric, fibre reinforced plastic, metal, motors, LED
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, commissioned 2011
generously supported by Molly Morpeth Canaday Trust

Friday 18 October 2013

Auckland – Love Your City

Photo credit: Jeremy Toth
I was thrilled to be invited to participate in a selection panel choosing images for the Heart of the City’s ‘Love Your City’ Instagram photo exhibition, on display as part of ARTWEEK (11–20 October) at the rear of the St James Theatre on Lorne St. We also have some of these images on display in the foyer of Auckland Art Gallery.

I liked the title of the show. When I learnt that this exhibition would be named, ‘Love Your City’ I knew that it was a welcome, a direction that says to each and every one of us, ‘we care for and cherish this place’.

I reckon that in ‘Loving Your City’ you are making it a place where people want to be. ‘Love Your City’ is an invocation. It's a motto.

Photo credit: Jeremy Toth
The exhibition is an initiative that uses the delights and terrors of social media – in this case it is the wonderful visual thermometer called Instagram. The exhibition was a delight to select because we looked at 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of the Instagram pics that Heart of the City could draw from in the presentation of their exhibition.

The other selectors on the panel were all colleague curators, Ngahiraka Mason (Indigenous Curator, Māori Art, Auckland Art Gallery), Vera May (Assistant Director at AUT University’s ST PAUL St Gallery) and curator, writer and friend Kolokesa Mahina-Tuai.

Our goal was clear, to choose images that show people who care for this place and its myriad spaces. Themes emerged often and these reinforced ideas that the character of ‘Love Your City’ is people and their families, partners, children and friends.

So, Aucklanders (and visitors alike) I hope you get pleasure and fun from looking at every image!

- Ron Brownson, Senior Curator, New Zealand and Pacific Art

Friday 11 October 2013

Artworks on loan, October 2013

Lending artworks to other institutions allows us to share our collections with more visitors, not just in Auckland, but also around New Zealand and across the world. As one of the registrars at Auckland Art Gallery, I look after our loans programme, and work with our technicians, conservators and curators to prepare and send our artworks out on loan. I thought I'd share with you some of the artworks from our collections that are currently on loan.

Dowse Art Museum, As Many Structures As I Can: works from the Chartwell Collection
Image credit: Bill Culbert Light Plain, 1997, lamp shades, light bulbs and fittings, Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2000, C2000/1/7.1-14 
We’re all really excited about the exhibition at the Dowse opening on 12 October and running until 16 February 2014. It’s called As Many Structures As I Can: works from the Chartwell Collection and features some amazing works from the Chartwell Collection, including Bill Culbert’s major work Light Plain. If you’re going to be in (or near) Wellington between now and February, you should definitely make the trip to the Dowse to see this show! The public programmes look fantastic as well, and if you’re interested in seeing Simon Ingram create a painting or fancy a cuppa with Bill Culbert, check out the Dowse’s website for more details.

Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Hotere and Culbert
Image credit: Bill Culbert, Ralph Hotere, Post Black No.13, 1992, painted window frame, glass, and fluorescent tube, Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 1992, C1994/1/368
Opening on 12 October at Dunedin Public Art Gallery is a major exhibition of collaborative works by Ralph Hotere and Bill Culbert. Three works from the Chartwell Collection are included in this exhibition:

Post Black, Window #5
Post Black, Window #10
Post Black No.13

See the Dunedin Public Art Gallery's website for details of this exhibition.

Adam Art Gallery, John Panting: Spatial Constructions
Image credit: John Panting Untitled III , 1972, 1973, steel, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1976, 1976/51/1
We’ve lent a large sculpture by John Panting to the Adam Art Gallery in Wellington for a major exhibition of Panting’s work, John Panting: Spatial Constructions. The exhibition is curated by Sam Cornish, who is the author of a recent monograph on Panting’s work. For more details, check out the Adam Art Gallery's website.

Adam Art Gallery, State of the art: reproductive prints from the Renaissance to now
Image credit: Francisco de Goya y Lucientes Qué hai que hacer mas? (What more can be done?), c 1816, etching, lavis drypoint, burin and burnisher, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1955, 1955/42/9
Also on display at the Adam shortly is an exhibition on the history of reproductive prints. On loan to the Adam for this exhibition is Qué hai que hacer mas?(What more can be done?), by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes.

Tauranga Arts Festival, Public, Private and Pop-Ups
Image credit: Seung Yul Oh The Ability to Blow Themselves Up 2005, single channel digital video, colour, sound, Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2005, C2005/1/13
If you’re in Tauranga at the end of October, you might see some video works from the Chartwell collection on display at Sisters Boutique. Public, Private and Pop-Ups is an exhibition at various sites around the city, and features four video works:

Seung Yul Oh, The Ability to Blow Themselves Up
Daniel von Sturmer, Painted Video

Steve Carr, Tyson
Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano, Neon.

Check out their website to find out more about this exhibition.

Te Papa, Nga Toi: Arts Te Papa
Image credit: Petrus van der Velden Three figures in a landscape, c 1874, charcoal, crayon and gouache, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Morris and Ronald Yock, in memory of their father, 1964, 1964/22
A work on paper by Petrus van der Velden will be on display soon at Te Papa, as part of their Nga Toi: Arts Te Papa series of exhibitions. See information on current and future exhibitions on their website.

City Gallery Wellington, New Revised Edition
Image credit: Nick Austin Fallin', 2006, acrylic and string on board, Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2006, C2006/1/14/1
New Revised Edition is an exhibition at City Gallery Wellington featuring paintings by four New Zealand artists. One of the works by Nick Austin on display is Fallin’ from the Chartwell collection. See their website for further details.

MTG Hawke’s Bay, Architecture of the Heart
Image credit: Robyn Kahukiwa Te Whenua, Te Whenua, Engari Kaore He Turangawaewae (Placenta, Land, but Nowhere to Stand), 1987, alkyd and oil on canvas, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1988, 1988/32
Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery have recently re-opened after a major redevelopment and rebranding. Now known as MTG Hawke’s Bay, they have a number of great exhibitions in their fancy new space! If you visit Hawke’s Bay over the summer, you might see a few artworks from the Auckland Art Gallery collection on show in Architecture of the Heart, an exhibition dealing with themes of 'home'.

Robyn Kahukiwa, Te Whenua, Te Whenua, Engari Kaore He Turangawaewae (Placenta, Land, but Nowhere to Stand)
Derrick Cherrie, Retroflex
Neil Dawson, Interior IX

Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Oceania: Tapa – Kunst und Lebenswelten (Art and Social Landscapes)
Image credit: John Pule Polynesia migration Aotearoa ,1992, acrylic on unstretched canvas, and barkcloth, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased with funds from Reader's Digest New Zealand, 1992, 1992/21
Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, a museum of ethnography in Cologne, Germany, has also recently reopened after a major building development. One of their new special exhibitions is titled Oceania: Tapa – Kunst und Lebenswelten (Art and Social Landscapes). One of the works in the exhibition is Polynesia migration Aotearoa, by John Pule.

More about Auckland Art Gallery's loans programme

If you are interested in finding out more about loans at Auckland Art Gallery, check out the following for more information on borrowing works from the Auckland Art Gallery and Chartwell collections:

Auckland Art Gallery Collection and Policies
Chartwell Collection: how to borrow works

- Fiona Moorhead, Assistant Registrar

Friday 20 September 2013

Haruhiko Sameshima, Chris Corson-Scott and Mark Adams

On the occasion of the Kinder's Presence exhibition, Haruhiko Sameshima, Chris Corson-Scott and Mark Adams visited the Gallery. I took this picture overlooking the area of the Albert Barracks (now Albert Park) where the Reverend Dr John Kinder was Chaplain to the military stationed at the barracks. Haru, Chris and Mark have contributed some fine large format photographs to the exhibition that reveal their own affinity for Kinder's photographic practice.

- Ron Brownson, Senior Curator

Friday 6 September 2013

Hello from the Getty Conservation Institute: Jackson Pollock’s Mural

Last week I met Yvonne Szafran, head of paintings conservation at the Getty Museum. She told me a little about the joint Getty Museum and Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) project to treat the iconic Jackson Pollock painting Mural from Iowa State University. The painting was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim in 1943 and is widely recognised as having a crucial influence on the development of the abstract expressionist movement.

Image credit: Tom Learner and Alan Phenix examining Jackson Pollock's Mural. Photo: © J. Paul Getty Trust. Art: University of Iowa Museum of Art, Gift of Peggy Guggenheim, 1959.6. Reproduced with permission from The University of Iowa.
Mural is absolutely stunning in the flesh with its dynamic layering of colour and the environment it creates due to the huge size (approximately 2438 x 6096mm). The painting is in good condition, but in the past it was varnished, which is at odds with Pollock’s technique, dust had settled on the surface making it dirty, another canvas had been adhered to the back (called ‘lining’), and it had been stretched onto a new stretcher (or supporting frame). The new stretcher is almost square but the painting is not, so unpainted edges are now visible having quite an effect on its appearance.

The GCI are using this opportunity to find out more about Pollock’s painting technique and to provide vital information to inform the treatment process. Several of the scientists have been involved, including Tom Learner and Alan Phenix, who you have heard about in my earlier blogs.

Currently the painting is located in a large table in the paintings conservation studio. It has already undergone several forms of analysis and been cleaned by conservators Laura Rivers and Lauren Bradley. The next step is to see if it can be safely restretched onto a new, sturdier stretcher that is better suited to support the great weight of the painting.

You can find out more information about this project on the Getty blog or see photographs and a video on the Wall Street Journal.

- Sarah Hillary, Principal Conservator

Monday 2 September 2013

Youth Media Internship 2013: It's a wrap!

I was the Senior Gallery Educator who planned the Youth Media Internship, helped select the candidates, prepare AUT mentors and gallery staff, and facilitated daily sessions with the interns, providing them with guidance and encouragement while letting them maintain creative control over their projects. I was there from beginning to end. I can honestly say, it was one of the most exhausting – yet most rewarding – programmes I have ever worked on professionally and personally.

Because of this, the screening event that happened last Saturday – where interns, family, friends, teachers and Gallery staff all came to watch the films for the first time – was particularly meaningful. At the screening event, each group introduced their films and got to celebrate together for the first time since the internship ended. Our Director Rhana Devenport spoke and I talked through the process so teachers and family had more context behind the finished products.

Over the seven-day internship I watched these incredible young people gain confidence, interpersonal skills, decision-making skills and take full creative control of their films. All of them brought their own strengths, which translated clearly onto the screen, whether it be editing, illustration, interview or directorial skills. With what was only 38 hours contact time (and of this only 5 hours of filming and 10 of editing), this year’s interns took the project-based learning experience to another level. Needless to say, I became really invested and attached to these young adults, and would like to say again to them, a huge thank you for the passion and energy they brought to the Gallery.

I hope you all enjoy the films as much as we have. Seeing the Gallery through the voice of these interns has been fantastic.

Group one: The Groovsters

Group two: Hinoliee

Group three: The Pickles

Group four: Gender Group

- Selina Anderson, Senior Gallery Educator

Friday 30 August 2013

Hello from the Getty Conservation Institute – Paint layers

A tiny sample of paint embedded in resin can be made into a cross-section. They allow us to see the layering structure of the painting down to a microscopic level and we can analyse the individual layers as a consequence.

A cross-section from the painting Cross 1959 by Colin McCahon
 I have been making cross-sections for many years but wanted to improve my technique and Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) Scientist, Alan Phenix, agreed to show me the finer details of his method. Alan’s work at the GCI focuses on paint analysis, primarily to assist Getty Museum painting conservators with the paintings in their care.

Sampling from paintings is only done if absolutely necessary and great care is taken in finding a suitable location. The cross-section sample will be smaller than a pin-head and from an existing damage. Alan looks through the microscope to place the edge of the cross-section on a glass slide where it is secured. A plastic mould is placed around it, resin poured in and label inserted to the side.

GCI Scientist, Alan Phenix, pouring resin into the mould to prepare a cross-section.
The resin is placed in a chamber and cured by exposure from ultra-violet (UV) radiation for 25 minutes. UV setting resins are also commonly used by dentists today. Now the cross-section is ready for sanding and polishing followed by microscopic examination and digital photography.

Alan looking at the McCahon cross-section 
In the past the process of making a cross-section would have taken several days, where today we can get much better results in a couple of hours. Alan helped me to improve the surface of a cross-section from the McCahon painting Cross 1959 and he took a photo. Pity about the air bubble in the resin next to the sample, but I won’t make that mistake again!

The Getty will be publishing their cross-section technique online in the near future and more information about Alan can be found here:

- Sarah Hillary, Principal Conservator