Thursday 28 February 2013

Gallery Explorers – no adults allowed!

This summer the gallery launched an exciting new holiday programme for 6-8 year-olds – Gallery Explorers!

GET CURIOUS:  The intrepid explorers head off into the depths of the Gallery.

Our sell-out holiday workshops have traditionally been studio-based, and focused around the creation and development of artworks. A key aim in the creation of the new Gallery Explorers programme was to actively engage our younger audience within the walls of the Gallery itself, providing opportunities for them to create meaningful connections between themselves and the original artworks on display.

An excited group of children (led by excitable gallery educators) spent the morning traversing the lengths of the gallery, proudly sporting their official ‘Gallery Explorer’ badges. Original artworks served as starting points for close observation, discussion, game playing and art making. The drama and mystery of Edmund Blair Leighton’s InTime of Peril inspired drawings that imagined ‘what happens next’ in the story. Ideas ranged from the happy (escape, and the consumption of cheese and Marmite sandwiches), to the not so happy (the consumption of the baby via a dragon)...

GET THINKING: Based on what we can see in this painting, what do you think happens next? Why?

Jacques Carabain’s Queen Street, Auckland transported the explorers back to 1889, a time before iPads, cell phones and Xboxes - the horror! Gallery educators facilitated a deep exploration of the work, then used children’s responses to create a ‘soundscape’. Children and educators alike filled the gallery with the aural clutter of horses trotting, dogs barking, wind howling, people chatting, sellers selling, and bells chiming! This really brought the painting to life for the children (and for the other visitors who happened to be in the room at the time…Haha).

GET SHARING: Under Carabain's historic work children shared what they knew about life in the 1800s, and imagined  themselves as Victorian children.
GET TALKING: Brett Graham's Te Hokioi, 2008, is named after NZ's extinct giant eagle... A predator so large it lived on moa! Now THAT'S a pair of drumsticks!

GET MAKING: With no photographic record of this feathery beast, it was up to the children to imagine what one may have looked like. (Disclaimer: Several of the drawings created featured younger siblings being carried away in the beak of the eagle. The Gallery bears no responsibility.)

When it was high time for a wriggle and a giggle the explorers took to the sculpture terrace to play the ‘connections’ game on Jeppe Hein’s Long Modified Bench... Auckland’s future contortionists?

GET LAUGHING: Play 'connections' on Hein's sculpture - a leader calls out 3 or more specific parts of the body (e.g. right ear, left elbow, right knee). The players have to connect all said body parts to the sculpture as quickly as possible. Hilarity ensues.

At the end of the programme the explorers gathered up all the drawings they had created and bound them into a book to take home. They promised to bring their books back to the Gallery and add to them each time they came to visit. Explorers for life!

Bring on the next school holidays- we can’t wait! Keep an eye on the website for details of upcoming Gallery Explorers sessions.

-Vivien Masters, Gallery Educator

Tuesday 26 February 2013

He poroporoaki ki a Hone Papita Raukura Ralph Hotere - na Haerewa

‘Kotahi kapua ki te rangi, kua marangai ki te whenua.’

He waiata na to hoa Dame Kāterina Te Heikoko Mataira.

E te rangatira Ralph
I hara mai koe ki toku taha, me o rakau e rua,
Tetahi he pene rakau, tetahi he paraehe, ka ki mai koe.
“Ma te pene e tuhi ou whakaaro, ma te paraehe e whaikorero.”
You came to my side with two sticks in your hands a pencil and a brush and said, “the pencil will scribble your thoughts and the brush will make them speak.”
Such sage advice from a master of his craft, to an aspiring art student in 1961, when Ralph was the itinerant art teacher in Northland.
How poignant are those words as we reflect on his legacy of awe-inspiring works that speak volumes in the international galleries, offices and numerous homes of Hotere admirers.
It is with heavy hearts of sadness that we of Haerewa Māori Advisory Group, Toi o Tāmaki Auckland Art Gallery, deeply mourn the passing of our greatest contemporary artist.
Though exceedingly private, Ralph's indelible charm and penchant for witty intelligent conversation, afforded many stimulating discussions among friends, which undoubtedly emanated into conceptual expressions for his works.
Na te tini, me te hohonu o ana kaupapa mahi Toi, kore rawa e mutu nga maumahara mo tenei tohunga o tenei Ao Hou.

Ralph. E tuohu nei matou ki a koe, ki to whanau, me to iwi,
Mamae ana te ngakau, turuturu nga roimata, i to wehenga,
Haere atu, haere hangai ki o tupuna, ki o hoa kei tua o te arai  kohurangi,
Ki te ao wairua, okioki ai.
Takoto mai, takoto mai, takoto mai.

HAEREWA - Mere Lodge, Bernard Makoare, Lisa Reihana, Fred Graham, Jonathan Mane-wheoki, Elizabeth Ellis.

Image: Tukaki wharenui, Te Kaha-nui-a-tiki marae, Te Kaha. Marilyn Webb and Ralph Hotere. Brown Rewiti (right). June 1973. Māori Artists and Writers / Nga Puna Waihanga Series by John Miller, gelatin silver print toned with gold, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2001

Monday 25 February 2013

Ralph Hotere ONZ

It was with much sadness that the staff of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki learnt of the passing of Ralph Hotere in Dunedin. We send our aroha to his wife, Mary, and to his family. Moe mai e te Rangatira.

When we were planning the reopening of Auckland Art Gallery in September 2011, I proposed that Ralph Hotere’s Godwit/Kuaka mural be installed in the long gallery adjacent to the entrance foyer. This 18-metre long artwork was Ralph’s largest painting; Hamish Keith commissioned it from the artist for Auckland Airport’s Arrivals Hall in 1977.

I told Ralph that we were going to reopen the building and show with Godwit/Kuaka, and I asked him to help decide how the work would be presented. He agreed that the space we proposed would be very like the corridor in which it was installed at the airport – its first home. Just before Christmas 2011, Ralph recorded the Muriwhenua chant Ruia ruia, opea opea, tahia tahia. When he called me and played his recording I was overwhelmed; it now plays in the gallery housing Godwit/Kuaka.

I wrote a short essay about the mural at reopening, which we publish here for the first time.

Ralph Hotere's Godwit/Kuaka mural

In 1977 Auckland International Airport commissioned Ralph Hotere to create a mural in response to the theme of long-distance air travel and arrival. In doing so it commissioned one of the largest public paintings ever produced in New Zealand – 18 metres in length. Originally titled The Flight of the Godwit, it was displayed on the rear wall of the airport’s Arrivals Hall to serve as the first welcome to returning citizens and as a greeting to visitors at New Zealand’s major entry point.

The enormous artwork remained in this traveller’s welcoming area until 1996, when the airport undertook a redevelopment of the terminal building. The mural was deaccessioned from the airport’s art collection, and subsequently purchased by the Chartwell Trust and placed at Auckland Art Gallery. At that moment, the artist renamed his mural Godwit/Kuaka.

Godwit/Kuaka weaves together many of the themes which Hotere’s work at the time was exploring: the relationship between the ancient Maōri worldview and the contemporary world; abstract art’s ability to evoke ecology and cosmology; the relationship between place and human experience.

While Hotere’s mural honours and recalls the flights undertaken by the migratory eastern bar-tailed godwit (Limosa Lapponica Baueri) it sets up a metaphor in which the bird’s annual return represents our own travels and homecomings. This legendary shore bird is renowned for undertaking transoceanic journeys. Its stamina is legendary – not only is its journey a long one, but the godwit makes no stops for rest or sustenance along the way. Māori have long admired and celebrated the bar-tailed godwit; they named it the kūaka. The kūaka’s arrival is celebrated in the ancient Te Aupōuri Māori chant which the artist’s father, Tangirau Hotere, taught him at Mitimiti in Northland.

Walking the length of Godwit/Kuaka’s polished, reflective surface viewers meet the darkened central panels on which Hotere has recorded in capital letters lines from the Te Aupōuri chant. It is as if a bird’s flight has come to rest with a song. The dark centre is flanked by vertical bands of colour which pulsate slowly, advancing forwards and retreating backwards upon the shiny lacquer-like surface. This bandwidth of shimmering and piercing hues acts as a melody of arrival and departure.

Godwit/Kuaka’s astonishing presence is not solely driven by its physical scale but by the emotion, the welcome, it creates. Looking like a fragment from a monumental loom in which the carefully drawn stripes are never-ending warps that bind the darkness of night to the colour of day, the mural sings to us and acts as a beacon calling us home, signalling our safe arrival.

Chant and translation

Ruia ruia, opea opea, tahia tahia
Kia hemo ake
Ko te kaka koakoa
Kia herea mai
Te kawai korokī
Kia tatata mai
I roto i tana pukorokoro whaikaro
He kūaka
He kūaka mārangaranga
Kotahi manu
I tau ki te tāhuna
Tau atu
Tau atu
Kua tau mai

Scattering, gathering, forming a single unit
Death/exhaustion rises up
It is the rope, koakoa [the cry of the bird]
Binding you here to me
The cry/chattering of the flock
Come close together
From inside its throat – a marauding party
A godwit
A godwit that hovers
One bird
Has settled on the sand bank
It has settled over there
It has settled over there
They have settled here

Image: Ralph Hotere (1931-2013)
Te Aupōuri
Godwit/Kuaka (detail) 1977
lacquer on hardboard
Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
gift of Auckland International Airport Ltd 1997

I appreciate the support of the Chartwell Trust, Ron Sang, and the family of the late Te Whanaupani Thompson (Nga Puhi, Ngati Wai) for permission to reprint his translation of the Muriwhenua chant Ruia ruia, opea opea, tahia tahia into English.

The Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki gratefully acknowledges the close assistance provided by Ralph Hotere, Mary McFarlane and Judith Ablett-Kerr, Chair, Ralph Hotere Foundation Trust in the preparation of this text about Godwit/Kuaka.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Guess my scribble

I was met with some unusual glances from adults who participated in a recent drop-in drawing session. Looking at Jae Hoon Lee's Residue, I invited people to make a random scribble on their piece of paper, or I could do it for them, the challenge being that they then needed to turn it into something.

The choice of the work and the abstract pieces in the surrounding galleries seemed ideal for this challenge because we all see something different in the lines, shapes, and patterns that contemporary art confronts us with. This was truly a challenge that embraced multiple perspectives and interpretations.

Visitors created works reminiscent of Kandinsky or Klee, whereas others created undersea kingdoms, mythical creatures and surrealist looking sketches that could have harked from a 70s album cover. While the challenge could have seemed silly, what ended up happening is people let go of that feeling of drawing something that we see, and became really creative and free – their drawings often ending up as something they never predicted.

Keep an eye out on our website and Facebook page for details of upcoming drop-in drawing events.

- Selina Anderson, Senior Gallery Educator

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Art Lab Art Stars!

We had a great time piloting our new programme for 9-13 year olds, Art Lab, during the summer holidays. In this new format children come along for an extended art-making workshop over four and a half hours, allowing them the time and creative freedom to really explore and experiment with art ideas and techniques. Children, parents and educators unanimously declared it a great success!

In Art Lab: Merchandise we began by exploring the Who Shot Rock & Roll exhibition and gift shop, which inspired the children in the creation of their own Art Star/Rock Star brand. After thinking about brand development and design ideas, we spent the rest of the day experimenting with etching and collograph printing, silkscreen printing and badge making. The children created an incredible collection of merchandise to promote and publicise their Star identity.

The children worked excitedly all day experimenting with materials and processes to create multiple posters, postcards and badges that had a real authenticity to them. The Gallery staff were so impressed, feeling convinced that these fictional bands would be amazing. Sold out shows all round! The focus on repetition and the multiple meant that the children were all swapping badges with each other at the end of the day, leaving happy and covered in merchandise.

The new format of Art Lab was hugely popular with parents and children alike. It meant that the children could benefit from the extra time for idea-generation and had more opportunity for exploration and experimentation in the studio. We will be continuing with this new format, and will have two Art Labs running during term time as well.

Bookings are now open for our next Art Lab: Project Print which will run on Sunday 10 March. In this one day Art Lab we will take inspiration from artists John Reynolds, Shane Cotton and Richard Killeen as we experiment with everything from silkscreen printing to etching and monoprinting. Find out more and make your booking here.

Friday 15 February 2013

Auckland Art Gallery celebrates 125 years

The opening of Auckland Art Gallery at 3.30pm on Friday 17 February 1888

It is nearly 125 years since Auckland Art Gallery opened.

No photographs were taken at the opening of Auckland Art Gallery, 3.30pm on Friday 17 February 1888. This was because interior photography, other than in purpose-built portrait studios, was not technically available in Auckland at that time. Yet, from the news coverage, we learn that many people converged at the Gallery’s entrance in Coburg Street (now Kitchener Street) to attend this occasion. The speeches were given inside the exhibition room proudly described as ‘the largest Art Gallery in the Australian Colony…105 feet in length, 32 feet in breadth… with a wall space of 5,890 square feet’. Interestingly, news coverage of the event noted that many women were present. I suppose many of the men who might have been there were at their jobs.

The speakers at the opening were Mayor Albert Devore, Governor Sir William Francis Drummond Jervois, KCMG, CB and Auckland Society of Art President Mr E A McKechnie. The governor said, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, this Art Gallery is, thanks to Sir George Grey, the first permanent one in New Zealand’. He added, presciently, ‘it is most gratifying to know that there are already many able artists in this country whose work will become the foundation of a New Zealand school of painting’.

The Gallery was still being completed at the time of the Library’s opening on Tuesday 22 March 1887. Sir George Grey, twice governor of New Zealand, had been central to the Grand Opening Ceremony of Auckland’s Public Library. In his address, Grey provided an account of the need for arts and knowledge to inform the public. In early February 1888, Sir George informed the Mayor of Auckland that he was unwell and would be unable to attend the Gallery opening, yet the 28 paintings, which he had gifted, would be on show. The Herald commentator described many of the artworks in detail.

One of the features which emerge from the opening speaker’s comments that day is the notion that Auckland Art Gallery should collect both international and New Zealand art. It was suggested that living artists’ works be included. As well as this, the speakers expressed the wish that the City of Auckland, its businesses and its citizens work together to support both the growth and development of the Gallery.

Mayor Devore commented that although artworks had already been gifted and loaned, he hoped more gifting of art would occur. The governor added he believed Sir George Grey’s philanthropy and his endowment of books and art to the Library and Gallery was expressly ‘for the free use of the people’.

It has been fascinating to review which artworks the public saw on Friday 17 February 1888. They have helped determine the subsequent collection’s growth and focus.

Caspar Netscher’s Girl Arranging Flowers was one of Sir George Grey’s personal favorites; it had belonged to his mother. The 1862 William Ewart painting of his equerry Hami Hone Ropiha (John Hobbs) was the first New Zealand portrait to enter the Gallery’s collection. Governor Grey had commissioned this work. One of the first examples of New Zealand contemporary art shown at the Gallery, which had already entered the collection, was Kennett Watkins’ The Home of the Cormorants, Waitakere Ranges, 1886 – a very recent view of a swamp in west Auckland.

Recalling the opening of the Gallery demonstrates that a vision for the its future existed 125 years ago. The current reality of the Gallery was imagined on that occasion, as was the future nature of the art collection. The opening speakers probably had zero consciousness that the collection would have expanded – at the moment of its 125th anniversary to 15,402 items. All of these can be accessed via the Gallery’s website. So very many of them have been acquired by Auckland’s citizens through our city Council or via gifts, bequests and long-term loans from generous individuals and organisations.

Caspar Netscher
Girl Arranging Flowers 1683
oil on canvas
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
gift of Sir George Grey, 1883

William Ewart
Hami Hone Ropiha (John Hobbs) 1862
oil on canvas
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
gift of Sir George Grey, 1887

Kennett Watkins
The Home of the cormorants, Waitakere Ranges 1886
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
gift of students of the artist, 1888

Thursday 14 February 2013

Grader, 1959

Before we left for the summer holidays a colleague invited me downstairs to view a recently acquired artwork. In the crypt-like Receiving Room we watched registrar Fiona Moorhead unwrap Sybil Andrews’ Grader, 1959.

I’d spent some time studying an image of the linocut on my PC, and the real thing didn’t disappoint. Rolling its way down the tissue-like paper, which is so transparent you can be looking at the reverse of the print without realising it, is the carefully cut image of a piece of mid-century farm machinery full of force and dynamism. Grader exudes energy and charm in part because of Andrews’ management of bold subject matter in a tight composition, and her use of the somewhat homely and accessible linocut technique.

Sybil Andrews, Grader, 1959
linocut, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2012

Representing the rhythms of contemporary life in tightly composed scenes of the city, sport and work, Andrews was a master of her modern medium – the linoleum block print. Made using industrial flooring material, lino prints were considered a lesser art form than wood cut prints. But Claude Flight, leader of the Grosvenor School, rejected the restraints of the past and ignored entrenched hierarchies, declaring that ‘a lino-cut colour print should not look like an oil or water-colour painting, it is a print from a soft linoleum block and should not be taken for a wood-cut, a wood engraving, or an etching, it should take its individual place on a wall and be recognised as a lino-cut’.

In Grader the white blade slices the ground, cutting a curly ribbon of earth as the large front wheels go one way, and the smaller rear wheels another. In the midst of this swirl of curvilinear forms and angles man and machine appear fused, and it’s difficult to establish who’s  in control.  This was very likely an effect Andrews was eager to create. The faceless, lone worker in Grader contrasts Andrews’ earlier scenes of manual labour in which workers come in teams, appearing more abstract – a reflection of her egalitarian interests which she shared with the fellow Grosvenor School linocutters.

Described as ‘British Futurists’, the Grosvenor School linocutters incorporated elements from other styles, like the Italian Futurists celebratory depictions of speed and movement – what Umberto Boccioni feverishly described as ‘our whirling life of steel, of pride, of fever and of speed’. There are also links with what the Vorticists described in Blast as ‘the forms of machinery, factories, new and vaster buildings, bridges and works’. Though most of the Grosvenor School’s scenes of the city and inter-war merriment appear less imbued by pervading unease compared with the Vorticist’s visions of a sinister and dehumanising city.

Andrews produced many of the Grosvenor School’s most enduring images of the 1920s and 30s, including Haulers, 1929 and The Gale, 1930 (both held in Auckland Art Gallery). In Speedway, 1934, we see her suggestion of a more threatening and impersonal machine age, one that might fuse human and machine.

At the height of the linocut movement Andrews used the speed of the city as a metaphor for the modern world. But in 1947 she moved to Canada, and settled in Campbell River, a remote logging and fishing town on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Although she found herself in an isolated area (more Douglas Fir forests than speedways), Andrews was still able to find local scenes of activity – logging trucks and ploughers at work, ice skaters at play, and these became sources of inspiration for her art. The titles of her works – Logging Team, 1952, Hauling, 1952, Skater, 1953, Ploughing Pasture, 1954 – hint at an on-going interest in movement and manual work.

Auckland Art Gallery holds 12 other works by Sybil Andrews, all of which were gifted to the Gallery by Rex Nan Kivell in 1953, along with more than 200 other British modernist prints. And while the Gallery has some of the best examples of Andrews’ work, until we acquired Grader we had nothing to represent her later career.

- Julia Waite, Assistant Curator / Assistant Project Coordinator

Tuesday 12 February 2013

The Creative Process: Explore

This year, the Todd Foundation Creative Learning Centre explores the creative process through Tiffany Singh’s work May the Rainbow Always Touch Your Shoulder. Visitors are invited to explore, experiment, create and share through participating in the space. So, let's start with explore. How are people exploring this space and what exactly are they exploring?

Often people enter the room with questions like, ‘What is this room?’ ‘What is that smell? ‘Can we do something in here?’ ‘Who made that artwork?’

From my own observations of engaging with people in here, there are multiple points of entry for people to explore. Coming into the space, visitors immediately begin to explore the source of the scent of the room, the gentle sounds coming from the wind chimes and the feel of the raw blocks of wax. There is a sense of curiosity on their faces as they wonder what this room is about. 

They are physically exploring the room, carefully looking at each aspect of the space, the wall text, the video, the artworks, and activities, and piecing together the connections between all these elements. They are exploring things by themselves or together with family – sometimes even with strangers.

Viewfinders give visitors a chance to explore previous works Tiffany has created, and at the same time relive their childhood when viewfinders were the height of technology!

I am sure that through the year I will witness dozens more ways that people explore this room that I haven’t even realised yet. If you come into the Creative Learning Centre and visit us, talk to us about how you have explored this space and what you have discovered!

- Selina Anderson, Senior Gallery Educator

Thursday 7 February 2013

John Fields

I was sad to learn that John Fields has passed away In Australia. I have always considered John as one of the most committed camera artists to work in New Zealand. Trained as a scientific photographer, he was employed at The University of Auckland Medical School, where he was responsible for many innovations in forensic photography.

Using both a large format camera and the miniature 35mm, he was equally gifted in uber-detailed set-up imagery as he was with candid photography. An artist of acute intelligence and perception, his architectural documentation of Auckland and the Coromandel regions is without parallel.
I wrote about John for our publication Art Toi and I include that commentary this here:

John Fields made his portrait John Allen, Rangitoto, Auckland on a summer day when both men were swimming off North Shore’s Milford Beach. Fields saw a mesmerising combination of four elements: the dark sea, a low-slung and puffy cumulus cloud, the distant volcanic silhouette of Rangitoto Island and John Allen’s bobbing head. With these he constructed a haunting image. While the photographer was standing in the water off Milford Beach, his camera angle makes it appear as if he was floating above the sea.

Many of Fields’s portraits from the 1970s have this surreal impact, with people observed in disjunctive and surprising oppositions to their physical location. This photograph’s composition draws its tension from the way that the scale of the cloud and volcano juxtapose strangely with Allen’s head. Fields has manipulated the printing of the photograph to emphasise the face, making Allen look glowing and radiant. His long black hair, moustache and self-absorbed expression contribute to the odd, dreamlike impression that the photograph conveys.

Allen looks not only like a quintessential hippie but also like a man from the distant past. By concentrating on his head, Fields creates a figure who seems less like a swimmer than a strange sea creature. This carefully planned image is suffused with an air of mystery. Fields immigrated to New Zealand from America in 1966, after studying photography and filmmaking in Boston. From October 1969 he started using a 5 x 7 inch view camera to document the landscape and architecture of the Auckland region. At the same time, he used his 35mm Leica camera to make photographs of people, always using available light rather than artificial lighting. John Allen, Rangitoto, Auckland is a unique vintage print. No further prints were ever made and the negative was destroyed in an accident.

For my earlier blogs about John

John Fields (1938-2013)
Brian Boru Hotel, Thames, 2nd floor with music room June 1973
gelatin silver print
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the artist 1976

John Allen, Rangitoto, Auckland 1974
gelatin silver print
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2009

Lands and Deeds Office, High Street, Auckland circa 1970
gelatin silver print
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of John Stacpoole and John Fields, 1983

Friday 1 February 2013

Tony Fomison - Archivist and Artist

My colleagues Natasha Conland and Caroline McBride have curated a solo artist exhibition which samples some of the Tony Fomison works of art in this public collection. We are fortunate in having assembled the most extensive holdings of Tony's art, which now includes the remarkable studio papers that Mrs Mary Fomison generously gifted to the Gallery.

As well, Tony Fomison: Archivist and Artist (part of Toi Aotearoa) contains two of the paintings that the Chartwell Collection gifted to the collection. This display shows just some of the brilliant archival resources that the artist's mother ensured would be made accessible to the public. Included is one of the previously unknown gouache portraits found among Tony's studio papers.

For anyone that has not seen a number of Tony Fomison paintings and drawings gathered together, or his archival material, this exhibit is an opportunity to see why Tony is such a significant 20th century New Zealand artist.

I once told some of the All Blacks that this artist would always have an ongoing reputation and public regard simply because of his unique vision. I still reckon that this is a true statement.

Tony Fomison
Beethoven 1981
oil on canvas
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Chartwell Gift Collection, 2009

Tony Fomison
The Bushman 23 January 1967
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, from the Tony Fomison Studio Papers,
gift of Mary Fomison, 2009