Art New Zealand

Art New Zealand Autumn 2020

New Zealand’s most respected and widely-read visual arts magazine, Art New Zealand presents an independent quarterly round-up of the visual arts in New Zealand, by the country’s best art writers.

New Zealand
Art New Zealand 2009 Ltd


alan pearson (1929–2019)

Last year I was setting up an end-of-residency exhibition at the Dunedin School of Art when a call came through to my cell phone from the UK. It was from my old art-school classmate Alan Pearson; he needed to talk to someone as his father, the artist Alan Pearson, had just passed away. It was kind of ironic; in 1986, Alan Pearson the elder had held the same Dunedin residency that I had just finished. I went through Ilam Art School at Canterbury University with Alan the younger in the 1980s. His dad had been a student there in the 1950s. Through my friendship with Alan I became very aware of his father as a formidable and unrelenting artist. Listening to him talk at school about the day-to-day methodology of his…


Auckland Freeman White Call of the Ocean Sanderson Contemporary 22 October–10 November RICHARD WOLFE When the European easel painting tradition was transplanted to nineteenth-century New Zealand, it was hardly surprising that the surrounding ocean would prove a popular subject for artists. As well as claiming some 15,000 km of coastline, no part of this country is more than 120 km from the sea. By the late 1870s, Scottish-born Christchurch artist John Gibb had established himself as this country’s premier marine painter with his estuarine, coastal and harbour views. More recently, Napier-based Freeman White has brought the tradition into the twenty-first century. He came to national prominence in 2006 by winning the Adam Portraiture Award, and three years later began painting the New Zealand landscape. Since then, rolling hills have given way to breaking…

everyman and his dog

Nigel Brown was born in Invercargill in 1949, grew up in the Bay of Plenty, then lived in Auckland for several decades before moving to the remote western Southland settlement of Cosy Nook in 2001. Now, he resides in Dunedin, working in a two-level, multi-room studio in the industrial harbourside area, amongst the hubbub of machinery, trucks and a horde of hard-hatted, high-vis-vest-clad labourers. In the 1970s, factory jobs were the means by which Brown supported himself and his family, while the ‘everyman’ Kiwi labourer became a recurring figure in his art (along with more illustrious characters such as the controversial and contrasting Jameses, Cook and Baxter). One might be forgiven, too, for thinking that the surfaces of some of the paintings were achieved with a concreter’s trowel rather than…

soft light

According to Elizabeth Rees, ‘The most mundane aspects of our lives are often majestic, if only we knew it. In New Zealand we live in such overwhelming beauty that we so often take for granted and seldom stop to take in.’1 This statement recalls remarks made by others about our assumed indifference to the beauty of our natural environment. For example, the painter Colin McCahon asked us in 1971 ‘Do you believe in the sunrise?’ However, in this age of the smartphone camera, we find a seemingly infinite number of people seeing and photographing natural beauty spots and recording sunrises and sunsets from Waikiki to Palmerston North, where Rees grew up. Landscape has been a well-explored subject in New Zealand art, in particular, and still is, as we can see…

as above, so below

Recent exhibitions by Anne Noble and Kate van der Drift engage endangered ecologies by exposing photographic film, not to light, but to chemicals in fragile environments. Film is buried underground or in wetlands for a period, and then unearthed, cleaned, processed and printed. The resulting cameraless abstractions—spooky, even cosmic in appearance—make visible the often unseen impacts of the Anthropocene and offer personal responses grounded in a form of critical poetics. Anne Noble’s Observations from the Critical Zone was created by burying a roll of film in the topsoil—the so-called ‘critical zone’—between two trees. In her exhibition text for Two Rooms the artist describes this critical zone as ‘a descriptor for that living, breathing, near surface layer of the earth that is experiencing catastrophic (and invisible) loss of biodiversity’.1 A leading cause…

being present

We should not be defined by the smallness of our islands, but by the greatness of our oceans. Epeli Hau’ofa Migration has been an issue on which politicians and political parties have staked their identity since 1901, when the idea of the White Australia policy came into being. Subsequently dismantled only to have asylum seekers become another part of political identity, Australian immigration policy is driven mainly by agendas of economic growth and boosting human capital, and only secondly concerned with humanitarianism, development or expanding cultural diversity.1 John Vea’s first Australian exhibition, If I pick your fruit, will you put mine back?, provokes awareness of migrant workers, often through the lens of labour conditions. Curators Micheal Do and Mikala Tai at Sydney’s 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art have brought together many…