Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Above: Two Women 2005.
Photographed at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
When Kelly Gellatly wrote of Ron Mueck's Two Women 2005 in the Ron Mueck catalogue, she spoke of the artist's ability to undercut the stereotypes into which old women normally fall - "the warm, loving, cuddly grandmother-type...wise, generous, jolly....or the wizened old crone of fairytale fame." And in Mueck's major touring exhibition, now showing at Christchurch Art Gallery, I am reminded again of Gellatly's words and her observation that "part of the shock of seeing Mueck's women," is the fact that they would be so ordinary, so indistinguishable and unremarkable in a crowd.
Christchurch Posters "From their ashen faces, thinning hair and osteoporosis-ridden backs, through to their slip-on shoes and bunched, wrinkled tights collected at their ankles," she writes, "there is a conspiratorial, gossipy and decidedly critical air to their encounter....." There's a distinct feeling they're watching you, talking about you, sniggering perhaps, or tut-tutting as they consider the modern world passing them by - both within the gallery and outside on the street, as they peer at you from posters scattered throughout the city.
Mueck's show first opened in Melbourne at the National Gallery of Victoria on February 21, 2010 and then went to Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane before coming to Christchurch. When I was visiting the Melbourne show in February, I interviewed NGV's Curator of Australian Art Exhibitions, David Hurlston, who spoke of Mueck's work, the artist's reclusive nature and his own visit to Mueck's North London studio. He spoke of the compelling nature of Mueck's giant sculptures - their 'WOW factor', and their links back to Rennaissance, Medieval and Greek portrayals of the human form. He talked about Mueck's studio and the artist's traditional approach to working and his sketching and absorbing of a wide range of influences. "He draws influences from the people around him, from people in the street, a moment he sees, a smile, the stance of a woman looking in a window - they're etched in his mind and he takes those back to his studio where he begins with sketches and a clay marquette," says Hurlston. "He has an incredible gift of being able to give life to those observations."
Mueck's North London studio is located in a beautiful old stable building at the end of a lane - "a very romantic, storybook artist studio," says Hurlston. It is a mass of 'body parts,' scaffolding, boxes filled with eyeballs and mannequins - "a head here, an arm there; a level of disarray but also an incredible orderliness. He knows where everything is. You look at the finished pieces and there is a quality about them that alludes to a clean environment; but it's not, it's messy, dirty and over 100-years-old."
Mueck has been quoted as saying "I am a misanthrope." Hurlston describes him as "shy, an enigma, someone who often chooses to be alone." He doesn't like talking about his work either and normally shuns all media interviews. He's very self-effacing. "We had a journalist interview organised to promote the Melbourne show but Mueck vanished ten minutes before it was due to take place. That was no surprise to me," says Hurlston.
Ten years ago Mueck was virtually unknown as an artist and his meteoric rise to international fame has given rise to critics as well as fans. "There are some in the art world who say he hasn't done the hard yards, that he has no art school training, that his work is gimmicky. He's gone from an unknown to the top of the heap in a very short time. His work is attention-grabbing but he's very honest and having seen him at work, having seen his artistic sensibility at play and heard him talk about his observations and his work, I don't think that's true. The proof of how his work touches and attracts people is in the exhibition numbers - over 50,000 in Melbourne in the first 36 days of the show and on average around 1,200 people a day. He sees himself as an outsider in the contemporary art world and he doesn't aspire to sensationalist antics. I believe he's ultimately going to be judged as one of the really important artists of our day," says Hurlston.
Ron Mueck continues at Christchurch Art Gallery until January 23, 2011
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Christchurch Art Gallery's Worcester Street wall has had a change of exterior art work. Jae Hoon Lee's spectacular Himalayan mountain scene 'Annapurna' is the latest work in the gallery's excellent OUTER SPACES programme that showcases art works in specific locations away from the main interior exhibition galleries. This huge digital piece is a compilation, or rather a merging, of dozens of travel photographs that Lee took on his recent travels to Nepal. I appreciate that technology has its limits but I would have liked to have seen this work made even bigger - at least half as big again. I can't help thinking that despite the immensity of the mountains themselves, the work looks a little bit lost on the giant gallery wall. www.christchurchartgallery.org.nz
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
I don't know what it is, but there is just something about penguins that makes them universally appealing, no matter what age you are. I re-discovered that fact when I visited Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter & Underworld in Auckland again on my recent Frommer's New Zealand travel guide update.
Here, in sub-tropical Auckland, they have the only underground self sustaining population of king and gentoo penguins in the world. The making of over three tonnes of snow a day helps mimic the Antarctic weather conditions and with their 'home' temperature set at minus 1-deg Celsius, the colony of over 80 penguins seems more than happy - evidenced by the fact that they continue to feed and breed quite readily.
Always a huge hit with kids, the Snow Cat rides into the colony are well worth doing. You can't use your camera flash but if you're quick enough and your camera has the capacity, you can get some good shots (the two centre shots of penguins shown here were, incidentally, supplied by Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Centre). And as there are seven Snowcats operating, offering rides every thirty seconds, you can go around more than once. This gives you an even better chance to see the penguins going about their daily business. And all this aside from all the other underwater attractions - the sting rays, the colourful tropical fish, the kids' activities, the replica of Scott's Antarctic hut and numerous interactive activities that will keep kids amused for hours. www.kellytarltons.co.nz
Friday, November 12, 2010
But every so often there are shots that I take 'in the moment' because something about the scene has caught my eye. It may a marriage of colours or forms, or an unlikely juxtaposition. Invariably, I end up with a whole heap of photographs that I quite like but have no real use for. So bingo, what do I do? I create another series of course - a series of mismatched moments; in this case a series of 'disjointed' City Scene(s). So here is the first. A bright COKE truck pulled up under the Worcester Boulevard building that caught fire just after the big 7.1 September 4th earthquake in Christchurch.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I lived in and near Palmerston North in the Central North Island's Manawatu region in the late seventies but after I moved to the South Island in 1990, I've only ever been back there once. So when I rolled into town this year - in July - I was amazed by two very unexpected things - how much nostalgia I felt and that I actually got lost in now unfamiliar streets. I did however find what was the Manawatu Art Gallery in my day - now Te Manawa - Museum Gallery & Science Centre, which is currently undergoing a massive extension programme due for completion in late 2011. This is where I began a wander that tracked some of the city's public sculptures......the above unnamed, outside Te Manawa. Also outside Te Manawa, this - "Pacific Monarch" by Paul Dibble and commissioned by the Manawatu Art Gallery in 1992.
Further down the street, in the middle of a traffic island near the Palmerston North City Council building, I found this work - my favourite of the bunch - "The Returning Column" by South Australian sculptor, Greg Johns. Made of corten steel, the 5-metre high work, the work was acquired by the Palmerston North Public Sculpture Trust.
"United-Divided" by Christchurch sculptor, Phil Price is in the same vicinity and is the fourth work installed by the Palmerston North Sculpture Trust. It sits outside the Palmerston North Convention Centre and was unveiled in February 2010. Like its eerily similar Christchurch counterpart (in orange), the kinetic work rolls, dips, 'breaks apart' and rotates, "coming together and then dividing in a continuous, seemingly random, wind-driven performance." There's also a terrific work - "Numbers" by Anton Parsons and a beautiful wall work by Guy Ngan, neither of which I had time to photograph. All of the above, in addition to the striking collection of Maori sculptures in The Square, near the council buildings, are a very pleasing addition to the cityscape. While I found the remodelled square itself slightly 'communist' in feel, I always love it when a city installs contemporary public art for us all to muse over. It seems no two people can ever agree on their appropriateness, their beauty or their worth but that's half the fun of it. Good art should touch a few 'raw nerves.'
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
The Antigua Boat Sheds are an iconic part of Christchurch's history. They've been part of the landscape for over 125 years and punting and canoe rides are as much a part of the city's activities today as they were then.
Things have changed a little admittedly. The ladies' waiting room and the gentlemen's dressing room of 1885 are no longer used as such for instance; and there's a cafe now; and the young men steering the punts are likely to be carrying cellphones.
The sheds were built in 1882 by two Lyttelton builders, Albert Shaw and J.T.Tidd. By 1887 that partnership had dissolved and a few years later, under the new ownership of Samuel Anstey of Fendalton, there were "70 well-built boats to choose from and a photographic room for the use of visitors." Dozens of Anstey's glass-plate negatives were later found in the attic above the Boat Sheds and are now safe and sound in Canterbury Public Library.
Although significantly damaged in a 1907 fire, the boat sheds survived and now, in 2010, both locals and visitors crowd in in the weekends for boating fun on the Avon River. There's a mix of punts, Canadian canoes, pedal boats and moulded plastic canoes. I often visit with my camera - seized I suppose, by some sense of romance that the boats, especially the punts, trigger in my imagination. I find them quite beautiful; and certainly, if you're looking for the quintessential 'English shot' of Christchurch, the boat sheds and all the activity that goes on there, deliver. I doubt there's a promotional piece of writing on Christchurch city anywhere, that doesn't feature a photograph of punters on the Avon. www.christchurchnz.com
Friday, November 5, 2010
When it's autumn, I say autumn is my favourite time of year, but then comes spring and I have to revise my preferences because there is something so fresh and crisp and full of promise about spring. Fat buds bursting into life on trees, new grass galloping to lush, verdant heights, blossoms.........all well-worn cliches but all speaking of a potential that I can't get enough of.
I took these shots recently on a drive out to Taitapu, just outside Christchurch. Always a sucker for trees in any shape or form, I find a recurring and resounding inspiration in orchards and vineyards. There's something about those soldier-like rows of trees that stirs me in ways I can't explain. So an orchard in the full blush of spring was always going to be a target for my camera. A place of beauty in a time of beauty.