New Photographs in the Collection
Our new collection exhibition Perilous: Unheard Stories from the Collection features a number of newly acquired works from Aotearoa New Zealand artists that expand our contemporary photographic collection. Melanie Oliver asked a few of these artists to share their thoughts on photography and the works that have found a new home at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū.
Felicity Milburn: Judy, it’s great to be working with you again, this time on a work for the entry wall leading into our new collection rehang, Perilous. It’s made up of a frieze of photographic panels combining images of handwritten lists and pieces of bread that have been partially eaten away by birds, and you’ve called it Pecking Order. Can you tell us a little about how it came about?
Judy Darragh: Thanks, it’s great to have this new work included in Perilous, it was already in existence and fitted well with ideas in the show.
Life over lockdown became reduced – we were at home, everything was shut down and it became a surreal and shared experience for us all. While out walking I observed the flourishing of bird life, and I had time to hear and feed them in the back garden every day. Feeding the birds was very satisfying.
Hard and Slippery – HAHAHA (Wait, is that the title?)
Kommi: This is a courteous introductory message to the two of ya’ll and regarding the collab comms between Turumeke and I, and the editing of it by Kirsty, along with additional notes/commentary as like a third voice freaky irirangi concept (but in written/electronic messaging/note adding stuff form),* all towards the art concept workings and discussions in conversations leading to the finished arts ’n’ stuff resulting in a publication of our ponderings and explorations within te ao buzzy buzzy art stuff that we gonna do. I hope my whakamārama there was nice ’n’ clear.
Tui/Turumeke this is Kirsty. Kirsty, this is Tui/Turumeke.
Turumeke: Kia ora! Great articulation Kom!
Kirsty: Wait? Have we started? Was that a test? Hahaha
Kommi: I do not know.
Raising the Clay
One of the themes explored in the Gallery’s new exhibition Leaving for Work is local industry, particularly in relation to pottery. The show includes an 1896 painting by Charles Kidson of well-known early Sydenham potter Luke Adams; three late nineteenth-century pots by Adams; and projections of a number of exceptional photographs by Steffano Webb. Keen to learn more, exhibition curator Ken Hall met up with local pottery historian Barry Hancox – perhaps best-known as former Smith’s Bookshop proprietor – and leading New Zealand photographer, Oxford-based Mark Adams. Mark’s links to this story include a distant family connection to Luke Adams; photographing many celebrated New Zealand potters of the 1970s and 1980s; and an abiding interest in land and memory.
Texture of the Time
John Miller (Ngāpuhi) is a special figure in Aotearoa, having photographed protests and important events throughout the country from 1967 right up until the present moment. His work covers everything from the 1960s and 1970s anti-Vietnam war and anti-nuclear protests to the 1975 Māori Land March, 1977–78 Bastion Point occupation and 1981 Springbok Tour protests, as well as many more examples of civilian dissent. John uses the camera as a witness, capturing moments of collective voice in action, and he also honours the people who have led the charge for changes in thinking and our society. Looking at his work is like walking through our history backwards into the future. Curator Melanie Oliver sat down with activist John Minto and photographer Conor Clarke (Ngāi Tahu) to talk about John Miller’s work.
A Passion for Clay and Pots
In recent months, retired potter and former president of the Canterbury Potters’ Association, Rex Valentine – a man passionate about clay – and art consultant Grant Banbury have been working behind-the-scenes in the Gallery alongside registration, curatorial and conservation staff. They’ve been assisting with an audit of a part of the collection that we’re excited to be working with more – the Gallery’s ceramics holdings.
Here Banbury and Valentine discuss the latter’s own production and involvement in pottery circles in Canterbury from the late 1960s to the 1980s; his time spent in studying pottery in Japan, and his involvement with pottery acquisitions during Brian Muir’s directorship of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery. The edited extracts that follow are from an interview recorded at Valentine’s home in Christchurch on 10 April 2021.
Ka pai e whanaunga
Nathan Pōhio: We’re going to do this whānau styles.
Areta Wilkinson: Totally. We’re going to indigenise the interview process.
NP: Tēnā koe Areta, ngā mihi nui. Your project Moa-Hunter Fashions is primarily concerned with, or comes from, thinking around whakapapa and geological history, so let’s start by talking about that, and how it pertains to what you’re doing in the exhibition.
Take the ‘A’ Train
Peter Vangioni: It’s late June, and you haven’t been outside for 16 weeks? Is that right? How are you and Barbara coping with the shelter in place order and are you able to work under these conditions?
Max Gimblett: Well, I’ve been out to put the garbage out twice a week—I cross the pavement and come back to the door. Some people are out there walking with their masks. Barbara is super cautious, you know because of our age, we can’t even come close to anybody. But we are doing very well in this lockdown, and have no plans to leave the loft.
Driving Without a Licence
Peter Robinson: I may be wrong about this, but I believe that we were the last generation to experience the primacy of painting at art school. What I mean by this is that when we were at Ilam, students had to compete to get into departments. As crazy as it sounds now, there was a very clear hierarchy: painting was the most popular discipline and afforded the most esteem, sculpture second, then film, print, design and photography somewhere down the line. Can you remember why you ended up choosing sculpture? And furthermore why you ended up being a painter? Do you think your training as a sculptor affected the way you think about or approach painting that is different to someone who was trained formally as a painter?
Sydow: Tomorrow Never Knows recently opened at Gallery and the exhibition’s curator, Peter Vangioni, took the opportunity to interview UK-based sculptor Stephen Furlonger. Furlonger was a contemporary of Carl Sydow and mutual friend and fellow sculptor John Panting, both at art school in Christchurch and in London during the heady days of the mid 1960s. His path as an artist during the late 1950s and 1960s in many ways mirrored that of Sydow and Panting.