Now more settled, I have been busy on various bird paintings for showing next year as well as finishing large works on paper. The show Tamatea, Art and Conservation which includes a couple of my works opens at Bowen House Wellington on the 9th of November and at Southland museum on the 16th of December.
A couple of illustration projects to do with poets have been successfully completed this year and will appear eventually. I find what poetry can do is often what i seek in my painting.
The touring show of the NZ Medallion group ,which includes my work, has been wonderfully organised and hosted. The new base gallery for the group is Artis in Auckland.
My touring painting show I am/ We are has been on in Napier this year and will be at Ashburton public gallery before Christmas. In February 2017 it will be at Central Stories, Alexander. I am speaking at each venue.
My next dealer show is Organic Thinking at The Diversion gallery , Picton in February, 2017.
We have been shifted to Dunedin for over three months after an enormous move from Cosy Nook. Our two-storey house dates back to 1910 and is in Roslyn by the green belt with plenty of kereru, a laurel tree and a good many other trees surrounding it. There is an elaborate staircase and kauri timber given an oak look.
All is very different in Dunedin from the rural scene at Cosy Nook by wild Foveaux Strait. We daily encounter many more people, have access to better films and libraries, concerts and the university town vitality. Everything is conveniently close by. The sea which we came to see as a little too powerful down South is tucked far well away from us. We miss our cattle, the rocks and islands and the space for bonfires. We don’t miss looking after 16 acres.
My warehouse studio In Dunedin is in an industrial area and has a roller door, good light from sky lights, and is not far from the inner harbour.
My touring I am /We are show is now at MTG in Napier and had a good crowd at its opening and my talk. It goes on to a range of venues nationwide after being initiated in Timaru.
Currently at Milford Galleries Dunedin – PROVOCATIONS – 11th March-6th April.
“The works now hung and curated I first saw backstage at Milford Galleries Dunedin. Being mainly familiar with the muscly black-singletted bloke, the iconic if not archetypal Kiwi male, set within thick enclosing boundaries, my first impression was of the difference in scale. Not only are these paintings big, but the bounded edges were so dominant that they almost became the pictures, while tucked away in the middle, as if through a key-hole or in a little alcove, was a figurative figure. At first glance these multi-coloured mosaics caught my eye. As I moved closer some large words, rough painted, imposed themselves, as did the figure within the alcove or keyhole. Then the mosaic fragments themselves morphed into words strung like roughly hand-made beads, strings of them, encasing the figure in the middle. Occasionally I recognised a name, such as John A. Lee, Aunt Daisy, Nelson Mandela or Hone Heke. As I wandered around the big paintings, propped at various angles against any spare table or wall capable of coping with the load, I sometimes paused to peer at the strings of letters and words as if they would make sense if only I looked a little harder. As a rule they did not, reminding me of language before grammar, deep time; but also tempting me to provide a grammar that would give the seemingly random words some meaning. My mind trailed away – random, survey, controlled experiment, statistics, probability. And then suddenly, somewhere amid the verbiage, a sentence was there, rewarding the patient explorer. At other times, as in ‘A Full List for You to Remember’, even the tyranny of the alphabet appeared to be under challenge.”
This selection of works is grounded in New Zealand, although in a general way beyond content or specifics, the dot technique in some works owes something to Aboriginal art across the Tasman. In some works, or parts of works, I am developing loose dots in a layered, open build up of tone and intricacy. The spatial layout remains in the Western tradition of foreground and horizon. The underlying linear structure gets honed back.
The title of the show suggests a chant of sorts, and these works could be seen as distilled concentrations with a certain repetitive iconic format. There are no rigid tribal or religious agendas but there are tensions between the vernacular, historical figures, contemporary events and the varying painterly approaches.
My spiritual agendas tend to be a crying out for the land and birds, and envisage nurturing in a heightened manner. Recent influences such as Richard Nunns and Glenn Colquhoun, as well as the English Romantic poets have focused me on the painting as song, poem or chant. For some years now my son-in-law Dudley Benson and his work with albums such as ‘Forest’, has been a pointer to nature, and birds in particular. I think his lament ’ Kiwi’ really explores a new nature relationship in an intense way, building on Hirini Melbourne.
In contemporary living, much expression has been stripped away by Functionalism and Modernism. So I’m retrieving and reviving. The black singlet man and woman become the essential human element to complete the belonging story. I don’t want to see birds as separate from us so I exaggerate the intimacy.
I want the now to link to the past and organic nature. I want ancestors to come alive with contemporary relevance. I want the belonging to be a pulsation and a continuum.
16th April 2015
31st March 2015
Leaving Cosy Nook
The day has come to sell up at Cosy Nook. This will happen over the coming months. Ownership is the wrong word for a piece of wild coastline like this being in your life. We have joked about our own private beach but it has felt that way!
It’s more of a deep privilege to be daily part of the rocks and sea and trees. It really unquestionably belongs to the birds. More off shore islands provide homes for seabirds – mainly karoro, terns and two species of shags. There are spectacular swarming of titi (mutton birds) diving before you. Spotted shags gathering seaweed at nesting time. It gets under your skin. You feel alive.
I’d like to acknowledge our highland cattle for their quiet munching lives and the soft eyes of our Orpington chooks. For us Cosy Nook has been a nature sanctuary.
We will leave here full of memories of campfires on the beach, excited visitors and family gatherings but of course someone else will now have an opportunity to take up the challenge this southern life style represents.It’s hard to imagine a more exciting place for people, for poets, for musicians, for children into rocks and islands, for anyone open to nature. It’s been so inspirational to me as an artist and a defining experience. A dramatic situation of seascapes and big skies, A sheltered and intimate pastoral sanctuary next to bush capped Pahia hill.
Nigel & Sue
24th February 2015
Nature of Freedom (2014), Acrylic on canvas, 2940mm x 1950mm
Nature of Freedom
This large loose canvas was finished in 2014 and taken down to be rolled and sent recently for showing at the National Portrait Gallery in Wellington. Tranquillity Disturb’d is a three person show with Lisa Reihana and Gavin Hurley.
I’m pleased to honour a few poets and the concept of freedom for writers and poets. I also assert the freedom for artists to push boundaries, surprise, alarm and stimulate. Whatever the shabby politics of the day, the threats to nature, the crass cynicism, there are creative beings with plenty to offer. In the now and in the past they inspire.
This canvas is also a lead into my one-man show Albatross Neck coming up at Artis in Auckland.