A couple of months ago I completed a mural in one of our paddocks over looking a nearby bay that over the last ten years has been steadily eroding. Sue and I have opposed a sea wall along the coastline of Mullet Rd, and submitted numerously against it. The whole process was flawed and in the long term not viable because the surrounding cliffs will continue to collapse. The road will be threatened again in the near future. Even though the sea wall is going ahead we felt we managed some minor protection and stringent monitoring.
It was certainly an eye opener to the limitations of local coastal management and total disregard for coastal eco systems.
This extensive exhibition runs from 10th May – 4th June 2014 at Milford Galleries Dunedin, with an opening on Friday 9th May 2014 at 5pm. Away and Towards spans paintings from 1978 to examples of the recent Provocation series. Featuring work selected by the artist and Milford Galleries director Stephen Higginson, Away and Towards includes important large works as well as smaller pieces. An extensive online catalogue is available through the Milford Galleries website.
Nigel wishes to thank Susan McLaughlin and all the staff at Milford Galleries for their effort and the support received.
– Waterfalls is Nigel’s new exhibition at Wellington’s Solander Gallery. More information here.
– Nigel is currently guest artist of the Dancing Star Foundation. From their website: Dancing Star Foundation is honored to present its second Guest Artist, Nigel Brown. Nigel is one of New Zealand’s most important and provocative contemporary artists. His work reflects a deep and abiding passion for the environment that has stirred hearts and minds throughout the world. Click to head to the Dancing Star website, who have published a piece Nigel has written about his concerns, motivations and work.
– Nigel’s new dealer gallery in Auckland is Artis Gallery.
Two Books and The Vernacular
Two books came my way lately as gifts from Sue.
The first was Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, a Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya von Bremzen, published by Doubleday. This book said it all in terms of identity and food. In this multi-ethnic saga of the collapse of the USSR, it is fascinating how food and the vernacular are intertwined. Food can be a distinctly local or a foreign influence creeping into societies. In Russia under Peter the Great and later Stalin, food and the State reached new levels of interconnection. The difference in food in the past between Moscow and Saint Petersburg with the later city coming to look to the West was marked. Under communism food was manipulated in complex, blatant and disastrous ways. Finally, difference is faced as the food writer and her mother, having emigrated, find massive change on their return to Putin’s celebrity-focused Moscow.
In effect this book gives you a passionate nostalgia, balanced by an eye for the conflict between unique local food and the vernacular versus the allure of the exotic that is now a worldwide phenomenon.
The second book I came to have was Coast, a New Zealand journey by Bruce Ansley and Jane Usher, published by Godwit. Strong photography, great compositions, romanticism, integrity on a level beyond the usual coffee table New Zealand variety, and a depth of searching into vernacular coastal mythology. It’s moody and rich and full of unique material. It’s also a fabrication in a way in terms of what is left out of changing Aotearoa but that’s okay. Identity almost appears timeless and impregnable.
Putting the two books side by side you may ponder the role of the state and global forces both in New Zealand and seemingly different Russia, but be appreciative of the individuals who treasure uniqueness, and record or write about it in dedicated ways – not just swept along in it all.
Painting is the use of a stick with hairs bound to the end. Painting is pigment which is made up of particles that reflect light in accordance with the spectrum. The particles are held together by a medium that also glues them to a support. The first supports were cave walls or stretched animal skins or bark or human flesh. Our first paintings used no paint and were gestures or marks in sand.
Today we have canvas or board or paper or whatever. We can still prepare it a bit to feel the space. This also can roughen or personalise the support. When we grip a brush we are able to use paint to realise space and feeling and ideas. We look and we interact with our hands, the materials, and our support that holds it all. We are our eyes and our minds.
After many years of practice we paint almost beyond consciousness but the results can still be surprising or disappointing depending on the day. All this mind over matter-focused creativity sits oddly with a contemporary information overload.
For me paintings at best can be organic and an intimate sharing. Thoughts and words are important to me in work both as triggers and as actual included elements. The integration of words is a challenge but properly used can add to the visual. Memory and stream of consciousness have become increasingly present in much of my work and equate with both the archetypal and highly complex situation of the present as well as conveying multiple levels of awareness in full. Painting can be changed utterly by the now but also be reassuring and familiar. Frames remind us our eyes sit in our skulls dictating and limiting our vision. The nature of what we see is determined by the boundaries in our head and in our society. Whether we frame or not, or even know how to look, paintings have ancient miraculous aspects always lurking.
To Niue & Back
At the beginning of last month Sue and I were in Niue – a relaxing place to be. The principal artists I am aware of associated with the island are Mark Cross and John Pule. Still some fine weavers in evidence. Niue is run by an assembly of members from the villages. The most interesting stories there I came across were Laufoli leaping into his umu to renounce violence and a man with cancer wanting to watch whales every day while building a house with no hand rails on the path. Most inspiring and intense was attending a church service at Vaiea with decorated altar and glorious singing and then to be told half the congregation were from Tuvalu as refugees from sea rising associated with global warming.
Coming back to New Zealand the tension of the GCSB bill in its final stages made me think back to Nuie and wonder what it might be like to live in one of those villages looking out on the world of visitors passing by.
In Auckland I attended the launch of the publication ‘In Search of the Vernacular’ at the Depot in Devonport with Denys Trusell speaking. The evening was affirming and reassuring. The Depot has achieved a great deal.
Later after the Wellington earthquakes all the artists – Melvin Day, Gerda Leenards, John Walsh and myself – who feature in Peta Carey’s film ‘Waterfall’ had a group show at the Diversion gallery in Picton. Unfortunately I was not able to attend the opening, usually lively and fun.
During all this I was reading ‘Lillian Hellman’ by Carl Rollyson. This American playwright is a good example of a person who could’ve faced jail if email and its interception had existed back in the McCarthy era, but who basically was merely open minded and searching.
Most miraculous at Cosy, our two Sebastapol Geese laid their first egg and have become very bold and adventurous.
Niue Circle (2013) watercolour on paper, 297 x 420mm
Under Surveillance (2013) water colour & pencil on paper, 297 x 420mm
These recent drawings in marker pen are designed to be shared online or as copies. I’ve done poster type drawings for photocopy for many years in relation to events. It tends to be separate from my work with more permanent artist’s materials.
The theme of these might be understanding the world from a vernacular point of view or simply an outpouring from the subconscious tied to myself as an individual. Most public monuments are the result of consultation and dialogue. These have no such restraint or logic. Perhaps they are pseudo monuments and a different one could be done every hour of the day. Identity can be closed down or open-ended.