Friday, February 12, 2016

The inside (and outside) story

To end the week we’ve put photos from four more studio visits up on OTN:STUDIO. Hard to believe that it was nearly four years since Don Driver died and to visit the studio now is a very different experience. To protect the work sheets of plastic and plain old bedsheets now act as shrouds giving the studio an even more otherworldly appearance. This set of photographs was taken in August last year. Of all the artists we have visited none has been more generous or welcoming than Peter Robinson. You can now see photographs from a dozen different visits including this one that's new to the site taken in September 2009. Earlier still, another look inside Lillian Budd’s studio in June 2003 and as we subtitle the site ‘artists in and out of the studio’, photos of Campbell Patterson setting up his exhibition at Michael Lett in August last year.

Image: covered artwork in Don Driver’s New Plymouth studio, August 2015

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Since the day back in 2008 when et al. sent us Hardy Blechman’s remarkable book Disruptive Pattern Material: An Encyclopedia of Camouflage, OTN has had a lively interest in camouflage and its artistic offspring (you can see OTN's Collected Camo below). And now Tony de Lautour has taken up the hide-me craft and applied it to the odd bunker shape that sits outside the Christchurch Art Gallery. Just what the architects were up to when one of them said, ‘let’s make a square concrete box as an entrance to the car park and stick it right in front of the Gallery’ and the others said, ‘yeah, let’s do that’ we might never know. But now de Lautour’s sly commentary has lifted it into something worth looking at; ain’t art grand? 

LATER: A GREAT COMMENT FROM RALPH PAINE: Gertrude Stein: “I well remember at the beginning of the war being with Picasso on the Boulevard Raspail when the first camouflaged truck passed. It was at night, we had heard of camouflage but we had not seen it and Picasso, amazed, looked at it and then cried out -- Yes it is we who made it, that is Cubism!” Doubtless an epoch-making change in the composition of the world was taking place and Picasso is the first artist to register this fact. Stein goes on even to suggest (perversely?) that the entire First World War had been an exercise in Cubism. And today?

Images: left, dazzle design for a World War I war ship designed to ‘dazzle more to mislead the enemy about a ship's course and so to take up a poor firing position’ and right, Tony de Lautour takes a shot at the car park entrance

OTN: the Collected Camo
Ship shape 

Camo site 
War paint
Hidden in plain sight
Camo artists 

A merging artist 
Koons Camo

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


It’s OTN Quiz time with a big prize for the winner (aka one of the last OTN painting horse badges). This week you have to match the painter in the Auckland Art Gallery’s exhibition Necessary Distraction with the curatorial statement about their work. Step up, step up, join the fun. And please, no pushing, there’s plenty of room for everyone.

Which comment matches which artist:

‘a document of an unwitnessed performance’

‘belong to a tradition of ideas’

‘like representations of objects and ideas’

‘an investigation into the ethics of well-being’

‘captured and encased a long-held interest in ideologies'

'act as comments on communications in the digital age'

‘invites viewers in, not to offer continuity’

‘combines intelligences with sympathy for the material and its history’

‘asks us to question our relationship with our natural surroundings’

‘forces us to contend with the work across time’

‘compresses the differences between the thing that is not of the room and the room itself’

‘adopts the characteristics of formal masks’

‘fool us into thinking there is more structure than what is evident’

‘the pattern of an anorak as a compositional template’

‘reverting the digital images of painting back into a painted form’

‘is contingent on the space and the artist’s decision making now, but future potential remains’

‘the idea that images and gestures have been decoded and fragmented resulting in a reduction of authenticity’

‘a metaphor for painting's oldest provision – the window in the room’

‘give the impression of an evolved microclimate’

‘call occasionally on a line or a form to mark out real possibilities’

The artists: Anoushka Akel, Dan Arps, Nick Austin, Andrew Barber, Kirstin Carlin, Stella Corkery, James Cousins, Nicola Farquhar, Emma Fitts, Julian Hooper, Simon Ingram, Milli Jannides, Saskia Leek, Patrick Lundberg, Oliver Perkins, Kim Pieters, Jeena Shin, Ngatai Taepa, Barbara Tuck, Adrienne Vaughan

Image: Painted Bronze by Jasper Johns 1960, collection MoMA

Tuesday, February 09, 2016


Thanks R

A hanging offence

At the formal opening of the Christchurch Art Gallery last week (which by the way was a model for how to reintroduce a cultural institution to its diverse communities after a long break) there was one rather curious aside in the speeches. Neil Roberts, who was a long-serving curator at the Gallery and is now an art consultant, got a bit back at him. He had apparently dissed the current curators in a letter to the editor of the Christchurch Press. So what was his problem? Roberts was upset that the Petrus Van der Velden painting The Dutch funeral of 1872 had been exhibited without its frame. Emotions can run high in Christchurch, especially as the painting in question has always been one of the City's loved 'old masters'. For Roberts the de-framing of the work was an insult to the artist (though you’d think it was probably more of an insult to the framer). In reality, if anyone is to blame, it's probably the Italian architect and exhibition designer Carlo Scarpa. It was Scarpa who stripped elaborate large frames off historical paintings in an effort to bring them into the present so we could take a fresh look at them rather than rely on the usual masterpiece signals of gold and carving. While it may have been been provocative to remove the Van der Velden frame and hang The Dutch funeral next to Colin McCahon’s Blind V, it’s a provocation of the best kind and brings both works into an interesting and useful dialogue. Besides nearby are enough other paintings with elaborate gold frames to remind us how the abandonment of close hanging and the rise of the white cube has removed much of the reason for creating them in the first place.

Image: left, Colin McCahon Blind V and right, Petrus Van der Velden The Dutch funeral hanging in the Christchurch Art Gallery

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Chewing the Turner

Two British comedians in drag taking the piss out of art, what more could you ask for on a Saturday morning?

Friday, February 05, 2016

Fall guy

Big has always been…um…big on OTN. When we saw that this jumbo-sized (36 meters high) statue of Mao was being built in China last year with a price tag of just under $700,000, of course we tagged it for a post. How quickly things change. No sooner was the major Mao finished than it was internationally mocked so that just weeks later, mumbling about ‘lack of registration and approval’, local officials had the golden giant taken down.

The giant-statue-of-me business is a tough one. As a rule of thumb, the more tyrannical you are as a leader, the better your chances of ending up nose down in the mud. And usually with the added indignity of a mocking crowd to celebrate your fall. The International Business Times did a useful round-up of the fallen recently, you can see it here.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The space age

Has the venue for NZ's next Venice outing in 2017 has been nailed? A couple of OTN readers have suggested so. We do know Commissioner Carruthers (hereon ComCar) was always keen to get a venue that could give some certainty to NZ going to Venice on the long term, given the possibility that Creative NZ could bail on major funding in the future. Now it sounds as though his desire for a permanent space within the Arsenale has been fulfilled. But, we're not talking King Hit venue like Simon Denny at the Marciana Library or tourist trap like Bill Culbert's Istituto Santa Maria della Pietà and it would be behind the Biennale's paywall. If it's sharing the building that the Vatican and Turkey were in last year, it’s somewhat off the beaten track but given ComCar 's focus on continuity for the future it’s probably the safe bet. Ideal of course for 2017 as Lisa Reihana's projection with its complex technical backup will suit a more conventional space. The other possibility CNZ and ComCar might have had eyes on is one of the spaces right down the end of the Arsenale exhibition hall, but let’s not go there (no-one else does). The downside of the Arsenale overall is that most of the recently made available spaces are around the back of the huge exhibition hall and most people get there via the long trek through the acres of art that go to make a Venice curator’s exhibition. We’ve been tinkering with the venue thing since we first went to Venice in 2001 with mixed results, not all of them the fault of the venue. Will moving into the Arsenale be the best way to go? It depends on how you weight the logic of pragmatism against the serendipity of opportunity.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Let one thousand garden gnomes bloom

In the eighties there was a game played by art gallery people called ‘One thousand gnomes’. A popular theory at the time (and this probably still holds good) was that one gnome was unexhibitable, one hundred gnomes was impressive but no more, one thousand gnomes on the other hand…. From that starting point the game was to devise the title of an exhibition of 1000 Gnomes that captured the styles of the various institutions around the country. This set (via a dot-matrix printer!) turned up the other day. It says a lot about the times. Some of the art institutions have since changed their names, but you get the idea.

Auckland Art Gallery

Manawatu Art Gallery
Gnomes: methods and materials

Sarjeant Gallery
Gnomes - a survey exhibition

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
The Gnome Project

National Art Gallery
Gnome / Gnomic

Dowse Art Gallery
Gnomes: a celebration

Bishop Suter Art Gallery
1000 Nelson Gnomes

Robert McDougall Art Gallery
The Gnome in Canterbury
Dunedin Art Gallery
Buick Randall: a gnome maker and his circle

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


At OTN we’ve always been great fans of reading the entrails. Back a ways a haruspex used to interpret the divine will by inspecting the entrails of a sacrificial animal. So here for you all to interpret are some Te Papa's entrails as revealed in the media recently. 

•   Te Papa will take no international touring art exhibitions in 2016. This will be the first year without such an exhibition since the museum opened.

•   There will be no temporary exhibitions for the next five years unless they are from the permanent collection.

•   Te Papa is to collaborate with Weta Workshop to create experience based touring exhibitions to hire out to the global ‘museum’ market. Chief executive Rick Ellis has said that these touring plans will ‘help shape the museum for another stellar year in 2016’.

•   Rick Ellis also believes that the 1.56 million visitors this year were ‘driven to the museum by the "destination exhibitions" Tyrannosaurs, Air New Zealand and Gallipoli’

•   Te Papa has made it clear that it recognises ‘the importance of the Chinese market.’

•   To build links with Australia, Ellis had assigned ‘senior leaders to each state’ (‘Art, I’m giving you Western Australia…the bottom bit’).

What can it all mean for art at Te Papa? Prize for the best answer.

LATER: Meanwhile back in the rest of the world. 'Whatever the motivation, modern and, especially, contemporary art has become so big a draw that few museums can afford to do without it.' – Calvin Tomkins in the New Yorker

Image: bronze instructional liver from Etruria (You can find instructions on how to interpret your own entrails (sic) here)

Monday, February 01, 2016

Winners and losers

Auckland is closed today (Anniversary Day) and of course Artspace is too but behind those closed doors there's a major reno going on. The sign on the door says Artspace will be open again tomorrow and it is certainly going to be a case of more-open-than-usual. The old Nga Taonga Sound & Vision space facing East Street has now become part of Artspace itself as an expansive open area for reading / resources / offices. No more wondering if you dare go through the glass door at the back of the gallery and venture past the toilets and into that office where everyone spins around as you come through the door. OK, some fashion stores do the intimidation thing better, but not many. We're told that Adnan Yildis, Artspace's newish director, figured out how to rejig Artspace a couple of hours after he first saw it. Now, thanks to Sue Gardiner acting as über fundraiser, his idea has been realised just a year after he took up the job. The only loser in the revamp was Oscar Enberg. Having taken on the Christmas Holidays slot, he might have expected his show to be on view for longer than usual, but when we got there it had been ‘Christoed’ to protect it while the builders and painters were doing their thing. Unfortunately it is squeezed at the other end by the opening of Fiona Clarke’s THE BILL to mark the 30th anniversary of Homosexual Law Reform in NZ. No one would suggest mucking around with that important anniversary but maybe the same energies that are galvanising Artspace will find a temporary venue so Enberg’s exhibition can get its full run.

Images: Looks like art, Oscar Enberg’s installation under wraps during the Artspace re-fit.

Friday, January 29, 2016


At the Gluten Free Museum the mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye, is removed from works of art. More here.

Images: top to bottom, Vincent Van Gogh La méridienne dit aussi La sieste (d'après Millet), Wayne Thiebaud Cake slice and Colin McCahon A grain of wheat (thanks L, very droll)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Blame Canada

The Canadian artist Lawren Harris was being given some serious attention in LA when we passed through recently. He was a member of the Group of Seven who in the 1920s set the tone for modern Canadian painting in the same way that Colin McCahon and Rita Angus did here later. Looking at Harris’s paintings McCahon certainly came to mind and there may well be a direct connection too because in 1938 The Exhibition of Contemporary Canadian Paintings toured New Zealand proving very influential. We know, for instance, that the 30-year old Rita Angus was very taken with the painter Emily Carr. And you have to wonder whether the 19-year old McCahon saw the works by Lawren Harris in the exhibition. Leo Bensemann certainly became a fan boy, but perhaps McCahon found Lawren's striking landscapes an inspiration. In 1939, a year after the Canadian exhibition toured, McCahon turned up with his stripped down painting Harbour Cone from Peggy's Hill. Surely the spirit of Harris is walking on those Dunedin beaches. Onto the research agenda with it.

Images: Top, left Lawren Harris Lake Superior 1928 and right detail. Bottom Colin McCahon Harbour Cone from Peggy's Hill

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Art in the movies: The art of more

Change out the raucous music business  for art and white folk and dah dah - the TV series Empire becomes The art of more. Centered on the battles between two auction houses not a million miles away from Sotheby’s (Parke-Mason) and Christie’s (DeGraaf's), The art of more presents an eclectic range of collectables (cars, space junk and sports memorabilia). Fortunately for OTN art is certainly the lead husky when it comes to cash accumulation. The series producers Chuck Rose and Gardner Stern didn't see the need for an art consultant on the team as they knew themselves what was going on and good for them as it certainly makes the series more fun. A (spoiler alert) faked van Gogh (an odd mix of The starry night, an olive tree painting and some general landscape stuff) easily fools the experts at both Parke-Mason and DeGraaf's as well along with all the other ‘experts’ who inspect it before auction. Well-known paintings from the Met go under that hammer and there's also a contemporary art auction where it gets a little wild. Jeff Koons’s Rabbit is recast as a painting and a stuffed deer in a bath (death-of-Marat-style) takes centre stage. The deer inspires the best art insight of the show when a core cast member explains, 'The artist is saying that it’s a privilege for the deer to die on its own terms and not on the terms of the humans that turned its habitat into concrete and acid rain. That it’s suicide is power.' Dead on.

Images: top to bottom, the fake van Gogh, the Met helps out with auction fodder and conversation with a dead deer

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What a concept

In April the next big show at Tate Britain focuses on conceptual art of the sixties and seventies. It should be the highlight of Billy Apple’s career as he was making conceptual art at the Royal Collage as early as 1960 (Body cleaning : extraction/subtraction) and changed his name to Billy Apple as an artwork in 1962. Although we don't yet have a complete list of the artists to be included in Conceptual art in Britain: 1964-1979, from the promotional material released so far, Apple is unlikely to be even included far less showcased. What does an artist have to do? Tate owns two conceptual pieces by Apple from the earliest days of conceptual art in Britain, both dated 1962. It might not happen often but maybe this is an artist who picked up on an idea too early! A frequent writer on Apple’s work once talked about, 'a general forgetfulness that dogs Apple’s career' but this time it feels like fate itself is against him. There is a small ray of hope, the exhibition’s research brief asked for, ‘analysis of the course of conceptual art in Britain from its genesis in the early and mid-1960s until the late 1970s’ so maybe the 'early' word will allow Apple to slip in. The possibility that Apple heading for New York (the center of contemporary art) in August 1964 might mean he forfeits his chance for the recognition he deserves as a pioneer conceptualist would be well beyond ironic. We’ll keep you posted

Images: conceptual art by Billy Apple in the Tate collection. Left Relation of Aesthetic Choice to Life Activity (Function) 1961–2  and right Self Portraits (Apple Sees Red on Green) 1962