Modernist Motifs

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Two Galleries - One Exhibition Curated by Richard Wolfe

Transcript of Modernist Motifs

  • Modernist Motifs

  • John Blackburn Orange Square Oil & mixed media on canvas mounted on board 1200 mm x 2450 mm

  • Modernist MotifsA casually reclining nude from 1863 lays claim to being the first modernist painting. Olympia, by Edouard Manet (1832-83), turned her back on the past, firmly rejecting the idealized pose demanded by the aesthetics of the day. In the decades following this Salon sensation, painters increasingly explored alternative and innovative ways of presenting their world, and the aims of art and nature would appear incompatible. Another breakthrough was achieved around 1909 when Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) produced the first abstract art, a pictorial statement that rejected representation and made no reference to anything beyond the canvas. Other artists experimented with forms of abstraction, an activity that reflected changes taking place in the wider world. Science was now unravelling the mysteries of the atom, while Einstein was disposing of the traditional belief in the absolute and unvarying nature of matter.Direct experience of recent developments in European art had first reached New Zealand with the arrival in the early 1890s of the highly influential James Nairn (1859-1904), Petrus van der Velden (1837-1913) and Girolamo Nerli (1863-1926). Frances Hodgkins (1869-1947) took lessons from Nerli, and following her first visit to England in 1901 her work showed an increasing understanding of modernist developments. Her mature style is apparent in Burford High Street, Oxfordshire, c.1922, in which buildings and background landscape were flattened on the picture plane, and all elements connected by a fluid gestural line.Among those who introduced New Zealand to these new ideas from Europe was John Weeks (1888-1965), who taught at the Elam School of Art. Robert N. Field (1899-1987), an English artist and teacher brought here under the La Trobe scheme, proved inspirational for a younger generation of artists including M.T. Woollaston (1910-98) and, in particular, Colin McCahon (1919-87), who developed a highly personalised form of abstract expressionism.Milan Mrkusich (b.1925), a pioneer of abstract art in New Zealand, began painting in the late 1940s, initially attracted by a non-figurative geometric approach he knew only through reproductions in overseas publications. From this he developed formal arrangements of squares and circles, leading in the 1960s to his large signature monotonal colourfields. This reduction of elements, moving toward an abstract minimalism, was also a stimulus for the younger Geoff Thornley (b.1940), whose work is distinguished by shaped formats

    and grid-based compositions. Another early pioneer, who sought to reconcile European modernist ideas with a local reference, was Gordon Walters (1919-1995). In 1956 he began his extensive series of paintings based on derivations of the curvilinear koru motif, common to Maori decorative art. A similarly hard-edged approach to abstraction was adopted in 1976 when Elam-trained Ian Scott (b.1945) began his well-known and extensive Lattice series. On one level the over-and-under arrangement of their regular rectangular elements suggests a trellis, while also evoking the basket-weaving pattern common throughout the Pacific.English-born John Blackburn (b.1932) lived in New Zealand in the 1950s, and following his return to England began painting in a style influenced by the St Ives school. He developed an abstract approach, arranging simple and loosely articulated forms in a limited range of colours. Terry Frost (b.1915), also associated with the St Ives painters, studied at Camberwell School of Art, London, and developed an abstraction using simple geometric forms based on personal observations, such as boats in a harbour.Another English-born artist engaged in a form of abstraction is Auckland-based Matthew Browne (b.1959), a graduate of both Camberwell and Elam. His work echoes British modernists as well as American Expressionists, particularly Barnett Newman (1905-70), while his looping organic forms bring to mind those by French artist and Dadaist Hans (Jean) Arp (1887-1966). New Zealand-born Bridget Bidwill (b.1956) graduated from the Ilam School of Fine Arts, Christchurch, and under the influence of European modernism has developed what has been described as a personal alphabet of shapes, shadow-like elements with fleeting resemblances to such everyday objects as bottles and leaves.It is now 120 years since a Wellington reviewer described a coastal sketch by the recently arrived James Nairn as execrable in its nightmare of blues and greens. Since then, New Zealand artists with a proclivity for modernist and more extreme abstract tendencies, have encountered resistance in a culture with a traditional preference for realistic landscapes. But they have persisted, and their wide-ranging personal responses to the challenge have resulted in a constantly evolving body of modernist motifs that are, in the spirit of Olympia, both innovative and contemporary.

    Richard Wolfe, May 2013

  • Gordon Walters (New Zealand. Wellington 1919 - 1995 Christchurch)Painting No. 9 (Version 1) 1965 (Study) Genealogy series

    Ink on paper, 58 x 46 cm, Signed versoProvenance: Purchased from Walters' Studio 1974. Petar James Gallery, 1974

  • Milan Mrkusich (New Zealand, b. Dargaville 1925)Achromatic Dark with Red (Linear Series)

    Acrylic on Board, 120 x 120 cm, Signed and dated 1979 versoExhib. ACAG 1985 A Decade Further On 1974 - 1983. Catalogue # 31

  • Geoffrey Thornley (New Zealand b. Levin 1942)Albus Series

    Mixed media on paper laid on canvas, 71.5 x 72 cm, Signed verso.Studio Stamp Verso G R THORNLEY 1972 .. 3

  • Ian Scott (New Zealand b. Bradford U.K. 1945 )Lattice No. 36

    Acrylic on Canvas, 176.5 x 176.5 cm, Signed & titled verso, dated January '78Illus: Art New Zealand #9 Feb 1978 Pages 1 & 2

  • Sir Terry Frost (British 1915 - 2003)Stern, 1957

    Oil and Collage on Board, 27 x 32 cm, Signed, inscribed versoProvenance: The Artist's Estate. Exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, London June - July 2008

  • Sir Terry Frost (British 1915 - 2003)Millennium Disc 1999

    Murano Glass, 50 cm diameter, Signed and dated 1999Executed by Mario Badioli, Murano, Venice

  • Dame Barbara Hepworth (British 1903 - 1975)Two Marble Forms, Mykonos

    Lithograph on Barcham Green handmade paper, 1969, 81 x 59 cm, Signed 'Barbara Hepworth' Inscribed A.P.

  • James Ross (20th Century New Zealand)Red Book

    Silkscreen print, 550 x 750 mm, Edition 15/30

  • Frances Mary Hodgkins (New Zealand 1869 - 1947 )Arrangement of Jugs, 1938

    Lithograph, 45 x 60 cm, Signed Published by Contemporary Lithographs Ltd., London 1938Illustrated: E H McCormack Portrait of Frances Hodgkins p.123

  • Frances Hodgkins (New Zealand 1869 - 1947)Burford High Street, Oxfordshire, c. 1922

    Watercolour and pencil, 11 x 13 cm, SignedExhib: London, Tate Gallery, Frances Hodgkins Memorial Exhibition, 1952

  • Frances Mary Hodgkins (New Zealand 1869 - 1947 )River Tone, Somerset, c. 1939

    Watercolour, 53.5 x 37.5 cm, Signed lower leftExhibited. Leicester Galleries, London Oct. 1941, No. 107

  • Frances Mary Hodgkins (New Zealand 1869 - 1947 )Tunny Boats in the Harbour, Concarneau, c. 1910

    Black chalk and watercolour on paper, 59 x 60 cm,Provenance: Private collection, Montfort-l'Amaury, France

  • Norman Scott (New Zealand 1913 - 1978)Bishop's Bridge, London

    Oil on canvas, 50 x 61 cm, Signed lower right, dated '71Exhibited: Chenil Galleries, Kings Road, London

  • Bridget Bidwill (b. 1956)Stone Study I

    Acrylic & mixed media on primed paper, 520 x 730 mm, Signed & dated lower right

  • Bridget Bidwill (b. 1956)Stone Study II

    Acrylic & mixed media on primed paper, 520 x 720 mm, Signed lower right and verso

  • Bridget Bidwill (b. 1956)Winter

    Oil & mixed media on canvas, 705 x 1010 mm, Signed lower right front

  • Bridget Bidwill (b. 1956)Taylors Gold

    Oil and mixed media on primed paper, 550 x 750 mm, Signed lower right

  • Bridget Bidwill (b. 1956)Untitled Study I

    Oil & mixed media on canvas , 600 x 750 mm, Signed & dated front

  • Bridget Bidwill (b. 1956)Untitled Study II

    Oil & mixed media on canvas, 600 x 750 mm, Signed & dated front

  • Bridget Bidwill (b. 1956)Juniper

    Acrylic & mixed media on primed paper, 370 x 570 mm, Signed lower right and verso

  • Bridget Bidwill (b. 1956)Winter Table

    Acrylic & mixed media on primed paper, 550 x 490 mm, Signed lower right

  • John Blackburn (b. 1932)Orange Square

    Oil & mixed media on canvas mounted on board, 1200 x 2450 mm

  • John Blackburn (b. 1932)Grey Form with White Square

    Oil & mixed media on canvas mounted on board, 570 x 1130 mm, Signed lower right.Verso: Signed, inscribed Muriwai dated 2009

  • John Blackburn (b. 1932)Fence Line

    Oil & mixed media on canvas mounted on board, 920 x 1220 mm, Signed lower right dated 2009verso

  • John Blackburn (b. 1932)White L Shape

    Oil & mixed media on canvas mounted on board, 510 x 610 mm, Signed, titled & dated 28th March08 verso

  • John Blackburn (b. 1932)Building Blocks

    Oil & mixed media on canvas mounted on board, 350 x 400 mm, Verso: Signed, titled & dated 4 Feb2010, The Mount

  • Matthew Browne (b. 1959)Mahamaya

    Vinyl tempera & oilstick on canvas, 1800 x 1400 mm, 2011

  • Matthew Browne (b. 1959)Numen

    Vinyl tempera on canvas, 1600 x 1200 mm, Exhib: Wallace Awards 2012, Finalist

  • Matthew Browne (b. 1959)Noumena 2