Te Awanui exhibition booklet for sale, NZ$10 or £5 + postage. Limited edition 28 page full colour booklet with images of all the paintings plus text that tells the stories and historic references of the work. Email duanemoyle@yahoo.co.nz

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Te Awanui is one of the earliest names given to the Tauranga area. Growing up in Mount Maunganui I thought it was a quiet, tranquil, if slightly sedate tourist destination. History reveals it to be a place of drama, treachery, war, peace, enchantment and treasure.

The ten works presented here delve into the history and cultural significance of the geography of Tauranga, utilising traditional Maori motifs as well as addressing European and colonial traditions of landscape painting.

The paintings continue my recent explorations into ideas of craft, decoration and sacredness. With these paintings, geometric tukutuku structures are overlaid with translucent landscape images to explore the harmonics of pattern, as well as cross-cultural ideas of depiction, visuality and narrative. Each painting references a specific event or significant era in Tauranga’s history, with tukutuku patterns chosen or invented for their symbolism or graphic appropriateness.

These works will be exhibited at Fisher Brown Gallery, 57  9th Avenue, Tauranga, from the 5th to the 20th of March 2010. The opening night is Friday the 5th March.

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Nga Roimata o Mangatawa (The Tears of Mangatawa)

Legend tells of a whale and her baby who swam into Tauranga harbour, past Matapihi and Maungatapu where they found the water was getting too shallow. Realising the need for deeper water they swam into the Rangataua arm of the harbour instead of heading back out the harbour entrance. They struggled over the mudflats as they could hear the sound of the waves at Te Akau (now known as Arataki). They soon grew tired and thirsty so they stopped to drink from a spring at Karikari not realizing that it was a magic spring that turned them into stone. There they were fixed forever, side by side facing northwards toward the open sea. The father whale came in search of his family and he too drank from the spring and became fixed behind the mother and baby. The father is known as Kopukairoa, the mother as Mangatawa and the baby is Hikurangi.

Mangatawa was also once known as Maungamana and some believe this indicates it was of greater significance than Mauao. It was one of the earliest Maori settlements where Tamatea ariki nui, captain of the Takitimu canoe, planted the sacred flax wharawharanui. Mangatawa is also where Tamapahore retired to after the Battle of Kokowai and where he is buried.

In recent times the most sacred part, the northernmost knoll, was quarried out of existence to construct the wharves at Mount Maunganui and to reclaim land for the Tauranga Harbour Bridge.

The tukutuku structure is a variation of a Roimata Toroa pattern. This pattern symbolizes the tears of the albatross (toroa) who carried Pourangahua from Hawaiki to the East coast of New Zealand but were then neglected by him and not given their due respect.

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Te Pakanga o Kokowai (The Battle of Kokowai) c1700

The Ngati Ranginui tribe lived undisturbed on the slopes of Mauao until approximately 1700 when they fell foul of the Ngai Te Rangi of Maketu. The Chief of the Ngai Te Rangi, Kotererua, devised a plan to sack the virtually impregnable Ranginui pa. The attack was aided by the stormy, dark conditions which meant that there would be less visibility for detection of intruders. Kotererua came to the entrance of the pa with one hundred and forty warriors of his tribe and a gift for Kinonui, the principal Chief of Mt Maunganui. The visitors stated intentions were that of making peace with Ranginui but in reality the gift baskets of kokowai (red ochre pigment) had only a thin layer of kokowai that concealed weapons. Others in the attacking party had been busy making holes in the Ranginui canoes so that any who tried to escape would drown. As the two chiefs discussed important diplomatic matters, most of the Ngai Te Rangi warriors climbed the northern face of Mauao, attacked and captured the summit, then waited for the signal to come down to attack the rear of the main pa. A Ngai Te Rangi messenger arrived and spoke quietly to Kotererua, telling him that everything was ready. The visitors left the whare, jammed the door shut and set fire to it, incinerating all who were inside. The remaining Ranginui were slain in a brief battle or drowned as they attempted to escape and Mauao was claimed for the Ngai Te Rangi.

My painting is looking up at Mauao from the base, in-between the harbour and the sea, with a tukutuku structure based on the Kaokao pattern which is thought to represent the arms and torso of warriors in the action of a haka. This pattern was dedicated to the war-god, Tumatauenga, and used to inspire warriors before battle.

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Te Manuwhakahoro (Birds or Kites Made to Fall)

Some time after the Battle of Kokowai, Te Kumikumi of the Waitaha people (near Te Puke) was killed by a party of Ngai Te Rangi. His son’s Ruataumanu and Whiti devised a plan to avenge their father’s death. They learnt the art of kite making and one early morning they flew their kites on the shore near Hopukiore (Mt Drury) to simulate a flock of birds diving on a school of fish. The Ngai Te Rangi living on Mauao saw what they believed were birds and rushed down to the beach with their nets ready to catch fish. The birds fell out of the sky and the exhausted fishermen were attacked by the waiting Waitaha warriors who massacred them on the beach in front of Motuotau (Rabbit Island).

The view I have chosen is the view the Ngai Te Rangi victims would have looked upon as they came racing down Mauao to catch fish. The tukutuku structure is one I have created based on the traditional shape of a Maori kite.

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Te Takahi o Ngapuhi (The Approach of the Ngapuhi) 1820

In 1820 the Ngai Te Rangi pa on Mauao was attacked by the Ngapuhi from Northland who had recently acquired guns from European traders. The Ngai Te Rangi had no firearms and were heavily defeated, with over three hundred killed.

My painting is the view from the water as the canoes approached Pilot Bay, where the battle was to take place. Mauao is stretched to take the look of an impenetrable fortress, a fearsome, treacherous stronghold that it once was. The tukutuku structure is the Poutama design which represents the steps of progress and advance, a growth and ascension to higher levels of learning and achievement.

The defeat of the Ngai Te Rangi was the result of a technological advancement. The Ngapuhi had “progressed” from traditional weapons to more sophisticated and far more deadly firearms. The introduction of firearms into Maori warfare began a terrible chapter in New Zealand’s history and had devastating results throughout the country. It is estimated at least 20,000 Maori were killed in the musket wars from the 1810’s until the 1840’s, making it the most costly war New Zealand ever took part in.

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Matakana

Matakana means distrust, observant, wary or watchful. If you climb Mauao up the four wheel drive track you see an excellent view of Matakana Island snaking off towards Bowentown. I imagine that this would have been a vital sentry point for the inhabitants of Mauao, a perfect vantage point to spot any intruders hoping to cross the narrow channel to land on the sandy beach on the other side.

The Niho Taniwha pattern was chosen as Matakana looks like a giant sea creature slithering toward Mauao.

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Patikitiki (Abundance) 1820

In 1820 the Reverend Samuel Marsden travelled through Thames and the Karangahake Gorge to the summit of Hikurangi in the Athenree Gorge where he looked down onto Tauranga. He was the first European to sight the harbour of what Captain Cook had named the Bay of Plenty. On June 23rd 1826 the mission schooner Herald dropped anchor in Tauranga harbour, making it the first European vessel to enter the harbour.

The name Cook gave to the region has proven to be very appropriate with an abundance of seafood and rich soil providing plenty of food for the many Maori and European settlers who chose to live there. The view I have used is from the Minden lookout which shows the grand sweep of the bay and the harbour.

The Patikitiki tukutuku design speaks of this abundance of provision, enough for the whole iwi. The diamond shape is based on the diamond shape of the flounder, a good source of sustenance for many coastal tribes, and also relates to the star constellation near the Milky Way known as the Coal Sack which also echoes the idea of multitude.

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Te Maungarongo (The Peace Making) 1845.

This painting speaks of two momentous occasions of peacemaking in Tauranga. The first happened soon after the Ngapuhi defeated the Ngai Te Rangi in 1820. The leader of the Ngapuhi, Te Morenga, was scouting around Otumoetai and Matua and decided to rest a while under the shade of a ngaio tree. Te Waru, the chief of Ngai Te Rangi, saw him there, crept up and captured him. Te Waru took him as a prisoner back to the remainder of the Ngai Te Rangi where he released him and demanded that Te Morenga bind him and take him back to the Ngapuhi war party at Pilot bay, who were at this time making preparations for a great cannibal feast on the slain Ngai Te Rangi. As Te Morenga returned to his people he was greeted by many who were eager to kill his prestigious prisoner. He ordered them to wait and he recounted the story of how mercifully he was treated when he was a prisoner of Te Waru. The Ngapuhi were so filled with admiration for the chivalrous conduct toward their leader they decided they would not fight against such a great man and declared peace between Ngapuhi and the Ngai Te Rangi. They also decided not to eat their slain enemies and gave them a respectful burial in caves on Mt Drury.

Throughout the first half of the 19th century the Bay of Plenty was the scene of many wars. The European traders who began to establish themselves in the area brought with them guns, where as the missionaries taught Christianity and a more formalized form of law and order. In 1842 Major Banbury and a detachment of soldiers were sent to Tauranga to curb the fighting between Arawa, Ngapuhi and Ngai Te Rangi. In 1845 a peace treaty was signed and a commemorative stone with the inscription “Te Maungarongo 1845” (the peace making) was set up at Maketu. From this moment until the land wars of the 1860’s peace reigned throughout the area with the local tribes happy to allow the European settlers to enforce the law.

This painting shows a serene Mauao and Tauranga Harbour from Sulphur Point. The name Tauranga means “safe anchorage” and aptly describes the Tauranga that we know today. The Tukutuku structure is borrowed from a design used in the Christchurch City Libraries to symbolize Aoraki. It is based on a Niho Taniwha pattern common in many traditional tukutuku panels which speaks of threatening mythological creatures and also a chief’s divine lineage.

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Alfred Nesbit Brown 1803 – 1884

Soon after the initial European settlers and traders came to New Zealand came the Missionaries. They were to have a massive impact on Maori all over the country, with teachings of forgiveness and brotherly love that challenged the long held tradition of utu and retribution. Alfred Nesbit Brown was a missionary that first visited Tauranga in 1834 to choose a site for a mission base. After several subsequent visits he became the resident missionary in 1838 and remained in Tauranga until 1883. For forty-five years he invested himself into the people of Tauranga, making efforts to bring peace, education, justice, order and a new way of thinking about life. These times were some of the most volatile and turbulent in all of New Zealand’s history with many inter tribal feuds boiling over and later the land wars of the 1860’s. Brown was also involved in purchasing the peninsula from Gate Pa to the mission at Te Papa for the future settlement of Europeans. Some historians state that Brown endeavoured to ensure fair trading so no land was stolen from Maori and no Maori sold land they had no right to, but many Maori to this day believe they were treated unfairly in the land purchase.

The tukutuku pattern is based on a cross (ripeka), the symbol of the church and other humanitarian causes. It also relates to the Porourangi pattern which is favoured by Ngati Porou of the East coast and is used to tell the story of Papa and Rangi, the earth mother and sky father of Maori mythology, cosmology and theology.

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Te Mamae Aroha o Pukehinahina (Gate Pa Lamentation) 1864

The battle of Gate Pa is one of the defining moments in the history of Tauranga. The scale of the battle, the chivalrous conduct of the warriors and the outcome are truly remarkable.
A confederation of Bay of Plenty tribes met to pledge their support for Waikato tribes who were opposing British forces. Tauranga was valuable as a possible route for British reinforcements who were needed in Waikato and also a route for Maori support wanting to help in Waikato. The presence of troops arriving in Tauranga was also seen as a threat to local Maori as they feared they would lose their land. The Maori expected the British troops to come and fight at Te Puna. Here they set out the rules of conduct based on recently learnt Christian principles that came to characterize the conflict. More British troops arrived and the Maori grew restless for battle and sent an invitation to the Colonel to come and fight. The British did not come so the Maori shifted the battle to the fence that bordered the mission land at Pukehinahina. The Maori constructed fortifications and dug trenches at the gate where the road to Oropi passed through, thus the name Gate Pa. This action constituted a threat to British communications.

On the 21st of April 1864 HMS Esk anchored in Tauranga harbour with Sir Duncan Cameron, additional troops and artillery men. On the 27th and 28th of April General Cameron began to move his 1700 troops south to Gate Pa to face the 250 defenders. On the morning of April 29 the trenches came under heavy cannon fire and as light began to fade Cameron moved his men forward to attack. There are many versions of what happened after the British advanced. Despite careful planning and what seemed like an appropriate strategy, the British were humiliated by a small number of ‘half naked savages’. What is well known is that after only a short period the British forces were retreating in disarray. The Maori success was due to their intricate fortifications, courage and discipline. The trenches were such that they could shelter from the continual bombardment in relative safety and then lie in wait for the British to come to them and have to face them at close quarters, which was to the Maori advantage. After a full day of cannons firing on the Pa, the British believed that either the Maori were all dead or had deserted the Pa. Once the British were in the trenches they were fired upon simultaneously from the hidden Maori resulting in a mass of casualties in a short time and no other option but retreat. The British soldiers were a well trained regiment who did everything according to plan but were soundly beaten. As the British regrouped the remaining Maori slipped away unnoticed, taking all of their wounded and leaving the pa deserted. Before leaving, Heni Te Kirikaramu heard the cries of a dying British officer calling out for water and in accordance with the charitable code of conduct she risked her own life to offer Colonel Booth some water.

The tukutuku pattern is a repeated coffin shape in remembrance of not only those who died at Gate Pa, but the many more who died a few months later when the British attacked the unfinished defences at Te Ranga. The title is a line from an old song of mourning.

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Wahi Tapu (Sacred Place) 06.02.2009

This work is inspired by my attendance of the Mauao dawn service on Waitangi day 2009. People from all cultural backgrounds gathered to climb Mauao, perform haka, sing songs, offer karakia and speak of hopes for the future. There was a strong sense of unity and diversity, with all who attended joined by a sense of sacred connection to our Mauao.

The tukutuku structure is one I have created that incorporates the typical architectural features of a church (white crosses) and a wharenui (red crosses). These places have been a vital community meeting place for New Zealanders for generations.

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Sources

1977. E.E Bush Tauranga – Aspects of its History

1988 J. Belich The New Zealand Wars. Penguin Books.

1989 B. Cunningham, K Musgrave. Ed L. Staniland. A History of Mount Maunganui. Commissioned by Mount Maunganui Borough Council.

1940, W. H. Gifford & H. B. Williams. A Centennial History of Taruanga. Capper Press.

2003, M. King. The Penguin Illustrated History of New Zealand. Penguin Books.

1990, L. W. Melvin. Horatio Gordon Robley; Soldier Artist in the Bay of Plenty 1864 – 1866. (an edited version of “Soldier with a Pencil” 1957) Tauranga Historical Society.

1980. E. Stokes. A History of Tauranga County. Dunmore Press.

1984. C. W. Vennell. Brown and the Elms. The Elms Trust

https://www.aucklandmuseum.com/site_resources/library/Education/Teachers_Guide/Teacher_Resources_Library/Maori_Education_Kits/Maori_03TukuTukuEdKit_1_.pdf

http://whakaahua.maori.org.nz/cats.asp?CatID=98&ParentID=12

http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Maori/Puawaitanga/Stories/

http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-MaiStor-t1-body-d1.html

http://www.tauranga.govt.nz/knowledgebase/tabid/624/qid/1139/tctl/1332_ViewQuestion/%5C

http://www.mangatawa.com/history.php

http://teaohou.natlib.govt.nz/journals/teaohou/issue/Mao21TeA/c21.html

http://www.maoridictionary.co.nz/

http://www.learningmedia.co.nz/nz/online/ngata/e2mdictionary

http://www.vcn.bc.ca/~celtic3/t-class.htm

http://www.library.tauranga.govt.nz/localhistory

http://www.willamette.edu/museum_of_art/education/pdf/maori_guide.pdf

Acknowledgements

Dean Flavell
Mereina Murray
Te Rahui August
Tommy Wilson (Kapai)
Cliff Simons
Alistair Reese
Darren Kiwi
Tai Tipene Clarke & Karmell Clarke

“If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams” Yann Martel

This is the last part of an article on Bojan Sarcevic by Jennifer Allen that appeared in the September 2008 issue of Frieze magazine. It has some very interesting connections to issues I have been thinking about in my recent flower paintings. I’ll get around to writing more about this soon. She refers to a text by Adolf Loos ‘Ornament and Crime’ (1909), that declares ornamentation to be degenerate. It is the beginnings  of the separation of craft and the applied arts from fine arts.

There’s a key sentence in Loos’ condemnation of ornament in his discussion of tattoos: ‘The urge to ornament one’s face, and everything in one’s reach, is the origin of fine art.’6 Many artists who sided with Loos would prefer to forget that he essentially wanted to free architecture and the applied arts from the fine arts; they wanted to free the fine arts from criminal ornament too. As Brüderlin notes, already in 1907 Paul Klee worried about distinguishing his work from ornament; by 1917 Hugo Ball sarcastically wondered whether abstract art would produce anything more than ‘a revival of ornament’; today calling an art work ‘decorative’ or ‘ornamental’ still constitutes an insult. Yet ever since Immanuel Kant put the fine arts and ornament together, they have shared the key criteria for aesthetic judgements: beauty and uselessness. Beauty may have since waned, but uselessness has not, despite the interactive drive of relational aesthetics and the spate of crossovers. Indeed, what is a ready-made, if not a useful everyday object taken out of commission: for example, a urinal that can’t be used since it’s only for decoration? Sarcevic not only embraces the ornament as a fully legitimate art but also shows that both ornament and decoration are vital social manifestations, which hold complex and often nomadic histories that link different cultures and time periods. By embracing ornament, Sarcevic has taken a very different path from many of his contemporaries, who have instead chosen to question the neutrality of Loos’ architectural Modernism, including Minimalism. Of course, that’s another obstruction.

 

I have just built a new website. duanemoyle.com . My original website was in need of a facelift and I have always been uncertain how to contextualise the two branches of my art practice, the personal and the commercial, so I have now separated them into two sites. duanemoyle.com will have my fine art, the work I do for my own artistic development, addressing themes, images and issues I find important and interesting. moylepainting.com will now serve as the site for my commercial work and will display portraits, landscapes, cars etc as well as information on prints and tutoring.

Now I can direct Galleries and curators to duanemoyle.com and those with more conservative requirements to moylepainting.com . For a long time I have been unsure of where I stand in relation to the conceptual vs decorative debate. I enjoy making work for people with specific subject and style requirements and it has been a steady source of income. (artists have to eat) But I know if this was all I did I would shrivel up and die inside.

http://duanemoyle.com   (click on link to the left)

GDP 1web

Here’s a funny article I found that addresses New Zealand attitudes toward modern art in 1937. Seventy-two years later and not much has changed. We are a nation of pragmatists.
http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-Gov11_06Rail-t1-body-d18.html#n57

I am now producing limited edition Giclee prints of a selection of my paintings. They are available in 3 sizes: A4, A3, A2. Each print is numbered and hand signed.

http://moylepainting.com

This work has come from a keen interest in Jamaican beauty, landscape and history. I have had the privilege of making several trips to Jamaica and have visited many parts of the island and met many wonderful people from all walks of life. Coming from New Zealand I have had the typical foreigner’s romantic enchantment with it’s warmth and tropical wonders, and yet this has been tempered with the hardship, chaos, crime and dangers that are ever present. It is a land of extremes, and a land easy to love. A land that looks so wondrous and brochure perfect (in parts) and yet that same land has witnessed some of the most horrendous crimes against humanity.

The location of the source image was deep in the Cockpit Country, (where Usain Bolt grew up) a mixture of wild jungle and farmed fields, and the ever-present sugar cane. The subject is mixed race, a descendant of both slave and slave master, victim and tyrant blended together to create what is now a very fashionable beauty. She stands with a confident model pose, looking directly at the viewer, calmly enjoying the sunshine and the surroundings.

What interested me was the fashion catalogue appeal of the land and the beauty that can come from it while acknowledging the bloodshed that has been before, the flaming blood red in the grasses being a sinister reminder of the bygone horrors. The land and the people of Jamaica have been healed and restored, but not completely.

Julie in Jamaica______2009, oil on canvas, 853 x 603mm, £500.

Julie in Jamaica______2009, oil on canvas, 853 x 603mm, £500.

I have been reading a book which has stimulated my thinking further about the fundamentals of why we make art. This blog will be the first of a few that tackle some of my ponderings on “Art for Whom and For What?” by Brian Keeble which, as the title suggests, tackles some large issues. Our omniscient friend Wikipedia tells us that “Art for Art’s Sake” “expresses a philosophy that the intrinsic value of art, and the only “true” art, is divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function.” We see evidence of this throughout modern art and it’s quest for the uncluttered essence of art and continual reduction and elimination of visuality until all we have is pure concept and what some in the 80’s called “The End of Art”. This is widely accepted as the status quo in contemporary art and something about it sounds pure and noble; all the trappings of regulations and dogma are pushed aside and the individual can boldly go – wherever. This pluralistic liberty is understandable if you take the secular world-view that we are simply a complex animal with no ultimate accountability and are completely free to formulate our own standards. Brian Keeble believes art should be in the service of the sacred and that our endeavours should be directed towards a communion with Divine Reality. “Even when we recognise the extent to which art embodies values that are incommunicable by any other means, still it is never the cause of it’s own significance. Art has to be significant of something; it addresses itself to something other than itself.” I have heard echos of the same sentiment in other writers that are quickly labeled as ultra conservative, nostalgic, or just plain ignorant of the developments in contemporary philosophy. This is an exciting challenge for me. I find myself aligning with these conservatives in that I have no interest in deconstruction, I want to understand truth and wholeness, and make art that is in service of this, not some vain, clever re-arrangement of the wreckage that has significance to me alone.  

The image below is one of the greatest paintings I have made. I painted it at the start of 2004 and was interested in the simplicity and clarity of the image and the name of the flower amused me: “Royal Highness”. It played with the notion of beauty and its disenfranchisement, but also, and more honestly, it addressed my own enchantment with romance and the daring possibilities of humility in art.

Royal Highness______2004, oil and acrylic on canvas, 300mm diameter.

Royal Highness______2004, oil and acrylic on canvas, 300mm diameter.

 
It’s been a while since my last post due to the distraction of employment. I’ve been working. For money. And that’s good but it means I have less time for more important things like painting, blogging, pondering the universe and staring at my bonsai trees. I’m a little sad to think about the looming possibility of permanent, full time employment and the limitations that will place on my art practice but money brings other freedoms.

 

Since my last post and my renunciation of my membership to the negative cynics club, I have been haunted by a dreadful word: sentimental. It conjures up ideas and images vastly opposed to that post-modern, disaffected, cool club that I have sought for so long to be a part of. How can I address love, joy, enchantment and celebration with out it being classified as maudlin, mawkish and bathetic? How can I paint the sweetness of flowers tenderly yet with strength and conviction, and in my own way critical of those things I find untenable? To be classified as sentimental is surely an insult and cause for great embarrassment. So in my time of trouble I turned to the big book, the dictionary. Sentimental is defined as: “weakly emotional; mawkishly susceptible or tender” and “artificially or affectedly tender; — often in a reproachful sense” “addressed or pleasing to the emotions only, usually to the weaker and the unregulated emotions.” These are the familiar negative definitions but there is also something about “sentimental” that appeals to me: “The tender emotions and feelings, as love, pity, or nostalgia” and “romantic, tender; characterized by refined feeling.” Perhaps the biggest irritation  to contemporary thinkers: “containing a moral reflection” After digesting these I am beginning to understand my position. It’s not sentimentality, cynicism, or even abject reflections on nihilism that I am opposed to, it is artificiality – which is dishonesty.  Rather than making ambitious, clever work I want to unravel what is important in life and make work that honestly reflects that. For now I want to address sweetness and beauty; images of loved ones, some flowers, some children, what ever stirs my soul. To dwell on the misery and gloom that shouts from every newspaper may be current but to focus on that without any reference to hope and redemption would be untruthful. I’m choosing not to ignore the grim realities, but in my experience they are inferior to love, domestic bliss and enchantment with beauty. It’s all very sentimental but that’s ok by me.

Ko Mauao te Maunga_____2008, oil on canvas, 502 x 705mm.

Ko Mauao te Maunga_____2008, oil on canvas, 502 x 705mm.

I’ve been having a pleasant and soothing time dwelling on things close to my heart. Irony isn’t one of them.

In recent years contemporary painting has been validating itself with self-aware parody, cynicism and irony. So as an eager young artist I developed a way to fit into this mode of criticality. The work I did for my masters (click link in blogroll at top left) was a strategic, carefully planned foray into making work that was witty and clever, as well as indulging in a form of classical painting that tickled my fancy. The results were magnificent – that sounds vain – and it is, but that’s what it was all about anyway. I wanted to make the boldest, slickest work possible, pushing myself forward as “The Prince of Painters” struttin’ his stuff and engaging with contemporary critical discourse. 

After making “The Philistine” (see first blog) and receiving many positive comments and feeling like my grand vision was hitting the mark, someone commented that it all seemed a bit flat, detached and clinical. True. And the dominating message was my love of painting. True. It was all brains and brawn but it had no heart or soul. I wasn’t being as honest as I could be. The love of painting was genuine, the issues and the critique were something I felt was a necessary addition to be taken seriously by the art world. I didn’t really want to mock painting, I love painting! The issues addressed are interesting but what would I paint if I didn’t bother trying to make my art all hip and contemporary? What images and issues are important to me?

I don’t have any interest in the grotesque, the abject, death, decay, vulgarity, and deconstruction. They are the currency of much art today but not something that flicks my switch. Clinging to avant-gardism and the relentless pursuit of novelty has also lost it’s gloss. As conservative as it seems, I want to paint sweet flowers, portraits of my beautiful wife, rich landscapes full of history and depth, which sound like the sort of thing your Nana might like. If sincerity was my new benchmark then joy, love and beauty are the issues most pertinent. I have a great life, I’m not bitter, angry or tortured. Recently I have been exploring specific interests through subjects that I find visually affirmative, personally potent and conceptually engaging. This work aspires to celebrate life through a medium that enthrals with its primary visuality. I aim to engage an audience in a deep way about important images, ideas and issues; making art in ways that I love for people I care for.

What on earth will all this look like? Am I in danger of becoming the Michael Buble of the art world? If someone calls me Katie Melua I will burn all my brushes. But perhaps by opting out of the current fashion, the work will stand out. “Moving with the times places you in a blind spot: if your part of the general tenor, it’s difficult to add a dissonant note.”S.Price(2002)Dispersionhttp://www.distributedhistory.com/Dispersion08.pdf                           This could put my career in jeopardy. Many galleries look out for things that “look like art”, they don’t really have a clue but if it looks like something out of step with the trends, they won’t touch it with a barge pole. 

Maybe I’ll eventually refute these statements and go back to satire and irony, they are kinda fun things, but for now I’ll speak direct and clear. As an example the image below is a recent work “Mother and Child”. It is a partial copy of a Raphael painting “Madonna of the Chair” that I chose for it’s sweetness and tenderness. Despite it’s original religious references it is simply a mother loving a child, a depiction of one of the strongest bonds in humanity. 

 

Mother and Child.    2009, oil on canvas, 542 x 453mm.

Mother and Child. 2009, oil on canvas, 542 x 453mm.