In August 2009 an exhibition was held at SOFA gallery featuring 15 artists with Canterbury connections. All are well known in the wider scope of contemporary New Zealand art and include Neil Dawson ( whose newest public art work, called Sky Lens, has just been erected in the City Mall), Seraphine Pick and Ronnie van Hout (exhibiting at Christchurch Art Gallery this year). The book associated with the exhibition is called Inner Landscapes: 15 New Zealand Artists with Canterbury Connections.
The book showcases the work and ideas of a range of artists who are connected or associated with the Canterbury region. Unlike past books of its type, it does not focus on the geography of the region but instead on the ‘Inner Landscapes’ of the artists: their ideas and inspirations. The range of artists is very varied, creating a mix of styles, ideologies, and career stages – from senior artists such as Philip Trusttum through to younger artists such as Hannah and Aaron Beehre. The artists were interviewed by Sally Blundell. She presents their words directly, allowing them to speak in their own voices in a plain-english style devoid of art-world jargon, thus leaving the reader with a sense of having a friendly conversation with the artist. This makes the book suitable to a wide audience – not just art experts. The excellent introduction by Justin Paton is written in a similar style – being open, accessible and easy to understand.
Like the writing, the excellent studio and portrait photographs by Diederik van Heyningen are realistic and intimate – sometimes uncannily so, with close-ups of the artists’ faces showing every wrinkle. This certainly fits with the de-glamourising tone of the book. I thought it was great to show our famous artists in this manner – as real people and not inaccessible icons. My only complaint is that the book could be enhanced by more practical examples about how the artists go about actually making their work – not just how they come across the ideas that inform their practices.