Strangers Arrive – Leonard Bell: WORD Christchurch Festival 2018

image_proxyWelcomed by Marianne Hargreaves, Executive Director of WORD Christchurch Festival, Leonard Bell enthralled us on Wednesday night with his presentation on artists that emigrated to New Zealand, and their influence. His book Strangers Arrive: Emigrés and the Arts in New Zealand, 1930–1980 was published in November 2017 by Auckland University Press.

Leonard Bell is associate professor of art history at the University of Auckland. His writings on cross-cultural interactions and representations and the work of travelling, migrant and refugee artists and photographers have been published in New Zealand, Britain, the United States, Australia, Germany and the Czech Republic. He is author of Marti Friedlander (Auckland University Press, 2009), Colonial Constructs: European Images of Maori 1840–1914 (AUP, 1992) and In Transit: Questions of Home and Belonging in New Zealand Art (2007). He is co-editor of Jewish Lives in New Zealand (2012).

Using fascinating art images he regaled the audience with stories of artists’ forced migrations here fleeing from Nazism, communist countries or displacement after the Second World War. Making connections between displacement and creativity he follows the journey of photographers, architects, sculptors, writers, painters and other artists, the places these artists connected with each other, and and their influence on emerging New Zealand artists.

He also discussed the reception they received from general society and the inspiration they were to some local artists such as Colin McCahon. They brought with them modern styles of art unseen here which in turn changed the local art scene forever. We owe a lot to these artists.

His talk has inspired me to read his book Strangers Arrive: Emigrés and the Arts in New Zealand, 1930–1980and to delve a little more into New Zealand art history.

Find out more

Sanitoriums and Dust Jackets: Cool Stuff from the Selectors

9780993191190Holidays in Soviet Sanitoriums

I couldn’t resist the title Holidays in Soviet Sanitoriums:

Holidays in the USSR were decidedly purposeful.  Their function was to provide rest and recreation, so citizens could return to work with renewed diligence and productivity

So, no lounging by the pool or sipping a pinacolada for these folk then?  The sanitoriums turned out to be a cross between a medical institution and a form of summer camp, complete with exercise regimes, edifying and educational talks, and strictly healthy but bland diets.

Many of these institutions have closed, some have become more like the western ideal of a spa complete with mud wraps and the like, while others have maintained their strict adherence to alternative forms of physical therapy.  For a fee, you can soak in crude oil, be wrapped in paraffin, wax, endure electrotherapy – or for the really adventurous, spend your summer vacation in a salt mine breathing in the pure minerals and sharing a curtained off dormitory area metres underground.

As well as the information about the therapies available, there is also fascinating insight into the architecture of the time with photographs alongside the interesting stories of the healing properties meted out in these unique institutions.

9780500519134The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970

I nearly always judge a book by its cover, it is an enticement…a taste of things to come, but I sometimes find myself  wondering if I have read a particular book as so many of the more recent book covers look very alike.

The covers in the era 1920-1970 were works of art in their own right.   Representing a variety of art styles from Art Deco, Modernism, postwar neo-romanticism and the intriguingly named Kitchen Sink School (Wikipedia tells me a form of social realism depicting the situations of the British working class), this book includes over 50 artists mainly from the US and the UK.  It is beautifully put together by the publishers Thames and Hudson and is a lovely book to dip into, both to read about the artists and to admire the beauty and detail of the covers.

Recent necrology, May 2014

Some well-known people who have died recently

  • Cover of I Know Why The Caged Bird SingsMaya Angelou, 1928-2014
    American poet, novelist and civil rights activist
  • Jack Brabham, 1926-2014
    Driver with an engineering flair who was the first man to win the Formula 1 title in a car of his own making
  • Lorraine Cohen, 1943-2014
    Woman at the centre of an infamous international drug case
  • Don Donovan, 1933-2014
    New Zealand writer and illustrator
  • Radu Florescu, 1925-2014
    Romanian historian who claimed Bram Stoker based Count Dracula on real-life Vlad the Impaler
  • Cover of A Daughter's TaleH. R. Giger, 1940-2014
    Swiss artist who brought his hellish, eroticised creatures to Hollywood, winning an Oscar for Alien
  • Antony Hopkins, 1921-2014
    Composer and conductor whose infectious enthusiasm animated his BBC broadcasts for four decades
  • Robert Masters, 1917-2014
    Violinist who played at the Coronation, taught Nigel Kennedy and created Yehudi Menuhin’s orchestra
  • Barbara Murray, 1929-2014
    Actress from the Rank Charm School who starred in Passport to Pimlico
  • Mary Soames, 1922-2014
    Last of Churchill’s children, who acted as ADC to her father and wrote an acclaimed life of her mother
  • Cover of Mary Stewart's Merlin TrilogyMary Stewart, 1916-2014
    Author of romantic thrillers who wrote for love not money, and had an intuitive feel for the past
  • Philip Sugden, 1947-2014.
    Historian who brought a new, much-needed scholastic rigour to Jack the Ripper’s crimes
  • Joe Wilder, 1922-2014
    Trumpeter noted for the beauty of his tone who played with Count Basie and the New York Philharmonic

Recent necrology, April 2014

Some well-known people who have died recently:

  • Rubin Carter, 1937-2014
    Boxer wrongly convicted of murder who found Bob Marley fighting his corner
  • Cover of Love in the Time of CholeraAlan Davie, 1920-2014
    Artist who won the admiration of Rothko and Pollock and later embraced ‘magic symbolism’
  • Bob Hoskins, 1942-2014
    Actor who excelled as the tough but engaging anti-hero of Mona Lisa and The long good Friday
  • Richard Hoggart, 1918-2014
    Commentator and academic whose Uses of Literacy lamented the impact of mass culture on traditional working-class life
  • Doris Pilkington, 1937-2014
    Aboriginal author whose story of Australia’s stolen generation inspired a film starring Kenneth Branagh
  • Cover of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4Mickey Rooney, 1920-2014
    Icon of American youth and energy who was as prolific in his marriages as he was on screen
  • Patrick Seale, 1930-2014
    Author who deputised for Kim Philby in Beirut and became the pre-eminent expert on Syria
  • John Shirley-Quirk, 1931-2014
    Former science teacher turned bass-baritone whose talents proved an inspiration to Benjamin Britten
  • Sue Townsend, 1946-2014
    Writer whose diaries of spotty teenager Adrian Mole became a publishing sensation
  • Owen Woodhouse, 1916-2014
    NZ jurist and chair of government commissions, notably workers’ accident compensation

‘Art’ is in the eye of the beholder?

Is it art or graffiti? If you’ve been meaning to check out the record breaking Rise street art exhibition, that is showing at Canterbury Museum, you’ve only got a little while before it wraps up on March 23rd.

Cover of Subway ArtI expect the huge colourful murals created by local and international artists currently adorning walls around the central city, will be with us a lot longer and may continue the discussion that’s been sparked over what constitutes art as opposed to graffiti.

Vigorous debate has played out in Christchurch newspapers over the past few weeks, but you can make your own mind up!   For more on the world of street art, there are plenty of books available, and an excellent starting point would be the seminal work Subway Art by Martha Cooper & Henry Chalfont.

The exhibition features a private collection of works by Banksy, who is no stranger to public comment and curiosity. More on this mystery man can be found at our libraries.  I’ve just finished Banksy: The man behind the wall which, while it could have benefited from some judicious editing in my humble opinion, does give an insight into the secretive artist and his street art/graffiti origins in Bristol.

Cover of Banksy: The Man Behind the WallOne of my Banksy favourites of the exhibition, was ‘Kids on Guns’, but ‘Kids on Gins’ by the artist known as Milton Springsteen is a brilliant take on the original.  As are his subversions of iconic New Zealand art works.  His series of ‘Corrupt Classics’ was one of the exhibition delights for me.

On the flip side, if it’s graffiti and tagging that’s an issue for your own property or neighbourhood, the Christchurch City Council wants to know.  If you’d like to take an active role in helping remove graffiti from around the city then the team at the Graffiti Programme would love to hear from you!

Two of my favourite large street art works are these ones on a couple of walls in Sydenham.

Street ArtStreet Art

What’s your take on this style of art? Love it or loathe it?

Art and heritage at South Library

photo of exhibitionThis month at South Library we are fortunate to have two stunning exhibitions on show which highlight lost heritage treasures in Christchurch. Artist Rudolf Boelee is showing portraits of artists and photographs of their houses from the Eastside of Christchurch and quiltmaker Kathleen Burford is displaying three magnificent heritage themed quilts.

Rudolf had a showing last year for his portraits and the exhibition is due to tour public galleries around the South Island from late 2014 onwards. As always we are keen to support local artists with our display wall and give their works additional exposure. There is also a link to his e-book Eastside  about the original exhibition at the Linwood Community Arts Centre. This show had 24 portraits, of which 12 are on display at South Library.

Rudolf says ” The idea for this project came after reading of former Christchurch Art Gallery curator Neil Roberts’ predicament of living in a perfectly good but red zoned house. The house is significant from a New Zealand art historical perspective; it was designed by sculptor designer Tom Taylor for renowned painter Bill Sutton, who lived there from 1963 until his death in 2000. It seems insane that this great place might just be demolished for no good reason. The new plan for the rebuild will change Christchurch even further, so my work is a type of mapping of what we still have here now.”
“Most of the artists approached, I had known for a very long time and the majority of them have been living and working in this neighborhood as long as I have. Some are still in their houses/studios but others have not been that fortunate, everyone carrying on though in their new circumstances in one way or another. The eastside of Christchurch has always had a proportionately larger population of artists, including: Colin McCahon, Bill Sutton, Rudolf Gopas, Doris Lusk, Tony Fomison, Rita Angus, Leo Benseman. The geographical area for “EASTSIDE” is roughly between Montreal Street / Bealey Avenue / Linwood Avenue / Ferry Road, The project, as an exhibition, is of 24 artist portraits, each a same size painting, 60 x 60 cm: acrylic on hessian on board.”

The exhibition EASTSIDE@ South Library runs until 8 November.

We also have a series of 3 quilts from Kathleen Burford titled: Lost Heritage recreated in Fabric. The quilts are based on the encaustic tiles on the front and side walls of the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings. Kathleen worked from photographs to try and replicate the colour of the tiles.  Nelson quilter Bev Dyke helped with the machining. This exhibition is listed in the Reconnect experience heritage event programme and runs until 31 October.

do it

Cover of do itOh, the serendipitous finds of the new books shelf!

The best thing I’ve found this week (actually, this month; maybe even this year) is a book called do it.

According to the editor’s introduction, this is a ‘collage of beginnings’. The book itself is a collection of works by artists from 1993 to the present, and grew out of a project exploring instructional procedures as an art form. The publisher’s blurb makes reference to “the question of whether a show could take “scores” or written instructions by artists as a point of departure, which could be interpreted anew each time they were enacted”.

That’s all a bit arty for me, so I will just describe how I see it:  this is a book of instructions by artists on how to Make Art.  It’s a bit like paint-by-numbers (and we all remember how cool THAT was when we were kids), but in a grown-up, arty-farty kind of way.

For example, Dimitar Sasselov’s A Walk in Our Cosmic Neightborhood (2012) begins “Walk out on a clear evening in November to a dark spot where you can see the stars”, then carries on to detail what stars you should look for, how to sketch them, and what they are called, and ends with the instruction to “Imagine the possibilities”.

Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Sculpture for Strolling (1995) is a recipe for creating a metre-wide sphere from daily newspapers (adding one paper a day after reading it).  On completion, you are invited to roll the newspaper sphere outside in the streets and the squares as a “sculpture for strolling”.

Jonathan Horowitz (Untitled, 2002) offers this:  Choose two things that are similar and or different; while David Askevold lays out quite detailed instructions on how to prepare a shrunken head (titled, of course, On Shrinking a Head (2004)).  He even helpfully suggests possible clients: “a deceased relative, friend, lover or oneself”.

There ‘s a project that begins with  satellite TV channels, the Fibonacci sequence, and a digital recording device; and ends with a mosaic that is “… a simplistic representation of one edge of the multifaceted media matrix.” There’s a recipe for making cocaine, one for a cubic metre of bird feed, and one for fried cellular phones.

Obviously some of these projects or artworks are a little more achievable than others, and I’m kind of hoping that some of them aren’t really designed to be ‘made’ at all, but it’s an astonishing book, and I am mesmerised by it! There’s often discussion in mainstream media about art installations, and what actually constitutes an artwork (and we’ve got some great books here in the library about this), so while you’re thinking about all of that, why not have a go at one or two of the projects yourself?  And then let us know how it went …

Recent necrology, June 2013

A list of well-known people who have died recently:

Recent necrology, February 2013

book coverA list of well-known people who have died recently:

Words and pictures

There’s a few things in the library that we librarians have a love-hate relationship with.  Sophisticated picture books are one of those things. Clearly, we love books – did I mention we are librarians? And clearly we also love order (librarians!).

And sophisticated picture books (you know, those over-sized books you find in the kids’ area, which look like picture books, but are way too grown-up for your average three year old) are truly things that inspire both love and hate in many of us. Well, in me, anyway. These books are big. Picture book big. But we classify them as children’s fiction, and so we have to find creative ways of shelving them in areas where they tower over their tiny brothers and sisters, lurk at the ends of shelves, get left in piles at the ends of rows, or even (gasp!) get hidden in the actual picture book bins. My librarian’s soul hates this uncertainty.

But oh! the books themselves. Given an unlimited budget and a house with an extra dimension to hold an infinite library, I would empty my wallet and fill my bookshelves with these works of art.

Tohby Riddle, Colin Thompson, Gary Crew, Shaun Tan, Dave McKean, Ben Templesmith: all artists who have the gift not only of art but of language.  Sometimes they write and illustrate, sometimes they team up with others to create books that truly transcend boundaries.  [Insert drivellingly adoring comment about the partnership between Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean].

Most of the time these books end up in the children’s area, but sometimes the content is just too grown-up for this, and you have to go exploring a bit further. Gaiman and McKean often end up with the adult graphic novels, along with Templesmith, whose art is gloriously bloodthirsty in a hauntingly horror-filled mixed-media, overlaid transparency and watercolours kind of way; and Gary Crew and Shaun Tan can be found loitering in the teens’ section. Both Shaun Tan and Neil Gaiman’s works have been turned into astonishingly beautiful movies – we have The Lost Thing here in the library on DVD, and Gaiman’s Mirrormask can be found in places like Alice’s. Colin Thompson’s illustrations have been turned into jigsaws and you can buy Tohby Riddle’s signed artwork online.

Above all, though, you can find them here at the library. It would make me more than happy if you came and found these books and took them home with you. Not only will you too be able to share and appreciate the beauty of these works of art, but then I won’t have to worry about how to shelve them …