Bill Culbert is a New Zealand artist possibly better known in Europe than in his native land, but that should change in 2013. In April he was awarded the first honorary doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Canterbury and on his return to England he set to finalising the plans for his representation of New Zealand at the 2013 Venice Biennale.
Making light work is the first substantial work on “the ideas, materials and conditions that have formed Culbert’s art for the past fifty years”. It’s the closest most of us will get to Venice and should help the reader to opine in an informed manner when the Biennale works are unveiled.
Anna Hodge, an editor at Auckland University Press, described it as an expansive monograph and a meticulously researched feat of scholarship and friendship.
Ian Wedde is the author and he is just the man for the job of explaining Culbert’s art; Wedde is the Poet Laureate, a fiction writer, essayist, curator and critic who worked closely with Bill Culbert on the book.
Incorrigible eavesdropper that I am I was riveted to hear from behind me that “Ian’s really loosened up, I find his poetry a lot more accessible” and the response “the skill is the rendering down, not the bulking up”. Indeed.
Wedde pointed out that this was a talk about getting to Venice. If you’re not going, you can see the Creative New Zealand Road Show (if it comes to Christchurch). The trajectory of Culbert’s practice has taken him from learning about light at Hutt Valley High to creating works with salvaged materials; from perforations on the wall with light shining through them, to floor mounted works, to installations of light.
In his long career, Culbert has asked the same questions although he has answered them in different ways; questions about patterning, about where is the surface, about what is depth and not depth and what is movement.
At the session question time Wedde got the question he was expecting – “can you give us a hint of what will be shown at Biennale?” He answered that it will be a walk through space including some of the space used when et al represented New Zealand. Audible gasps from the audience. There will be objects and at the end there will be a structure. So far so good. Wedde speculates that this will be a 3-D hut structure made of flourescent tubes that can be stood in and the viewer will be able to look up and see the sky. Which he hopes will be blue.
So now you know.