Sumner Gas Works, two views, 1958 and 2010: Picturing Canterbury

Sumner Gasworks, two views, 1958 and 2010. Kete Christchurch. PH14-MaNo-SumnerGasworks-2Viewsl. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License.

View 1958: This is taken from a clay bank, looking down over the Sumner Gasworks on the corner of Wakefield Ave and Truro Street, Sumner. We lived in the stoker’s old home showing at the top left of the GasHolder ( which is still there today). Probably a rare view of the Gasworks which really doesnt seem to have had many photos taken of, apart from by our family who lived there about 45 years. The accompanying photo of my painting ( with the much smaller Gasholder ) is of the opposite view from our front door area.

View 2010: Triggered by the Sept 4 2010 Quake, I painted this watercolour of the Sumner Gasworks, which was situated on the corner of Wakefield Ave and Truro Street. My Dad, Roy Bradley, was a stoker there for 23 years from 1937 and stoked the last retort on Mon 20th Feb 1961. The Stokehouse was Demolished in 1970.

This is the View I lived with for 20 years. Is from our old home, the Stoker’s house next door. Painted mainly from memory with the help of a pencil sketch of my dad’s, and the background of a photo of family member. I’ve painted the Gas Holder much smaller than it was (artistic licence) as you will see in the other photo.

The painting view was just painted in 2010 but from sketches, old photo and memory. It is not how the Gasworks looked in 2010 as it was closed in 1960 and gone with-in a year or 2. I’d say the view I painted could be also dated as 1958 ( but painted 50 years later).

Date: 1958, 2010

Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by Margaret Norwood.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Do you have any further photographs of the Sumner Gasworks? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Get more from art

cover for Why your five year old could not have done thatI love looking at at paintings. I enjoy looking at the colours, how the artist has used the paint, the symmetries of compositions, and the impact of the whole thing brings me joy. Pragmatist though I am however, I always feel a twinge of guilt. Shouldn’t I be doing something more useful with my time than swanning around art galleries or messing around with paint? I am therefore indebted to an article I came across recently from Jane Norman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We are all pretty sophisticated when it comes to moving pictures. The speed with which we can follow and interpret them has been vastly increased due to film and television becoming a part of our daily lives. But what about the kind of static images you would see in a gallery? We are not so good at taking our time to look really at one image. According to her article  Jane Norman believes that

Having learned to think in words most of us must be re-educated to think in shapes and colors and space.

cover for How to look at a paintingShe goes on to explain that the proportions of simple shapes like rectangles can have a great impact on our environment, through architecture for example – something we are acutely aware of in Christchurch at the moment.

Taking note of how our environment is constructed and learning to really look at things can alter the way we relate to what is around us. Or, as the Buddhists would put it, allow us to be more mindful or present – something they believe increases our ability to fully experience the world. Looking at art therefore can be viewed as a sort of therapy for the Rushing Woman’s Syndrome and as such can be indulged in guilt free.

If this is what looking at art can do for us, how to begin? Well  it just so happens that the library has some great books  for both children and adults which can greatly improve anyone’s ability to get more from art. So get to it folks. As we create a new city being all tuned in can only help you look critically at what is to come.

Joy of portraits Kiwi style

book coverI’ve just discovered the New Zealand Portrait Gallery website and, during a quick browse around, this lovely portrait of the writer and scholar Dame Joan Metge caught my eye. To me it is a wonderful portrait revealing a beautifully aged face full of expression and wisdom. I love portraits  both painted and photographed. And libraries are great places for wonderful books full of portraiture.

A teenage job saw me working at the National Library in Wellington and one of the joys of the job for me was the discovery of a treasure trove of photography books full of wonderful portraits. I would sit on the stairs poring over them. This love has continued and some interesting New Zealand books of portraits include:

Our heritage photos contain some lovely photos of people like this one of the shoe-shine man in Cathedral Square and Elizabeth McCombs, New Zealand’s first woman MP.

If you want to visit the NZ Portrait Gallery it is housed in a beautiful old brick wharf shed on Wellington’s waterfront. Lots of writers’ portraits are among the treasures like this beauty of Janet Frame by Robin Morrison.

Do you have  a favourite portrait – or book of portraits?

Matisse gave me fat arms! The joy of arty anecdotes

CoverRecently the library purchased a new online book for the Credo Reference collection. Credo is this lovely online resource that contains 100 searchable and browsable online reference books. The book that caught my eye was called If the Paintings Could Talk. This book reveals the hidden histories of paintings in the National Gallery in London. Not in dry facts, but in funny and revealing stories like how ….

One day in 1965, a 15-year-old schoolgirl succeeded in making the National Gallery’s experts look foolish when she pointed out that they had hung a painting (Long Grass with Butterflies) of Van Gogh upside down! 

Richard Charles Jackson died in 1923 with only 5 shillings in his bank account, yet he left  two portraits from the studio of Rubens to the National Gallery. Jackson had been born to wealth but gave all of it away. He could be seen nightly on the Thames Embankment handing out food and money to the homeless. 

The National Gallery’s paintings were stored in a Welsh quarry to protect them from the Blitz in World War II. Due to public pressure it was decided to display one picture a month. Arrangements were made to carry the painting down to the cellar each night and whenever the air-raid sirens sounded. Long queues waited to take their turn in front of the chosen painting, often many more than had visited the gallery on a daily basis in peacetime!?

The artist, Piero Di Cosimo was so pyrophobic (afraid of fire)  that he cooked as little as possible, largely living off eggs which he boiled 50 at a time when he was making up the glue size for his paintings.

In 1908 Greta Moll had her portrait completed by the artist Henri Matisse, but confressed that when she saw her finished portrait she confessed, ‘the fat arms and heavy eyebrows bothered me”. I hear you Greta! I feel the same way when I look at my holiday snaps!

You can access Credo and many other interesting electronic resources at the Source using your library card number and PIN. Have a play and see what other clever morsels like these  you can gather to drop into conversation. Who doesn’t like a random fact over the dinner table?!

How DIY and flappy arms have hurt me

So I have decided this summer since I am poor but still reasonably able-bodied to do the exterior painting on my wee house. Luckily for me most of the house is brick  but the eaves and the barge boards (new word for today) were looking grim.

The problem with this is that I only have a two step ladder and  ‘tuck shop lady arms’ which do nothing to help sustain the movements of a  paint brush above my head! After six odd hours of this I was losing the will to live.  Today I am at work – and I ache. Don’t ask me to wave at you – I can not.  A grimace is all you get.

If you like myself are undertaking projects in Christchurch this summer then the library does have resources to help. It does pay to do your homework as there is nothing worse than being stuck in Bunnings trying to describe that you need paint for  “those woodie bits that your gutter are stuck to” to a bemused tradie!

We have the Home Improvement Collection that you can access 24/7 and print resources all on DIY.  Also of use upon reflection are items on weight training to make us all stronger –  personally I think I have done enough for one weekend – or at least until the second coat! Sigh.

The past awaits: An hour with Vincent Ward

CoverThe Boston Globe describes Vincent Ward as one of the world’s great image-makers, and the session I attend today at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival would certainly back this up.

As Vincent talks with Charlotte Ryan from bFM (who has great hair, by the way), we are treated to a selection of photos, movie stills, paintings and film clips that have mostly been selected from his recently published book, The Past Awaits: People, Images, Film. Accompanying this visual feast are anecdotes, notes and asides from Vincent, not just about the book and the process of making it, but also some truly deliciously icky Hollywood gossip, some secret (he made us promise not to tell) details about what he’s working on at the moment (a movie, a book, an art exhibition), and some real insight into what motivates him. 

In the past, he says, there has always been a division between different media. Film, photography and painting were all kept quite separate. “What interests me,” he says, “is saying, What if you didn’t have any of that separation?  If you could use all these media in layers in a single work, to express something in whatever way you need to?”

There is a great deal of audience buy-in, and supportive nodding, and some great questions at the end.  The session finishes with a question about what his overall message or theme might be, and Vincent says it’s about “… trying not to drown, but to swim, and trying to fly and not to fall.” 

This, I think, is a fitting description, perhaps, for what all the writers (and us festival-goers too) are trying to do, and I think about this, and write it down, and leave the festival behind for another year.

Watercolour – give art a go!

coverThis year I’m studying watercolour painting. It’s a tricky process. The paper needs stretching, the paint never stays where you put it and if you mix the wrong pigments together you end up with mud. It can be frustrating but when it works, watercolour is wonderful.

Forget the idea that watercolour paintings are limited to depicting bland landscapes and posies of flowers. Emil Nolde, Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso all used watercolour to create powerful images. One of my favourite contemporary watercolourists is British painter, Shirley Trevena. The artist’s rich and vibrant works are glorious and she discusses her approach in an open and easy-to-understand way.

New synthetic pigments have added a punch to the pale old palette and today watercolours are portable, reasonably priced, easily mixed with other mediums and are funky so why not give them a go? There is plenty of encouragement and tuition available through art groups and courses.  I can virtually guarantee that watercolours will prove a challenge right the way through 2011.

Painting a NZ Korean picture

Chichi Greemteo Painting ExhibitionArt exhibitions are not something that many people would immediately associate with libraries,  but then Christchurch City Libraries has always delighted in providing more than you think! 

So this month visitors to the library network are in for a double delight – while New Brighton Library is hosting the Bookish Artists exhibition, Upper Riccarton Library is featuring paintings by Chichi Geureemteo (i.e. Christchurch Art Gallery in Korean), a local Korean painting group.  The group has some 15-20 members who meet weekly at the library to work together.

The exhibition includes over 30 paintings depicting both New Zealand and Korean landscapes, as well as still life subjects, and there is some great talent on show.

But be quick to visit – the exhibition finishes on Sunday 24 October!

And if you are inspired to have a go at painting yourself, why not try some of the following links? 

Don Peebles – Painter (1922 – 2010)

Many other people (such as the formidable Barrs, or William McAloon) will eulogize on the late Don Peebles and his place in both the story of Canterbury/New Zealand art and of his very special role as a teacher and mentor for many artists.

Upon induction as an Arts foundation icon Peebles was described as

A key figure in the emergence and evolution of New Zealand abstract art, Don Peebles was known as a leading force in contemporary New Zealand painting and is one of New Zealand’s most senior and respected practitioners.

Don Peebles: the harmony of opposites Don Peebles: the harmony of opposites is a 1996 catalogue of  a major retrospective of the work of Don Peebles at the then Robert McDougall Art Gallery. With text and curation by Justin Paton, it also contains many plates illustrating the work. Of course if you don’t want to read it online you can also borrow the catalogue in paper.

The Peebles catalogue is one of the many  gems that the Christchurch Art Gallery has digitised over the past few years and offers an insight into a career of one of New Zealand’s pioneering abstract artists.

To find  images of Peebles work you can browse the collections of Te Papa, Christchurch Art Gallery and Auckland Art Gallery via Matapihi.

Farewell Don Peebles.

The quest for clarity – Riduan Tomkins

Book cover Riduan Tomkins painter, teacher and ardent traveller died recently after a prolonged illness. Tomkins, born in Dorset in 1941, studied at The Royal College of Art in London and was visiting Senior Lecturer, then permanent Senior Lecturer in Painting at the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts between 1986-1996. He is credited with influencing a generation of New Zealand artists including Séraphine Pick currently exhibiting at the Christchurch Art Gallery and Shane Cotton.

His work is characterised by fresh, clean colours and often featured tiny figures overlaid with paint and engaged in a variety of actions: flying or falling, juggling and hanging etc. These figures anchor the lines, shapes and colours and deliver paintings that successfully fuse abstract and figurative elements. His work is held in numerous private and public collections in North America, South America, Europe, South East Asia and New Zealand.

On leaving New Zealand, Tomkins taught in Ontario, Canada and at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London before relocating to Jakarta, Indonesia. After a period as guest artist at Jakarta Institute of Art, Riduan founded the Central Kalimantan Cultural Collective a non-profit organisation aiming to establish a Fine Arts programme at the University of Palangka Raya.