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NZ Trio’s “Stratus” concert a delight

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Amalia Hall, Somi Kim and Ashley Brown

NZ Trio

Dramatic Skies; Stratus

Auckland Concert Chamber

April 18

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The NZ Trios latest concert “Stratus” had works by composers spanning the last four centuries from Haydn through to two recent New Zealand compositions. As always with this finely tuned boutique group they are a thrill to watch and a delight to hear.

The first work on the programme was Sergei Rachmaninov’s “Trio élégiaque No. 1 In G Minor which was one of his first compositions and the one he first performed at a public  concert. It is a work which combines both his acknowledgement of musical history with nods to Tchaikovsky as well as showing his desire to experiment.

The work opens with the violin and cello slowly playing a repetitive theme which grows in intensity before the piano enters with the dominant theme which is then taken through a number of variations ending in a form of funeral march.

The musical motif  changes in mood as the variations pass from one instrument to the other and with each new sequence the players seem to display a sense of urgency, finding a new way in expressing emotion  with violinist Amalia Hall being particularly expressive.

The group played with a careful sensitivity as though each of the variations was a precious element.

They played the Haydn “Piano Trio in a restrained manner, dealing elegantly with  the  tonal changes which create a range of different moods and atmospheres. In the final movement they were particularly animated  where they played like a gypsy band bringing out the joy of the Hungarian dances as well as the technical wizardry of combining the gypsy melody with the composer’s refined musicality.

Josef Suk’s “Elegie in D Flat Major” is grounded in Czech nationalism and even has references to the music of Dvorak. The trio played the gentle sequences  as well as the dramatic passages with precision revealing the  well-crafted nature of the work.

The other classical work on the programme was Ernest Chausson’s Piano Trio in G minor

This emotionally charged work opened with a sombre motif that was repeated in other movements merging  contrasting themes full of colour and gentle  lyricism.  The trio manged to clearly articulate the contrasting moods of tenderness, introspection, melancholia and the unexpected.

Throughout the work the rich and virtuosic piano playing of  Somi Kim  was essential in providing the rich  texture and the driving  momentum which culminates in the dramatic descent into the final   dark elegiac conclusion.

The intensity of the music was mirrored in the way the players interacted, very much aware of their linked roles giving the work its dramatic, almost operatic dimension.

The two shorter New Zealand works on the programme Claire Cowan’s “Ultra Violet” and Reuben De Lautours’ “An Auscultation of Water”  had some similarities as both were attempts to investigate the properties of the physical world, Cowans into light and De Lautours into water.

”Ultra Violet” employs a serene minimalism with repetitions and slow transformations which captures the essence of light, the throb and pulse of the waves which are the source of both light and sound. Along with this is also an eerie otherworldly sound of another dimension in which there is a shimmering and floating conveys a sense of exploration as though seeing through the eyes of the birds and insects which are able to see in the ultraviolet spectrum.

With “An Auscultation of Water” the three players seemed to be regarding their instruments as pieces of scientific apparatus investigating the nature of water. Each of the players employed novel techniques in this investigation from Somi Kim’s vigorous trilling to  Ashley Brown extracting eerie sounds from his  cello with rapid bowing, and abrupt  transitions .

The trio conveyed the  sounds and appearances of water –  rain drops, shimmering surfaces, ripples, waves and the thunderous storm.

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APO’s “Enduring Spirit”: a stunning perfomance by Natalia Lomeiko

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Natalia Lomeiko.

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Enduring Spirit

Auckland Town Hall

April 15

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The major work on the Auckland Philharmonia’ s “Enduring Spirit” programme was Carl Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, “The Inextinguishable”. Composed in the first two years of the Great War it is a multi-layered work which sees the composer addressing several concerns.

In part the work is a reaction to the  war which Nielsen as a neutral Dane was observing rather than participating in. But at the time the composer said  that  the symphony was to “express what we understand by the spirit of life or manifestations of life, that is: everything that moves, that wants to live”.

The work  is a broad, poetic canvas in which he endeavours to create an image of individuals and nations in turbulent times.

So, the symphony reflects on various aspects of war and conflict through music, the belligerence, the drama and the cacophony of battle, the destruction of the landscape  and people along with the heroism, lyricism and nationalism associated with war.

The layout of the orchestra emphasised the notion of conflict with sets of kettle drums on either side of the other players, as though drawn up along battle lines. The orchestra engaged  in a series of musical actions – battles, skirmishes, attacks and counter attacks.

The work’s explosive opening is followed by alternating  vigorous and lyrical passages, wild swings of mood and direction which  evoked an energy and momentum.

Conductor Giordano Bellincampi emphasised the  changing stresses of the symphony, the lyricism of the woodwinds, the drama of the strings and the violence displayed  by the double timpani displays, particularly in the finale of the work.

Whether the music manages to express “the  spirit of life or manifestations of life” is debatable but all the conflict imagery of the music could well be what the composer felt about life and his own personality.

Before interval we were treated to a stunning performance of Shostakovich’s Second Violin Concerto played by Natalia Lomeiko.

Where Nielsen’s work was a  response to the upheaval of the Great War many of the works of Shostakovich were a reaction to the conflicting demands of his desire for new approaches to composition and the demands of the Soviet State which judged his work according to political rather than musical criteria. Much of his music reflects this tension.

His Second Violin Concerto is restrained with the violinist expressing an underlying emotional angst. Lomeiko expressed this pain from the very the opening with anguished playing which was set against the sombre tones of the orchestra.

Throughout the piece she played with an insistent determination, battling the aggressive orchestra. At times violinist and orchestra seemed in concert as they thundered along on a vigorous journey while at other times she seemed marooned in a brooding landscape. Her frenetic playing was electrifying in the first movement while in the second movement with  her achingly  sorrowful playing  she seemed to inhabit a dreamscape, playing at the edge of despair and collapse, generating a palpable tension.

The competing forces of violin and orchestra underscored the struggle in Shostakovich’s  creations which see  the individual set against society, a figure in isolation, a figure full of determination and  a figure striving for individuality. Lomeiko and her violin became a personification and symbol of that struggle.

The first work on  programme was Zoltan Kodaly’s “Dances of Galanta”,  a set of dances with a mix of nostalgia, reminiscence and celebration drawing on Hungarian  folk dance melodies. These works  were full of liveliness and lyricism along with some splendid woodwind contributions all of it  kept in time by the supreme dance master Giordano Bellincampi.

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Royal New Zealand Ballet’s critically acclaimed “Giselle” to tour in May and June

John Daly-Peoples

The Royal New Zealand Ballet

Giselle

New Zealand Tour

May 12 – June 9

Preview John  Daly-Peoples

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s critically acclaimed “Giselle” which toured the world after its sold-out season in 2016, returns for a tour around the country in May and June.

My review at the time of the ballet premiere which was created by choreographers Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg noted that, “all the principals were outstanding, dancing with elegance and virtuosity while the corps de ballet showed flair and skill”.

Like many of the romantic classical ballets, Giselle is a tale of love but not of an idyllic love. Along with the idea of a pure love, there is also the fickleness of love, doomed love and the jealousy, despair and cruelty that can come from blighted relationships. The first act of the ballet presents an intense, joyous love while the second act presents its dark, cruel side.

Giselle, a peasant girl, dies of a broken heart on discovering that her lover, Albrecht, who is a prince in disguise, has deceived her as he is already betrothed. In the second act she rises from her grave and is commanded by Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, to dance Albrecht to his death. However, she dances with him, till dawn so his life is spared and she returns to the grave.

It is crucial for a great performance that these two contrasting and conflicting aspects need to be given emotional and physical authenticity through the dancing, the music, the sets and costumes. With this production the creative team has ensured that these have all been brought together to create a remarkably powerful narrative which is both close to human experience and at the core of the romantic myth.

The sets were cleverly juxtaposed, with the first act set bright and colourful, providing a cute little gingerbread house along with jolly peasants, with a romantic vista with a distant castle. The second act set was dark and mysterious, merging the bleak world of the graveyard and the mythical world of the jilted maiden.

The Wilis are female spiritual avengers – women who have died because they have been rejected and who now take their revenge on wayward males. This aspect of their supernatural power is a romantic concept of a parallel world reflecting the dual nature of the human condition.

The tightly disciplined corps de ballet in their role of the avenging Wilis adorned in their wedding veils were commanding, giving a chilling, visceral performance.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet Season of Giselle

Wellington, Opera House 

12 May to 15 May 

Palmerston North. Regent on Broadway 

19 May

Napier, Municipal Theatre 

22 May to 23 May 

Auckland, Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Aotea Centre

27 May to 29 May |

Christchurch, Isaac Theatre Royal  

4 June to 5 June 

Dunedin, Regent Theatre 

9 June 

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“Van Gogh Alive” Walking through the artists work

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Van Gogh Alive

Spark Arena, Auckland

Until May 6

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Van Gogh Alive is promoted as being the most visited multi-sensory experience in the world. It must be. It has been seen in over 50 cities around the world including in the last few month, Wellington and Christchurch. The scale of the whole thing is impressive. There are dozens of large screens, up to seven meters high which fill the Spark Arena including projections onto the floor. Then there is accompanying soundtrack which creates a surround sound environment.

Van Gogh has been in the news for the last few decades with numerous exhibitions of the artist’s work even in Auckland and some of his paintings like the “Portrait of Dr Gachet”, “Irises”,  and “Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers” have been among the  most expensive paintings sold at auction. Then there have been the films about the artist from “Lust for Life” starring Kirk Douglas  as the artist and more recently “Loving Vincent”, the first fully animated movie which combined his images in a narrative about the artist’s life.

The Van Gogh Alive show follows the artist life from his time in Belgium, his life in Paris and then in the South of France, reaching its climax with an all-encompassing display of “Starry Night” in which the whole room comes alive with the pulsing colours and movement of that iconic work.

Some of the places he lived in are evoked with drawings and sketches he made, minor works which are rarely seen in exhibitions. These show his ability to render locations and  people with keen observation and brisk notations.

Some of his  important series of paintings and periods are emphasised with  bursts of colourful collages which envelop the viewer. One sequence is of his flower painting where  the dramatically colourful blooms are animated along with floating blossom accompanied by the music of Debussy. The sequence which shows the influence of Japanese art brings together his Eastern inspired work along with Japanese  prints from his own collection.

The show is not really an exhibition of his work, there are no new insights into the artist’s work, but it is a journey of discovery, one which comes out of the joy of close observation as well as sweeping panoramas. Seeing the paintings closeup  reveals the detail and texture of the artists technique where even what appears at first to be mere background colour is full of impasto swirling paint.

It is aimed at giving the viewer the dream  sensation of walking into and through Van Gogh’s paintings providing an engaging and enjoyable experience which will appeal to all audiences, particularly children.

In this walk-through of his life, we are given an  impressionistic take on the events, people and  places of the artist  expressed in the intensity of his colours and the drama of the drawn line. In the rural settings the works are further animated by digital processes so that the crows in the field actually fly, slashes of rain fly across the screens  and the windmill vanes turn.

While the big digital display is not really an exhibition of the artist’s work there is an accompanying show of his major works with information his life and art which is informative and worth studying before the show. Then there is also aa couple of  instagramers delights – a three-dimensional mock-up of his “Bedroom in Arles” and the immersive Sunflower room

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Rita Angus “An Artist’s Life” reveals a New Zealand Modernist

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Rita Angus, An Artist’s Life

By Jill Trevelyan

Te Papa Press

RRP  $59.99

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

This  year the Royal Academy in London was due to have an exhibition of works by  Rita Angus but was cancelled due to the covid 19 pandemic. The Royal Academy was heavily promoting the exhibition which was titled “Rita Angus: New Zealand Modernist”. She was described as an icon “inspiring generations of artists and admirers alike, her paintings broke away from the traditional art of the time, which was based on the European tradition and dominated by a nostalgic view of Britain. Instead, Angus developed a new visual style – with strong outlines and flat, unmodulated colour – that has come to symbolise the natural beauty and independent spirit of New Zealand.”

“Through over 70 vivid portraits, landscapes and still lifes, this long-overdue survey charts the remarkable career of a fiercely independent woman, who like many of her contemporaries across the world – Frida Kahlo, Alice Neel and Emily Carr among others – changed the artistic landscape of her country forever.”

The exhibition which may still go to London  will open at Te Papa in December is being co-curated by Jill Trevelyan and Te Papa’s Curator of Modern NZ Art Lizzie Bisley.

Trevelyan who is leading authority on the artist has  just published a revised edition of her book “Rita Angus, An Artist’s Life” which was originally published in 2008.

Rita Angus was part of the Modernist cultural wave which developed in New Zealand in the 1940’s and 50’s. It was out of this period that some of the formative and seminal works of modern New Zealand art emerged in Christchurch. As well as Angus there was Leo Bensemann, Colin McCahon, Allen Curnow, Denis Glover, Ngaio Marsh and Douglas Lilburn

These young artists assimilated the developments in style and technique that were occurring in Europe and America combining them with a local flavour, giving the country a new sense of nationalism.

“Rita Angus, An Artist’s Life” helps in providing an understanding of those times as well as how Angus herself developed as a freethinking individual, pacifist, feminist  and artist. The book explores her unique approach to art and the various threads of that work from the landscapes to the portraits.

Rita Angus, Cass

Many of her works have become icons of New Zealand art – “Cass”, “Portrait of Betty Curnow” and” Fog Hawkes Bay”. Then there is  her group of extraordinary portraits where she presents herself in various roles as goddess in works such as “Rutu”.

Making use of a cache of 400 letters written by the artists and composer Douglas Lilburn as well as the many published writings, books films and personal accounts  Trevelyan has made the artist accessible with insights into her professional and personal life  which gives us an appreciation of how and why she produced her art.

There is also a lot of detail around her career, so we learn that “Cass” which she painted in 1936 was not purchased by the Robert McDougall Art Gallery until 1955. Also, as happens with many artists it was her friends and family who purchased a substantial number of her works throughout her career.

Rits Angus, Rutu

Angus always knew she was an artist and had a mission to portray the world about her , expressing the magic and the mystery of the landscape, the people and events she encountered, imbuing these images with a spiritual essence.

Note: The Royal Academy show was being co-curated by Jill Trevelyan and the R.A.’s Senior Curator Dr Adrian Locke who had been involved with the “Oceania” exhibition.

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Martin Ball reveals the Pink and White Terraces

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Martin Ball, Pink Terraces: After Valentine

Echo: A Brush with History

Martin Ball

Orexart

Until May 1

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Martin Ball’s latest exhibition “Echo” is based on the photographic records that George Valentine made of  the now destroyed Pink and White Terraces which erupted one hundred and thirty-five years ago on 10 June 1886.

Valentine, George Dobson, 1852-1890. Pink Terraces on Lake Rotomahana – Photograph taken by George Dobson Valentine. Kirk, Thomas William, 1856-1936: Photograph album. Ref: PA1-q-138-011. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22708755

It was reported at the time  that on 1 June 1886, a party of tourists claimed to have seen a Māori war canoe appear out of the mists on Lake Tarawera. It was being paddled by Māori in traditional dress and disappeared when the tourist boat got close to it.

A tohunga, Te Wairoa claimed that it was a waka wairua, or spirit canoe, and that it was an omen of a great calamity which would strike the land.

Much of what happened on the fateful day is shrouded in the mists of time and that is one of the  aspects of Ball’s depictions. Along with photographer George Valentine several others photographed the area prior to the eruption including the  Burton Brothers and a  number of artists including Charles Blomfield and J C Hoyte. A year after the eruption Martin Ball’s great-grandfather Thomas Ball also painted the terraces based on the photographs of George Valentine.

Ball, Thomas, 1833-1906. Ball, Thomas, 1833-1906 :White Terraces. 1887 [After a photograph by George Dobson Valentine taken before 1886]. Ref: G-455. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22811950

In his exhibition Martin Ball has repeated his grandfather use of  the Valentine images to recreate the sense of grandeur and mystery of the terraces.

Rather than use the painted versions available Ball has chosen to use the black and white photographs which gives his paintings a slightly surreal quality which is enhanced by the intensity of the white paint which predominates.

The original photographs and painting of the terraces were intended as depictions of the natural wonder but Martin Ball has produced a set of works which are more about the aura and atmospheres of the place. They range from the dark, moody “White Terrace: Coffee Cup” ($17,500) to the ethereal “White Light II” ($22,000).

Ball has always been interested in the role of photography in the art making process and many of his paintings and drawing are hyper realist and  he plays with the images and the nature of photography. His work also reveals an interest in light. It is light which is often the subject of his works and it is what gives his work drama and luminescence.

Often in his work Ball’s use of the photograph is not so much as a visual aid to his painting but rather the subject of the paintings. In many of his previous works he reproduces the blemishes and quirks of the photograph itself.

The views Ball has produced relate to the nineteenth century photographs but not copied, rather remembered through a haze of history, trying to capture uncertain images.

In these  paintings he seems to have captured the photographic images as if they are still in the developing tray, a few second before the image becomes fixed.

In the large “Pink Terrace- After Valentine” ($32,000) the artist has softened the black enclosing  bush and makes the white terraces less crystalline making them more like drapery

With “White Terrace: Coffee Cups”  there is an  emphasis on the structural nature of the terraces while with “Echo” ($22,000) it is the ethereal quality  which dominates.

With some such as  “Fountain of the Clouded Sky” ($8500) the underlying pink seems to be leaching into the picture as if to recover the vibrancy of the original terraces.

The exhibition has echoes of the of the images he references  as well as echoing the event itself and the notion of the omen  or the presence of a taniwha inhabiting the vapours.

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Faith Healer: Three actors in search of the truth

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Faith Health by Brian Friel

Plumb Productions

Pitt St Theatre, 78 Pitt St Newton

Until April 24

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Brian Friel’s Faith Healer is a seemingly simple play in which three characters speak four monologues, each recalling the same events from their differing perspectives.  Each of the characters presents their lives and their perceptions of the other two with a mix of pop psychology, personal angst and wit.

It tells the story of the life of the faith healer Frank Hardy and his journey through the rural halls and kirks of Scotland and Wales along with his wife Grace and manager Teddy. In each of the little towns Frank puts on his “performance” in which he offers to cure people of their ailments. Despite this being a con there is an occasional triumphal miracle and on one occasion a hall of ten people were all healed.

Behind this seemingly simple façade however there is a complex labyrinth of  shifting memory, flawed understanding and cynicism where reality and illusion clash.

There are a couple of incidents which loom large in in their stories and each of their accounts vary in detail and truth showing that at least two of them are lying. It is left to the audience to decide.

Following his “vocation without a ministry” Joseph Rye captures Frank’s charisma, his belief in himself and his power. His rambling merge  fact and fiction with all  the skills of the preacher and salesman. Frank talks about his performances before the blind, lame and disfigured saying they don’t come to be cured they come to have their condition acknowledged, like the  theatre where the audience sees themselves reflected on stage

Rye creates images of people,  places events with verbal dexterity a face alive with nuance along with some subtle gestures.

David Aston’s Teddy comes close to being a stand-up comedian for much of his monologue. He is  a quick-witted spiv with a heart of tarnished gold who is captivated by Frank. He senses that Frank is a charlatan, but a couple of miracles and he is obsessed. His monologue combines memories of his previous successes – a whippet which could play the bagpipes along with  with the fraught history of his life with Frank and Grace. He also makes some astute remarks about creatives – they need to have ambition, talent and be brainless.

On opening night Aston had to call on the prompt a few times. Not only did he handle the situations professionally, but it felt as these added to the whole notion of playwright/directorial intervention, breaking through the convention of the actor being fully immersed in a part.

Grace, Frank’s disparaged and tragic wife delvers her monologue with an emotional intensity but she doesn’t convince of her hard life of cigarettes smoking and drinking  and a life crippled by Frank and possibly Teddy.

The play it something of an extended metaphor about art and the tension between reality and illusion. With each of the monologues we are led into thoughts and experiences of an individual, presented with many truths and lies and we as audience members must assemble the truth as we see it. The play also makes us aware of the magic which comes with the actors ability to create illusions of truth.

Paul Gittens direction and simple stage design along with Friel combination of lyric and tense dialogue make the play riveting and though-provoking.

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“Amui ‘I Mu‘a – Ancient Futures” linking traditional and contemporary Tongan art

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Amui ‘I Mu‘a – Ancient Futures

Dagmar Vaikalafi Dyck and Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi

Wallace Arts Centre, Pah Homestead,

12 March – 2 May 2021

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

As part of the  ‘Amui ‘I Mu‘a – Ancient Futures exhibition at the Wallace arts Centre there is a video of the  funeral of  King Taufa’ahan Tupou IV in 2006 which encapsulates much of contradictions, connections and complexities of Tongan society. European ideas, Christianity and traditional island practices, ceremonies and symbols merge creating rich cultural forms. The exhibition features these same connections between  tradition and contemporary. There are some large traditional tapa works as well as other Tongan artefacts from various  museums including works from Auckland War Memorial Museum and Canterbury Museum.


Ngatu Tāhina: Figures and tree
Tonga
barkcloth and natural inks
Reverend MA Rugby-Pratt Collection Canterbury Museum. E156.241

These feature the growing assimilation of idea as can be seen in one of the early twentieth century tapa works such as Ngatu Tāhina: Figures and Trees  and “Ngatu Tapa’ingatu: Gramophones and clocks “  showing images of gramophones and clocks.

These earlier works are displayed  along with the  contemporary responses in the form of paintings, digital prints, and sculptural works by Dagmar Vaikalafi Dyck, Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi  who have worked in collaboration with  with art historian and anthropologist Billie Lythberg, historian anthropologist Phyllis Herda and linguist Melenaite Taumoefolau from the University of Auckland as well as art historian Hilary L. Scothorn and other international colleagues.

Dyck is a Tongan-German multimedia artist. Born and raised in Auckland, where she practices and teaches art maintaining strong connection with Tonga. Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi was born in Ngele‘ia on Tongatapu, Tonga and emigrated to Aotearoa New Zealand in 1978.

Both artists have long drawn on aspects of  Tongan tradition such as lalava lashing patterns, kali headrests, ngatu barkcloth motifs and kiekie waist adornments.

Tohi has had a life long interest in lalava patterns as well as the finely incised carving of late-18th-century Tongan clubs to uncover what he refers to as a ‘fibre system’ of knowledge, with rules, orders and schema.

The lalava  patterns can be seen in some of the museum exhibits such as the woven  basket on display as well Tohi’s “Haukulasi”, his contemporary version of the designs. 

He has also turned the lalava designs into three dimensional  versions where the sculptural form could be seen as being an ancient  example of carving or a contemporary experimental design.  

The designs  of paddle clubs are evident in his abstract work “Pulefefine” with its dramatic colours owing as much to the European and American  geometric art.

Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi, Pulefefine

He has also analysed 18th-century kali, the headrest for sleeping and resting. He has created his own versions of the object with one in particular elegant one is inlaid with small bone symbols of the heavens.

Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi , Kali

This interest in the heavens and navigation which is often found in Pacific art is also reflected in his  set of photographic images of the moon where the celestial body becomes the guiding body for all mariners.

Known for her dynamic prints and paintings that often draw from the kupesi designs on ngatu (mulberry) fabric. Dyck has drawn new and significant inspiration from the garments worn by her ancestors. She has continued her exploration of ngatu motifs and closely woven kato alu and kato mosikaka baskets, as well as elaborately feathered sisi fale waist garments and kiekie, fala mats, and helu combs.

Her works use these images in paintings and prints combining images of domestic  objects, along with traditional patterns  and geometric designs, intricately layering historical and contemporary references.  In the case of the large painting “Markers of Community” where one painting is overlaid with another the drama of contemporary patterns interwoven with those of the traditional.

Dagmar Dyck, Markers of Community

Several of her large tapestries made of paper which is  handwoven and sewn  (assisted by Alexis Neal and Nilesh Salwaswala) refer to traditional decoration and  acknowledge the communal making of many Tongan women’s arts,

Dagmar Dyck, Alexis Neal and Nilesh Salwaswala

She has led the creation of a multimedia installation with her sister, Luana Dyck, and photo-filmic artists and sisters Emily and Vea Mafile‘o. These contemporary works, made for the gallery, are complemented by and exhibited in conversation with a selection of historical Tongan artefacts from public collections.

Public programme

Thursday 8 April at 7pm, ‘10 x ten – Celebrating Tongan Artists’ brings together Tongan artists with ten x 10-minute informative discussions.

Participating artists include Dyck, Tohi, TK Hards, Kalisolaite ‘Uhila, and Tui Gillies.

1pm, Saturday 10 April, 1pm

Catalogue Launch. This event includes talks by Dyck and Tohi.

Saturday 24 April – 10am to 3pm.

Community Day at the Wallace Arts Centre. An interactive event, offering children and adults hands-on creative experiences and featuring activities with a Tongan flavour, including a chance to learn some lashing techniques with Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi.

Wednesday 28 April 7pm

A Modern Tongan  Dinner

A celebration of modern Tongan cuisine with a three-course seated dinner at the drawing room of the Pah Homestead where the exhibition is shown. This will be a unique experience where Tongan art and culture collides with culinary originality by chef Beau Louis Takapu. $150 per couple or $80 single.

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“The Haka Party Incident” is a powerful and emotional work

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Photo Andi Crown

The Haka Party Incident by Katie Wolfe

Auckland Theatre Company

ASB Waterfront theatre

Until  April 10.

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The much-awaited new play “The Haka Party Incident” by Katie Wolfe finally opened this week.

Some came to witness a great piece of theatre.

Some came to see a recreation of a piece of history.

A few came to see themselves depicted on stage revisiting a time of personal trauma and triumph.

“The Haka Party Incident” is a brilliantly told tale focussing on a few dramatic minutes in 1979 where some young Maori confronted some Auckland University  Engineering students preparing for their annual haka party, adorned with “tattoo”, and wearing grass skirts. We are shown the actions leading up to the incident, the planning of the intervention and the direct repercussions, through to the  trial of the Maori activists.

The play is more than just a record of what happened. It stands as a symbol for the underling personal, social, and institutional racism which has pervaded the country’s history.

Writer Katie Wolfe has intervied dozens of the people involved in the incident and she has used their verbatim accounts as the text for the work. The interviews have then been  articulated by the actors with all the hesitations, errors and  mispronunciations that come with recall. The seven actors provide a vivid retelling of what happened on that day with all the nuances of vaguely remembered event as well as the moments of recalled, precise detail. 

The participants explore much about the dynamics of the event but also reveal the underlying conservatism which inhabited much of new Zealand society as well as showing the anger and disillusionment of many Maori over racism and exclusion from aspects of society as well as the ongoing need to create a bi-cultural society,

The work is close to being a documentary but is also  part theatre, part history lesson, part musical and  part kapa haka performance. At times it has elements of Greek tragedy at others the interchanges are like retold tales and there are also passionately delivered polemics.

This was an incredibly powerful and emotional work, the minor event taking on a huge symbolic significance.

The audience responded to the strength of the work throughout with murmurs of accord, some quiet weeping and the occasional surge of applause.

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New book reveals the secret lives of paintings

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The Back of the Painting

By Linda Waters, Sarah Hillary and Jenny Sherman

Te Papa Press

RRP $45.00

Publication date April

“The Back of the Painting”

Research Library Display Case

Mezzanine Level of Auckland Art Gallery

30 April – 26 August.

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

In the late 1980’s the artist Julian Dashper suggested to the Auckland Art Gallery a show in which all the works would have their backs exposed to the viewer. This would have provided viewers with an insight into the secret lives of paintings. The exhibition never took place but a new book “The Back of the Painting” has taken up the challenge. Three of the country’s leading conservators Linda Waters (Te Papa), Sarah Hillary (Auckland Art Gallery) and Jenny Sherman (Dunedin Public Art Gallery) have assembled 33 art works where the emphasis is on what is on the rear of the works.

Often the rear of a painting may bear the artists signature, title of the work and date as well as sometimes adding additional material. Also adding information to the rear will be the dealer affixing a note about the sale of the work  (including the price), auction houses will also add a note about their involvement with the works sale. The owners of art works will sometimes add notes about the inclusion of the work in their collection and art institutions will document the work as well, often with a note of authenticity.

Each of the conservators has chosen a dozen varied works from their collections. Jenny Sherman’s selection is mainly European 14th to 18th century, while the two other concentrate mainly on twentieth century New Zealand art.

Each of the essays gives some background to the work itself and to the documentation on the rear  of the work. There are also several photographs which show the  state of the canvas or boards which often reveal the processes of the artists.

One work which has the most dramatic “back story” is the one which  has some of the most interesting images. The James Tissot “Still on Top” which was stolen from the Auckland Art Gallery in a brazen armed heist in 1998 and found quickly was badly damaged. Sarah Hillary explains  how the repairs took two years and there are images of the torn canvas as well as images of the laborious restoration and repainting.

The oldest work in the collection is Antonio Veneziano’s ”Head and Shoulders of a Bearded Saint” of around 1390. Th back this work reveals that not only has it originally been part of a larger artwork but the actual painting at some point has been removed from its wooden surface and then adhered to new timber. Additionally, the work has a note about the purchase in Luca in 1893 referring to it as a “Fragment of a Tuscan Picture”. Another note from the British Museum concerns the verification of its being a Veneziano work. It also seems to indicate the work was acquired at Sotheby in 1950.

Oher works have interesting connections as with the Lucien Pissarro “Landscape through trees, Tilty Woods”. Lucien the son of the more famous Camille moved from France to England in 1890 and the work bears a note from the artists widow requesting that in accordance with her husband’s wishes no varnish be applied to the work.

Ray Thorburn did not provide direct instructions about his  “Modular 13, Series 2” but the four panels of the works are held together with clamps indicating that the four abstract panels can be arranged in various ways.

The McCahon work “Will He Save Him” of 1959 as in the case of many artists works has an unfinished work on the rear along with the title “Will He Save Him”. Where the painting itself, one of McCahon’s major works of the period is executed in dark colours apart from a gleaming patch of yellow, the work on the rear has a much more luminous appearance with a “waterfall’ of blues. The change in colours possibly indicates the artist wantyinmg the colouring to be more desolate than the salvation suggested by the lighter blues.

It is an intriguing and illuminating book which helps expand ones appreciation of artworks and helps remove some of the mystique around artists and their work. Few of the essays provide earth shattering revelations about the artist or the work but they help provide an understanding of how individual artworks have their own physical history and come into being.

The choice of works for the book also reveals that the country’s art galleries have works by significant artists even if they are not major works. Dunedin has a Claude Lorrain a Monet and the Pissarro.

There will be an exhibition called ‘The Back of the Painting’ in the Research Library Display Case on the Mezzanine Level of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki from 30 April – 26 August.

It will include three paintings, two which are included in the book (the Portrait of Mrs George Vaile c1853 by an unknown artist, and Julian Dashper’s Untitled 2005-06), plus a painting by Tony Fomison, Jack in the Box 1978, from the Auckland Art Gallery collection.

The gallery will initially show the backs of the works with images of the front adjacent with auxiliary material to provide context.  The works will remain like that for most of the three months but will be turned to show the front for the last week, so people can come back and see the correct orientation before the exhibition is over.