Reviews, News and Commentary

Early Don Binney drawings for auction in April

John Daly-Peoples

Don Binney, Sketch for “The Swoop of the Kotare”

Don Binney: Observer. 


April 12

John Daly-Peoples

In April Webb’s will be presenting the auction  Don Binney: Observer. The auction will feature 57  sketches and field drawings by the artist which have been sourced from the Binney Estate.

The successful bidder on each artwork in this catalogue will receive two additional items along with the drawing. The first is a certificate of authenticity signed by Philippa and Mary Binney, and the second is an NFT derived from the work.

Some of the works on offer are among the earliest drawings he made of birds, many of which later became the basis of his  major paintings

In 1972  I interviewed Don Binney for the video series “Six New Zealand Artists” about his fascination with birds. The following is the transcript of part of that interview

JDP: Why do you choose birds to use as your visual images?

DB: Well, that’s because I’ve been a bird watcher for a lot longer than I’ve been a painter. In fact I was seriously watching birds by the time I’d turned ten and I was still at primary school, and I’ve only really been seriously exhibiting my own paintings, with or without the bird images, since about 1962.

JDP: Do you treat the birds as the real objects or do you abstract them?

DB: This is not  a simple question to answer. I was thinking this to myself today as I was sitting up at Aorangi Pt looking at a number of the spotted shags hatching their clutches on the rocks, in their little nests on the headland, and I was also, at the time, chewing over what I’d been saying to the local ranger last night at Juliet’s place. It seems to me that birds are a pretty fundamental human image, it seems to me that the human species if you like, has perhaps, twenty or thirty or forty odd, primary image references, perhaps tables may be one, perhaps death may be another, the sun is almost certainly another, stars very likely another, birds I think come well within the short-list of ‘say, very essential human images, and birds mean a hell of a lot, whether you’re a cosmopolitan twentieth or twenty-first century person or an eighteenth century person or a barbaric [person]… a bird is an image, is a life quality, imbued with a great many, I think, tangible references to people. It’s a very sensitive point.

JDP: Yes, so you see them as anthropomorphic.

DB: No, I see them as anthropomorphic, but I see them as a whole quality of existence in themselves, and I see them as forms, recurrent forms in space and in place, reappearing in the world of men as they’ve done in New Zealand, as long as men have co-existed with them, in this country and as they’ve always done over the world-.birds have lived in the world for so much longer than the human species, the hominid species and I think we owe them tremendous respect for this alone.

JDP: Do you see the links between bird forms and the natural forms of the landscape?

DB: Oh sure, this of course carries on, without my sounding presumptuous, but what I was saying is that the birds have lived in harmony and have co-existed with the topography, with the space, with the light, of habitable earth space, so much longer than people, and they have won their place, by means of flight, by means of nesting patterns, by means of migration, by means of their feeding habits, and the whole way that they deploy themselves against this, this land and this life, be it in New Zealand, be it New Guinea, be it Iceland or be it East Africa.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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