Reviews, News and Commentary

Billy Apple and Me

John Daly-Peoples

Billy Apple and Me

John Daly-Peoples

I first wrote about Billy’s exhibition “Good as Gold at the Auckland Art Gallery in 1991 and endeared myself to him by comparing him to Michelangelo. This was not in connection with the Renaissance masters work but the way in which he focused on the everyday in his writings. Here he was interested in the price of common goods, art supplies, food and  wine.

In 2010 in an article which referred to  the deification of Billy Apple I compared him to artists who immortalise themselves with self-portraits such as Michelangelo with his painting of his own  flayed skin in the Sistine Chapel’s “The Last Judgement” or Velazquez including himself in “Las Meninas”. This was in connection to his work with the scientist Craig Hilton. I noted that Billy would be preserving his image in a more novel way, preserving biological cells extracted from his blood with some of his 40 million cells being kept forever.

I wrote an article in 2011 about  Minter Ellison Rudd Watts text painting with black and white lettering on a red background which bears the words “$100,000 Credit Held By Billy Apple For Legal Servicers From Minter Ellison”. This was one of the artist’s major transactional works It was negotiated in 2008 with artist using the credit to employ MERW staff to register his name as a trademark.

In 2012 which was the 50-year anniversary of the Billy Apple® brand he worked with Waiheke winemakers to produce the Billy Apple®: Official Selection which featured premium red wines from the 2010 vintage from the Waiheke vineyards of Kennedy Point, Man O’War, Miro, Obsidian, Peacock Sky and Poderi Crisci.

I noted that the 50 cases were numbered from 1962 through to 2012, the years of his practice and were priced accordingly: $1962 for gallery members and $2012 for non-members. The design of the case, and the layout of the show, will also followed one of his defining traits in using  the Golden Section.

Billy had previously produced his Good as Gold golden rosé  with Robard and Butler which came either as a single 375ml bottle or a case of sixteen.

In 2015 in reviewing  “The Artist has To Live Like Everybody Else” I noted that audiences could get to see the artist “work” without entering the gallery as for the duration of his exhibition the artist had been allocated a parking space on the forecourt of the Auckland Art Gallery. How do you get Auckland Transport and a host of bureaucrats to agree to something like that? It’s all part of the mystery, magic and manipulation of the artist who doesn’t get to live like everybody else.

Altogether I wrote about a dozen reviews of Billy’s work including a review of the film “Being Billy Apple “. This was one of the “one minute” video reviews I did on the NBR film review site

Every time I wrote something about Billy I would get a phone call as he wanted a copy and not just the article itself. He needed to have the full copy of the paper.

I worked with Billy on a few projects for National Business Review. The first of these was a page work around his notion of “The Artists has to live like everybody else”

The work ended up being on what would have been the back page of the paper but was actually two pages in from the back as another project I was engaged at the time with NBR was a wrap-around  for the paper promoting the 1993 exhibition “Rembrandt to Renoir” at the  Auckland Art Gallery.

This wrap-around meant the advertiser who was going to be on the last page of the paper no longer had their prime position and declined to proceed so there was no advert to go on the final page. Discussion with the editor Nevil Gibson, owner Barry Colman, Wystan Curnow and Billy meant I was able to  do a rush job and got the full (back)page for Billy. This “The Artists has to live like everybody else” piece was Billy’s first page work in a financial paper and we also produced a limited edition of over runs printed on clean paper.

Barry Colman was slightly mystified as to why I kept trying to get NBR sponsor / promote Billy and was also curious about another deal we did with Billy, paying for his airfare to Australia to attend on of his exhibitions. In return NBR got Billy’s duplicate Air NZ ticket. This was one of the then current style of tickets with red printing, a colour which worked well for Billy at the time but ultimately faded.

Barry Colman was delighted a few years later when the framed ticket with its acknowledgement of NBR was used as advertising material for an overseas show of New Zealand art.

I also worked with Billy on a poster for a political campaign  when I stood for the ACT Party in the Auckland City Council elections in 1992. This ACT Party was the Auckland Community Team and  used the acronym two years before the present ACT Party was formed in 1994.

Between 2005 and 2012 I worked with Bob McMillan BMW, commissioning artists to paint on the display bonnets of BMW Series 7. Each year these ten works were auctioned for various charities

I was aware that Billy was interested in being asked to work on one of these but I also realised that Billy was always very particular about how he went about  commissioned works and the difficulties that could ensue so didn’t ask. However, he approached Bob McMillan directly (who serviced his Mini) about being involved and Bob agreed.

Normally with the bonnet commissioned I would deliver the unpainted bonnet to the artist and then collect the completed work a couple of months later. This was not how Billy worked.

First, he required that bonnet be spray painted by an official BMW approved spray painter in the specific white he wanted. The painted bonnet was then to have two apple logos painted by his painter, Terry Maitland. The diameter of these apples was to be the same as those of the Series 7 headlights. I told Billy I would measure them. Again, that was not how it was done. He required facsimile of the original design drawings of the car to be sent from Germany which would include the actual dimensions.

At the exhibition of the works Billy was a bit upset that I wouldn’t agree to have his work hung so that the two circular apple logos were not at the height the two “headlights” would have been above the road surface. At the auction Billy’s work sold for over $10,000, one of  the highest prices paid for one of the bonnets

When I was Arts Manager at Manukau City I curated “The Alphabet Show” where artists were sent a single sheet of A4 drawing paper and were asked to draw/paint the first letter of their surname. Billy did a set of lower case “a” for the show.

One commission from that time never came to fruition. One of the Manukau City art galleries, Nathan Homestead had extensive outside areas where sculptural shows were held. One area was the old grass tennis court. Billy was going to use the principles of the Golden Section to turn the area into one of his art works. The project involved placing the net at the point of division based on the Golden Section ratio.  A couple of his requirements were going to pose problems. There would need to be a new tennis net which conformed to his measurements and new stanchions to support it. The other issue concerned the lawnmower which would be used to cut the grass. The grass on one side of the net would be cut at one height and the grass on the other side at another height – again determined by the Golden Section ratio.

What had Billy overly concerned was the fact that the lawnmower adjustments were in inches. This meant that we would have to design a new system of adjustment which would have millimetres in order for the grass to be cut to the right height.

It was at this point I sent Billy a letter saying that I was not proceeding with the project as I would not be able to do justice to it.

Over the years I have collected a few of Billy smaller works including the ACT political poster, some of his prints, as well as his coffee and wine. I also have one of his “The Artist has to live like everybody else”. This is a handwritten note on an envelope which had been sent to him asking me to go over to the North Shore and pay Bernie for the repair  to his car.

Reviews, News and Commentary

The Art Paper brings new voices to the contemporary art scene

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The Art Paper

Issue 01 TOUCH

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

A new art quarterly, The Art Paper has just hit the shelves bringing another set of voices to local arts writing. A number of the articles are about international shows which provide something of a context for contemporary New Zealand practice.

This first edition features twenty articles, interviews and  art pieces about local and international artists some of them senior, others newly emerging.

In an article and interview by Bronwyn Lloyd  with  Marte Szirmay the artist discusses her involvement with Medal Art New Zealand (MANZ) whose members produce a range of cast, objects which can be one sided, two sided or three dimensional. Szirmay talks about the personal, political and aesthetic influences on her own work. The article also serves as a review of the MANZ annual exhibition  earlier this year.

There are two stimulating articles related to the recent Walters Prize. One by Victoria Wynn-Jones on Sonya Lacey’s “Weekend” and  Natasha Cornland’s on Sriwhana Spong’s “The Painter-Tailor.” These two works both have complex backgrounds which are explored in the two articles.

Sriwhana Spong, “The Painter-Tailor.”

Rea Burton is examined by Millie Dow  with work which includes self-portraits as well as her take on other artists such as her reworking of Manet’s “Bar at the Folies Bergère”. Also in the publication are a set of fashion photographs of the artist by  Meg Porteous (including the cover image).

There are articles which focus on fabric arts including a piece about Pip Cuthbert’s final exhibition at Artspace by Christina Barton and an extensive interview with fabric artist Ron Te Kawa about his tapestry / quilts as well as  one on Te Maari’s “Manu Figures.

Lillian Paige Walton, Vagabond

There are several reviews from abroad with Vivian Lee discussing  Lillian Paige Walton’s “Six Drawings”  at the Kings Leap space in New York. Talia Smith’s reviews  “The entrance to Paradise lies at your mother’s hand” by Lara Chamas at Melbourne’s  Gertrude Contemporary and Khadim Ali’s show “Invisible Borders at  the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane. Chamas in Lebanese and Ali from Afghanistan and there works have a strong political aspect to them.

Editor Becky Hemus  and Art director Felix Henning-Tapley have integrated a few inventive aspects into the publication. As well as  the traditional articles and images  there are text works, handwritten notes, drawings, poetry and advertisements which function as artworks.

Copies of The Art Paper are available from a number of locations nationally

Reviews, News and Commentary

Michael Smither’s “Here & Now” paintings convey mood and spirituality

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Michael Smither, Rain Squalls, Kennedy Bay

Michael Smither

Here & Now

Artis Gallery

November 9 – 29

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

For sixty years Michael Smither has painted his immediate environment – his family, the objects he was surrounded by and the landscapes he inhabited.

These landscapes began in New Plymouth with paintings that often featured the rocky shore and  the  ever-present Mt Egmont/Taranaki  and he later moved to the Coromandel where he continued to paint the local landscapes.

While his early landscapes are crisp with light colour and detail he has progressively abstracted the colours and shape he finds in these landscapes and his latest exhibition sees him further creating simplified expressionist approach.

Where his early works  had an emphasis  on surface and light his later works and particularly the works in his latest exhibition “Here & Now” are focussed on light and colour. These colours are connections to some of his previous works  where music and colour have harmonic relationships.,

These expressionist landscapes convey  mood and spirituality, echoing the desire of artists from medieval times to convey ideas through the wonder of intense colours as was seen in the stained glass of churches – an interest also seen in Colin McCahon’s ecclesiastical projects with James Hackshaw.

“Here & Now” can be seen as a reference to and a recreation of the landscape images which were produced on Cooks first voyage to New Zealand. The reference to those often stacked profile drawings of the coastline can be seen in the large “Coromandel Peninsula Quintet” which as well as depicting the changing landscape forms also capture the changing moods of the area.

Where Cooks images were designed to record the changing landscape forms for future navigators Smither aims to create effects of colour, light and atmosphere with images of emotional power that appeal to the viewers’ senses.

There are impressionist flourishes in some of the works, particularly obvious in  “Rain Squalls, Kennedy Bay” where the bands of rain are more like columns of light.

There are also surreal aspects to some of the work with the bulbous clouds and crumpled landforms in “Haka”

Michael Smither, Kennedy’s Bay

The use of colour to convey the effects of light can be seen in “Kennedy’s Bay” where the shimmering yellow behind the two sentinel-like headlands sharpens their outline.

A couple of the works take an almost abstract approach. In “Towards the End” the blue hills of the landscape appear to merge with the background and in the masterly “Peninsula Rain Squall”  colour and light  infuse the landscape so the forms begins to dissolve.

In this series of works Smither has created landscapes that are part representation and part dreamscapes  where the interplay of bold light and intense colour  convey the aura or mana of the landforms, sea and sky.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Petite Maman: A story of childhood where imagination and reality are interwoven

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Joséphine Sanz (Nelly) and Gabrielle Sanz (Marion)

Petite Maman

Directed by Céline Sciamma,

In Cinemas From November 25

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

With her latest film “Petite Maman” director Céline Sciamma as in  her previous film “Portrait of a Woman on Fire” examines a surreal  and  sensitive  relationship, not between adults but between two children.

After the death of her grandmother, eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) helps her mother Marion (Nina Meurisse) and her father ( Stéphane Varupenne)   with clearing out her house in the country which is surrounded by woods.

Her mother who has told Nelly about the tree house she made in the woods as a child leaves for a few days during which time Nelly wanders the woods where she meets another young girl who is building a pyramidal shaped tree house.

This young girl Marion (Joséphine’s twin sister, Gabrielle Sanz). shares her mother’s name, Marion, and lives in a nearby house that is strangely similar to her  to her grandmother’s house.

The two children are at the core of the film and we observe a world belonging to them and their imagination. They develop a relationship in which imagination and reality are interwoven. Hinted at throughout the film are themes of innocence death, loss and  memory

The two children develop a sisterly relationship and play out a scenario in which  roles of mother and daughter are explored and where one of them is their future parent. The story takes on the sense of mythic tale, in which Nelly crosses paths with a ghost of her mother. The film dwelling on death, disruption and memory can be seen in the reflecting back on the three generations of  Nelly’s family and the forthcoming medical procedure that the child Marion is about to undergo .

This slightly surreal encounter is emphasised by the two children looking alike and the use of the same house used for the interior shots with slight changes of décor.

In one bizarre scene the children row a small boat on a lake where they encounter a concrete pyramid set in the middle of the lake (Axe Majeur near Paris) providing a sense that they have entered a time preserving structure.

The two Sanz sisters give extraordinary performances conveying the behaviours  and thoughts of children as well as displaying the maturity and sophistication of adults.

This slow moving, coming of age film brilliantly captures the lives of two children losing their innocence and growing in  emotional maturity.

Reviews, News and Commentary

NZ Opera offers a range of innovative shows for 2022

Carousel. The original Braodway cast

NZ Opera

2022 Season

John Daly-Peoples

Next year’s NZ Opera season seems designed to cater for the full range of opera lovers. It opens with one of the great musicals and closes with one of the great operas. In between there are several New Zealand works drawing on ancient and recent history

The first work on the programme and only being performed in Auckland will be a concert version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Carousel which was named Time magazine’s best musical of the 20th Century saying  that it set the standards for the 20th century musical and features their most beautiful score and the most skilful and affecting example of musical storytelling.

In a first for opera in New Zealand it will be performed on a stage moored in the water at Wynyard Wharf.

The story tells of carnival barker Billy Bigelow and mill worker Julie Jordan who fall in love. After their marriage ends things go downhill driving Billy to commit crimes and he falls in with con-man Jigger Craigin. He gets caught in the midst of an armed robbery and takes his own life. Billy is allowed to return to earth for one day 15 years later where he encounters Louise, the lonely daughter he never knew.

Richard Rodgers said the show was his favourite of all their musicals, “Oscar never wrote more meaningful or more moving lyrics, and to me, my score is more satisfying that any I’ve ever written.”  The work has some notable songs including “If I Loved You“, “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over”, This Was a Real Nice Clambake” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone“..

The production will be directed by Jacqueline Coats and conducted by Paul Christ with costumes designed by Elizbeth Whiting. The cast will include Christian Thurston as Billy, Joanna Foote as  Julia Jordan and Bridget Costello as Carrie Pipperidge.

NZ Opera’s 2010 production of Macbeth. Antonia Cifrone as Lady Macbeth Photo credit Bill Cooper

The great traditional opera which closes the season will be Giuseppe Verdi’s “Macbeth” which features a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play by William Shakespeare.

There are any number of politicians who could have written the script for Verdi’s Macbeth. The combination of personal power struggles, moral debate and the small events from our past coming back to haunt one are all too familiar political themes. They are the major themes of the opera in which a man and his wife, impelled by prophesies that predict he will have greatness thrust upon him decides to take that greatness by force.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are driven by personal greed for power and status. They are inspired by witches or fates and they understand that such prophesies do not come from Heaven but rather the darker reaches of the next world.

In accepting what has been prophesied they give over their lives to the Fates. They allow themselves to commit evil deeds, opting out of the moral issues by accepting it that was happens has been foretold.

Lady Macbeth is more dominant than in the original Shakespeare play. Of all the dictators wives she comes close to a combination of Eva Person and Madame Mao, a mixture of the concerned, hectoring and malevolent wife.

While Verdi’s music is not the most memorable of his works, the opera sweeps along with fast paced action and vigorous music which provides an emotional framework for the gruelling and gruesome tale of murder and mayhem.

This new production by Netia Jones, conducted by Christopher Franklin, features Phillip Rhodes and Amanda Echalaz as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth along with  Wade Kernot, Jared Holt, Emmanuel Fonoti-Fuimaono, Morag Atchison and the New Zealand Opera Chorus.

The Unruly Tourist

Breaking all the stereotype about opera will be the comedy “The Unruly Tourists”.  Written by the award-winning duo of Livi Reihana and Amanda Kennedy (The Fan Brigade) and composed by Luke Di Somma. It  will revisit the summer of 2019 when a group of English  tourists became the stuff of legends, wreaking havoc around the country.

“Just a great story, a great yarn with larger-than-life characters, and a New Zealand public who responded in a way that only New Zealand responds,” composer Luke Di Somma says.

The tourists were first spotted littering but were then soon destroying hotels, not paying for food, stealing from service stations and ended up in court. 

Presented by New Zealand Opera and Auckland Arts Festival at the Bruce Mason Centre, in Takapuna where it all started.

Seacliff Hospital

A poignant and imaginative reflection on events during Janet Frame’s time at Seacliff Mental Hospital, “The Strangest of Angels is a harrowing and hopeful experience that throws light on mental health then and now.

Co-created by Kenneth Young, Georgia Jamieson Emms and Anna Leese, The Strangest of Angels is born of an exciting and conscious collaboration between composer and performers that explores the contrast between a calm, rational psychiatric patient and a traumatised nurse torn between empathy and the relative power of institutional duty.

World premiere performances directed by Friedlander Foundation Associate Artist Eleanor Bishop and starring Anna Leese and Jayne Tankersley.

Ihitai ‘Avei’a – Star Navigator 

Ihitai ‘Avei’a – Star Navigator which premiered earlier this year at the Auckland Arts Festival is set onboard a cramped British scientific vessel in the vastness of the Pacific where two navigators find themselves locked on a collision course.

One is a Tahitian priest, guided by his ancient knowledge of star pathways. The other a naval officer, desperate to prove both himself and his faith in science.

This work by composer Tim Finn, co-composer Tom McLeod, with Tahitian monologues by Célestine Hitiura Vaite, tells the story of Tupaia, the Tahitian star navigator who sailed with James Cook, on the maiden voyage of the Endeavour in 1769. Ihitai ‘Avei’a – Star Navigator explores the relationship between two master mariners, each from vastly different worlds, both far from home and unable to find their way into each other’s world.

A review by Clare Martin of the original production of the work noted the production  “took the audience by storm, a wall of glorious orchestral sound from Manukau Symphony and choral forces providing commentary and colour for this important story. With conductor Uwe Grodd drawing together these elements with fluent ease and Tim Finn himself at the piano, the ocean voyage began.

Any scepticism that the world of rock could find credibility in opera was dispelled within minutes of the mini-Overture. With a vast aural landscape, it was a hugely exciting and affecting ride. Musical materials were never reductive but rather a fresh and broad sonic scape was presented by Finn. Taonga pūoro (Māori flute) and orchestra blended in rich and genuine expression.


In a new work “Call of the Huia” Michael Vinten takes the audience on an entertaining, informative and frequently fascinating journey of discovery through the forgotten world of the Art Song of Aotearoa.

The now extinct huia was a rare and tapu bird living mainly on the east coast of the North Island. Their calls were mostly a varied array of whistles, “peculiar and strange”, but also “soft, melodious and flute-like.”

Highlights will include works from his collection of mainly unpublished pre-1950 New Zealand Art Songs.  These songs – sung by our grandparents and great-grand parents – provide a glimpse into the preoccupations and concerns of their times through peace and war.  Discover the significant contribution of women both Māori and Pākehā  to music-making of this period as composers and poets.

The work will dispel any notions that there was nothing much happening musically in New Zealand before the Second World War revealing a forgotten chapter of Aotearoa’s musical legacy


Wynyard Wharf February 11 – 14

The Unruly Tourists

Bruce Masson Theatre March 9 =- 13

Star Navigator

Te Rauparaha Arena, Porirua, May 13 – 14

The Strangest of Angels

The Piano Christchurch,  27 – 28 May

Mayfair Theatre, Dunedin,  October 14-15

Call of the Huia

The Piano Christchurch, July 31

Public Trust Hall, Wellington, August 7

Concert Chamber Auckland, August 14


Aotea Centre, Auckland, September 21 – 25

St James Theatre, wellington,  October 5 – 9

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch,  October 20 – 22

Reviews, News and Commentary

Rita Angus exhibition opens at Te Papa next month

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Rita Angus, New Zealand Modernist

Edited by Lizzie Bisley

Te Papa Press

RRP  $35.00

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

This year the Royal Academy in London was due to mount a major exhibition of works by Rita Angus but this was cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic. The 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.”

The show will now open next month  at Te Papa (December 18 – April 25, 2022) with over one hundred portraits, landscapes and still life works.

Accompanying the show is an extensive catalogue edited by Lizzie Bisley, the Curator of Modern Art at Te Papa which is fully illustrated showing the range of her work and tracing the artists development in terms of subjects and techniques over a thirty-year period.

Rita Angus, Portrait of Betty Curnow

Many of the works in the show 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 with such works  as “Rutu.”

She 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, literature and music emerged in Christchurch. As well as Angus there were artists such as  Leo Bensemann and Colin McCahon along with poets, writers and musicians including  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.

There are several essays backgrounding the show with an introduction by Lizzie Bisley discussing Angus as a New Zealand modernist, a comprehensive outline of the artists life by Jill Trevelyan and a chapter placing the artist in an international context by Adrian Locke, the Chief Curator at the Royal Academy of Arts.  

His chapter is of  particular interest as he references a range of woman artists from the early and mid-twentieth century such as  the Brazilian artist Anita Malfatti, the Indian artist  Amrita Sher-Gil, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo and Emily Carr.

He makes a number of interesting points about Angus’s art from aesthetic,  political and social perspectives.

Rita Angus, Cass

He notes that in Angus’s work “it is not the imagery of the indigenous communities that is central to the work but rather the tell-tale signs of a landscape inhabited and altered by European settlers. The key point here is that this new nationalist art, be it from Mexico, New Zealand, south Africa or the united States celebrated countries that no longer belonged to their indigenous inhabitants but rather to the descendants of colonisers.”

As well as the three major chapters there are several short personal reflections by a range of artists including Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Robin White, Fay Weldon and Gaylene Preston.

The catalogue and exhibition provide 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.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Neal Palmer captures the drama of the New Zealand bush and endangered kauri

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Neal Palmer, Tane Moana

Neal Palmer,  On Track

Foenander Gallery, Mt Eden
14 November – 02 December

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

In 2018 Neal Palmer was the inaugural artist for the Karekare House residency provided by the Eden Arts Trust.

He has previously exhibited work from this period which he has continued to develop. His latest exhibition “On Track” at Foenander Gallery reflects on those original works which were intended  as visual responses to walking and running the Hilary Trail on Auckland’s West Coast.  Added to this his awareness of the issue of Kauri dieback has meant these new works have taken on a more urgent significance in response to the disease.

The resulting works include some of his signature paintings of flax such “Te Ahua” ($18,000) and “Northern Shadows” ($7800) with interwoven flax fronds creating images of the dense New Zealand bush. In these works there is an emphasis on the play of light on the fronds along with contrasting shapes.

Neal Palmer, Te Ahau

In others such as “Golden Returns” ($8500)  there is a concern with the painterly process and the brushstrokes are more noticeable.

He includes a large, four panel painting of Tane Moana ($24,000), the largest kauri tree remaining on the East Coast, near Tutukaka. The worms-eye view of the trunk and crown providing a sense of  the tree’s  scale and  grandeur. Another work based on a kauri is “On the Surface” ($6000) a frottage work where the artist has made a rubbing of a kauri, transferring the textures and shapes of the tree onto a curved panel.

Neal Palmer, On the Surface

There is a similar painted work with the tall “Worlds within Worlds” ($6000) where he has painted the trunk and rings of a nikau. With this work and in  “On the Surface” he has painted the trees as if they were at eye level presenting  the view one would have when walking through the bush.

This notion of the walking though the bush is also seen in the almost abstract “Follow the Signs” ($1400) which depicts a triangular orange track marker fixed to a tree. This sign signifies more than merely indicating the trail becoming a metaphor for the new direction society needs to take in relation to preservation of the natural environment.

Neal Palmer, Follow the Signs

Two small works both titled  ”Up Close and Personal” ($750) edge up to the abstract as well and are extreme close ups of foliage. One of them a slash of dark green against a greenish/white background while another possibly a section of coloured leaf against dark flax. They are both like sections taken from some of the artists larger works providing a sense of mystery.

Reviews, News and Commentary

New Zealand pair create twelve environmental sculptures around the Earth

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Fine Line: Twelve Environmental Sculptures Encircle the Earth

Martin Hill and Philippa Jones

Bateman Books


Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Most New Zealanders  at some time in their lives engage in the practice of Land Art or Earth Art. This normally involves making sandcastles or other constructions at the beach. These temporary sculptures sometimes simple, at other times elaborate will normally last for  a few hours before being washed away. For that short time they become  metaphors for man’s futile attempts to control Nature while making us aware of the daily cycle of the tides.

This practice of making art out of materials which are part of the landscape has been going on for millennia as the various standing stone sites around Europe attest to. The more recent practice has seen artists such as Robert Smithson with his “Spiral Jetty” where he constructed a koru-shaped jetty of rocks protruding into the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Andy Goldsmith has created a number of Land Art works both permanent as in his “Arches“ at the Gibbs farm as well as more ephemeral works.

New Zealand artists Martin Hill and Philippa Jones have been creating Land Art works for the past thirty years both in New Zealand and internationally  with  permanent records of their work available as photographs or in their many publications.

Their latest publication “Fine Line” extends their work with the documentation of their most ambitious and impressive project.

It stems from a concept or vision that Hill had twenty-five years ago where he envisaged “A symbolic line drawn around the Earth touching at a series of twelve high points.”

To achieve this goal the pair have visited twelve elevated sites around the world, made their ephemeral sculptures, photographed them and then left them to return into the environment.

The sculptures were made from natural materials found at each site, enduring only in the mind (and in photographs) as an artistic evocation of the temporary and interconnected nature of life.

Martin Hill with Ngaurahou sculpture

The places they visited included New Zealand, The Antarctic, Madagascar, Kenya, Switzerland, Scotland, Vanuatu, Iceland, the USA and Canada.

The first of the visits was to Ngauruhoe in 1997 and the final one to Ruapehu in 2019 with the other ten sites visited between those years. The whole project was not consecutively photographed but were visited every one or two years.

While some of the locations were not much over sea level with Mt Yasur in Vanuatu at 361m  others tested their climbing ability with Mt Kenya at 4580m.

Karambony Climb, Madagascar

The works are circular either  discs, inscribed circles or spheres. The shapes on Ngauruhoe, Ruapehu and Pigeon Spire in British Columbia were circular forms made of compacted snow, the works in Switzerland and Scotland made with rocks from the site while the works on Mt Yasur and Madagascar were constructed of foliage taken from the foothills and carried up the mountain.

Zermatt, Switzerland

The circular forms reflected the two artists concern about the cyclical nature of environmental activities and expresses the age-old notion of the circle of life. Linking these circular motifs together is the hypothetical line they have  imagined which links the twelve works and in each of the “final” photographs this nebulous line is imprinted, passing through the centre of the sculptures.

The works have a familiarity with their own previous Earth Works and those of others such artists with the circle of rocks on Cioch Pinnacle in Scotland like an Andy Goldsmith work. Some other have connections to New Zealand art notably the koru form made on Half Dome in Yosemite. The Madagascar work has an affinity with the found circular constructions of Meryn Williams and the circular snow works with the art of Max Gimblett.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

The book documents the works the pair created as well as the amazing landscapes they worked in with over 200 remarkable photographs. Hills photographs capture the essence of the sculptures, the spectacular landscapes as well as the showing the difficulties of navigating to their spectacular locations. Among the dramatic  photos are images of the active volcano My Yasur, the eerie landscape of Iceland and the precipitous Yosemite location.

The photographs are accompanied by the couples’ thoughts on their endeavours as well as essays by international specialists in systems theory, climate science, fine art photography and regenerative design which further elaborate on the artists’ ecological philosophy.  The wide range of issues and activities the book touches on means it will appeal to artists, mountaineers, scientists and environmentalists.

Ross Island, Antarctica
Reviews, News and Commentary

“Nine Lives” that helped shape contemporary New Zealand

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Nine Lives

Upstart Press

RRP $39.99

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Much has been made recently about what constitutes New Zealand culture, the intersection of Māori, Pacific and European experiences which has formed our contemporary multicultural society.

Part of the impetus behind these changes are people who make a difference and the new book “Nine Lives” examines the lives of nine people who have have helped reshape our culture.

The book provides something of an encapsulation of New Zealand cultures telling the reader as much about the ways that contemporary New Zealand has been formed as about the people who have made that happen.

These nine  personalities range from the internationally famous to those who known only within their own areas of expertise or experience and the writers include some of our most distinguished novelists, poets and playwrights.

In the nine chapters  the writers encounter, examine and reflect on the lives of nine others . Lloyd Jones on Paul Melser (potter), Paula Morris on Matiu Rata (politician), Catherine Robertson on Dame Margaret Sparrow (doctor and health advocate), Greg McGee on Ken Gray (All Black), Stephanie Johnson on Carole Beu (bookseller), Malcolm Mulholland on Ranginui Walker(academic), Selina Tusitala Marsh on Albert Wendt (writer), Elspeth Sandys on Rewi Alley (writer and activist), and Paul Thomas on John Wright (cricketer).

In his chapter on the potter Paul Melser Lloyd Jones quotes Goethe – “Try to do your duty and you will find out who you are … what matters is the manner in which one does the work.” It’s a quote which is relevant to all the characters in the book – people who attempt to make a difference.

In some cases the writers have close ties to their subject as with Elspeth Sandys who writes about her “uncle”  Rewi Alley and the ambivalence she had concerning her communist relative, despised by many New Zealanders but revered by millions of Chinese for his work in improving the lives of the population. We learn about her family dynamics, her own life as well as the life of Alley himself.

One of the most personal and emotional accounts is that of Catherine Robertson on Dame Margaret Sparrow which opens with her first encounter with doctor – “After my twenty-first birthday and before the advent of seven-digit phone numbers, I was given a local anaesthetic and a foetus was aspirated out of my womb. The abortionist was Dr Margaret Sparrow.”

Her chapter on combines the life of Sparrow along with a short history of the development of abortion law reform in this country.

Greg McGee writing about the All Black Ken Gray recounts their parallel lives in playing the game. He dwells on the Gray’s personal life as well as the political dimensions of the game around tours to South Africa  and the man being ostracized by the rugby establishment over his stand against apartheid.

Stephanie Johnson writing about  Carole Beu of the Women’s Bookshop shows how chance and vision combined with the changes brought about by the women’s movement resulted in an iconic bookshop and a remarkable bookseller.

Selina Tusitala Marsh first encounters with  Albert Wendt in  her under-graduate years at Auckland University and she admits “I didn’t like him. In my New Zealand Literature course he was austere, distant, and seemed to me to be just plain ole grumpy.” But through personal  and academic encounters with the writers she later notes ”I’ve never thought of Albert Wendt first or even foremost as  a literary giant. For me he’s a political giant.” Her chapter explores the importance of Wendt as  a great writer of Pacific literature but also as a person who has helped transform  much about the Pacific politically and socially.

All the writers manage to skilfully weave their subjects lives and their own  together along with events and encounters which have changed lives and histories in creating the fabric of New |Zealand culture.

Reviews, News and Commentary

NZ Sculpture OnShore exhibition goes online

John Daly-Peoples

Julie Moselen “Unity”

NZ Sculpture OnShore

November 5 – 28

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

NZ Sculpture OnShore which is the country’s largest outdoor sculpture exhibition opened this week with its organisers committed to raising $100,000 for Women’s Refuge.

Lockdown restrictions due to COVID-19 have meant that the exhibition, now in its 25th year  will not be held at O Peretu / Fort Takapuna. Instead, they have created a new online platform to view and purchase the more than 200 works.

The online site also calls for Kiwis to support women and children fleeing domestic violence by donating to their Woman’s Refuge Givealittle campaign.  This year, donations will go towards ‘Kids in the Middle’, an initiative to create safe, comforting and creative spaces for children staying in each of the Refuge’s 40 safe houses.

NZ Sculpture OnShore’s Board Chair Sally Dewar says, “The impact of this global pandemic has hit many of our local communities hard; more New Zealand women and children than ever before are fleeing from dangerous situations. There are few things more important than helping children feel safe and secure after experiencing trauma, and so we are determined to support Woman’s Refuge’s Kids in the Middle project.

“If you’re one of the tens of thousands of people who would usually buy a ticket to NZ Sculpture OnShore, please go online today and give generously to this important cause. If you’ve not been to the exhibition before, this is a great opportunity to do so,” says Ms Dewar.

Event curator Sally Lush says of this years event “The works are by emerging and established artists from around New Zealand, with a mix of crowd favourites who have exhibited at previous events, and others offering fresh and exciting new perspectives,”

“There are quirky and thought-provoking works, soaring monumental sculptures, sound and light art works and sight specific installations. Also, there will be many accessible works specifically for adding that special touch to home gardens.”

Jeff Thomson, “Mesh 4”

Included in this year’s exhibition are popular artists Jeff Thomson who has created several “model” houses made of steel mesh such as “Mesh 4” ($5000) which he says “ came about through my love of models which I create for both private and public sculpture proposals. My father Tiger spent 30 years building model boats, his commitment, patience and skill has always been a huge inspiration for me as a sculptor”.

Fiona Garlick, “Off Balance”

There are realist sculptural works such as Fiona Garlick’s “Off Balance” ($29,000) featuring a tui perched on an  oversized acorn. “The work is part of a body of work called Charming Invaders that has been occupying me as an artist for several years. She sees this as addressing  the tension between introduced and native species of flora and fauna. “The work is intended as homage both to our native Tui and to the trees, plants and people who have come to New Zealand” from all over the world. But mostly it is a comment on the more serious issue of non-native species in our environment.”

John Dwyer, “Metallic Magenta”

There are also more abstract works such as Johl Dwyers “Metallic Magenta” ($3450) of which he notes “There is an interest in light-based colour and pigment-based colour, specifically when these two properties intersect – how we are increasingly experiencing colour in a light-based virtual space as opposed to a physical space, such as on a screen or device instead of in an artwork.”

Chauncey Flay, “Parliament House Structure I”

Taranaki artist Chauncey Flay’s “Parliament House Structure I” ($28,000)  is literally made out of pieces of Takaka marble removed during earthquake strengthening of the Beehive, New Zealand’s Parliament building.

Julie Moselen’s “Unity” ($12,800) was inspired by and explores the duality of the Masculine and the Feminine, and through the unification of these two elements, harmony and balance are created. Steeped in symbolism relating to Mother Earth, and Sky Father, The Sun and the Moon, birth, death and rebirth, this curvilinear form (feminine) created from cold hard steel (masculine) takes on an elegance and grace where both softness and strength are present. The earthy rusted patina is evocative of the passing of time and represents the ever present need for equality between men and women in society.

Steve Molloy’s notes about  “The Ripple Effect” ($13,000)  that “The story of this piece is about the ripple effect of our words and actions, and how they can have a major influence over others and their future. We must be mindful of what it is we put out into society as we do not truly know the full consequences of where such a simple action will end.”

Also showing are  Ramon Robertson and  Susan Dinkelacker along with mother and son team Trish and Sean Clarke as well as father and son  James and Jorge Wright.

The event also reflects New Zealand’s indigenous and multi-cultural heritage. Shane Hansen (Tainui, Ngāti Mahanga, Ngāti Hine, Chinese, Danish and Scottish descent) is showing “Te Tūi Kaitiaki” ($45,000).

Shane Hansen,“Te Tūi Kaitiaki”

Master carver Joe Kemp (Ngai Tahu, Ngāpuhi and Te Arawa (Ngati Makino) is showing “Hinerau raua ko Tanerau” ($95,000) in swamp totara and Taranaki andesite.

Joe Kemp, “Hinerau raua ko Tanerau”

Jin Ling who taught art in China before migrating to New Zealand 20-years ago is showing “Reader” ($4200) which is one of her striking, life sized, ceramic works depicting women at peace.

Jin Ling “Reader”

Since inception, Sculpture on Shore has raised more than $2.1M for the victims of domestic violence, helping women and children access safe places to stay, counselling and wrap around services.

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