Reviews, News and Commentary

“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
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.

Reviews, News and Commentary

“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.

Reviews, News and Commentary

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.

Reviews, News and Commentary

NZSO opens its Stravinsky ballet music season with a lively Petrushka.

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Stephen de Pledge

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra


Auckland Town Hall

March 27

Hamish McKeich Conductor
Stephen De Pledge Piano

Ravel La Valse
Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major 
Anna Clyne Masquerade
Stravinsky Petrushka (1947 version)

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

In 1961 Igor Stravinsky conducted “The Firebird” to packed town halls in Wellington and Auckland and next month, sixty years later, the work will again be performed in the same venues. Leading up to that performance the NZSO this month has performed his ballet music for “Petrushka” in the two cities.

“Petrushka” was written in 1911, a year after “The Firebird” and two years before his “Rite of Spring” (which the orchestra will perform in July), the three works heralding a new modernist approach to ballet compositions.

The ballet tells  of three puppets – a dashing Moor,  a petite ballerina, and  a straw doll named Petrushka. Both the males are in love with the dancers, they fight over her and Petrushka dies but then comes back as his ghost.

Stravinsky created a number of colourful folk based melodies which are used to depict the three main characters along with the Magician, various dancers and assorted revellers.

The orchestra under Hamish McKeich’s precise direction shifted from theme to theme as Stravinsky piles remarkable tunes on top of each other conveying a rich mixture of movement, event and emotion.  The music perfectly conveyed the flamboyance and exoticism of the fairground attractions  with colourful percussion especially prominent.

Amongst all this  we were treated to several instrumental solos such as the Magician’s flute cadenza played by Bridget Douglas. The Moor’s music was given a tartness by the trumpet and the Ballerina’s elegance conveyed by the bassoon.

McKeich ensured that the chaos of the fair  was kept alive with the  sweeping strings creating images of dancing and debauched figures as well as a bumbling bear  conjured up by the tuba.

The first part of the programme featured two works by Ravel. His delightful La Valse transported the audience to a surreal ballroom in another realm where South American rhythms  were interwoven and juxtaposed with Viennese waltzes.

The orchestra managed the quirky transitions between the whimsical, the  grotesque, and the extravagant , between the delicate and the cacophonic.

Stephen de Pledge took to the stage to play Ravels Pian Concerto which has a magical combination of the exotic and traditional with the orchestra sometimes sounding like an American big band.

De Pledge  was comfortable, playing with  lightness of touch notably in the long solo in the adagio. He delighted in the changing dynamic of the various motifs with incisive skill seeming to find subtle detail throughout the work. In the final, more energetic  presto he and orchestra were more in tune with the carnival theme of the concert playing with a great enthusiasm  with de Pledge becoming part of the percussion section.

Also on the programme was five-minute work by British composer Anna Clyne. Her “Masquerade” slotted well into the programme  with a piece which featured waves of energy as the orchestra recreated the spirit of a masquerade, the eighteenth-century British carnival.

The piece made use of the entire  orchestra including several new percussion instruments creating a dense  tapestry of sound with threads of melody darting through the orchestra.

Future Stravinsky concerts


Wellington April 8

Tauranga April 10

Napier  April 17

Rite of Spring

Auckland   July 3

Wellington   July 10

Auckland   April 24

Reviews, News and Commentary

Michael Houstoun conquers the Everest of piano concertos.

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Auckland Philharmonia

Auckland Town Hall

Houstoun Plays Rachmaninov

March 23

Conductor Vincent Hardaker
Piano Michael Houstoun

Maria Grenfell Stealing Tutunui
Vaughan Williams Symphony No.5
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.3

Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto is often referred to as the Everest of piano concertos because of its monumentality. The metaphor can be extended to the pianist themselves and their struggle to dominate the work. Just as the climber moves progressively up the mountain, encountering crevasses, snowstorms and avalanches before the final assault, so too does the pianist struggle with the demands of the concerto.

Michael Houstoun’ s appearance with the APO this week was probably one of his last and playing the Rachmaninov would have been a challenge he has been wanting to undertake for some time.

He has written about the work saying  “This concerto is famously huge with enormous numbers of notes, requiring not just dexterity but also real strength and stamina. Rachmaninov’s piano writing is so brilliant and sublime though that it does not really seem like work. The beautiful melodies and rich harmonies, the wonderful surging structures – all the elements put together make it one of the very greatest of piano concertos.”

After an unsuccessful performance of the work in Wellington last year due to technical issues Michael Houstoun was like the climber having a second attempt at reaching the summit, probably motivated to make the supreme effort.  

The concerto consists of the two, often competing forces of the pianist and orchestra as they explore the works intense Romanticism, its modernist introspection and an ever-present Russian melancholy.

Houstoun’s performance was spectacular. There was no hint that he was daunted by the work, playing with confidence and assurance in front of a packed Auckland Town Hall. This was a cerebral performance with a focus on his technique and his attempts to illuminate Rachmaninov’s multi-layered themes. He ensured that he was in control with a combination of power, poetry and speed, mastering the themes and variations, the big complex chords, thundering octaves and surging phrases. Throughout the concerto’s most difficult and intricate movements he provided an electrifying display of keyboard virtuosity.

At times he became the great showman with his almost frenetic playing which was as dramatic as that of the orchestra. At times his playing seems to glide over the sounds of the orchestra and at others he seemed to be searching for his melody before weaving into the orchestral sounds

The orchestra under conductor Vincent Hardaker played their part in providing the monumental sounds which accompany the soloist through to the furious sounds of the dramatic conclusion.

Where the Rachmaninov was distinctly Russian the other large work on the programme, the Vaughan Williams Fifth Symphony was distinctly English. Written thirty years after the Rachmaninov this work with its pastoral  Romanticism was  a gentle, melodic and uplifting work .Despite its apparent  lightness  it was an  elaborate and sophisticated piece, elegantly controlled by conductor Hardaker.

The other work on the programme was New Zealander Maria Grenfell’s tone poem “Stealing Tutunui”  which she describes as recounting the Māori legend about a chief, his pet whale, and a duplicitous priest.

The various instruments notably the harp woodwinds and brass created what might be a day in the life of a forest with music of birdsong, atmospheric incidents and small dramatic events.  From the opening joyous sounds, the music  rose to a tumult of sounds of an approaching storm or premonition. Grenfell displays an ability to utilise the orchestras instruments to create sounds which combine the exotic and the natural brilliantly.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Strasbourg 1518 an impressive dance work

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Lucy Marinkovich (The Maiden) and Death (Michael Parmenter)

Auckland Arts Festival

Strasbourg 1518

ASB Waterfront Theatre

March 19

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Strasbourg 1518 opens sedately enough. A crowd of people I advance hall moving slowly to gentle music  through there are hints of  Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden. This serenity is soon interrupted by a couple – Death (Michael Parmenter) and The Maiden (Lucy Marinkovich) dancing a more elabiorate ballroom dance duo. They whirl about the stage energetically, a mix of Dancing with the Stars  and musical, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire meets Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev.

Their display is then interrupted by an officious narrator (Nick Blake) who rails against dancing and its lack of change over the last few hundred years embarking on a treatise about dance and its origins.

This develops into the tale  of the 1518 Strasbourg dance mania. It is based on actual events which occurred in the city when a woman began to dance fervently in a street. This was followed by an outbreak of dancing by a group of mostly young women joined in. This  dancing mania went on for some time and  the Strasbourg magistrate and bishop, and some number of doctors ultimately intervened, putting the afflicted in a hospital and it is believed that some people died of their affliction.

The display of increasingly demented dancing is a compelling illustration of the emotional aspects of dance, particularly contemporary dance where the individuals can appear to be transported either into some inner place or a new exotic location.

What initially starts as a local disturbance become as an uprising and then a revolution. The dancers begin to protest with revolutionary signs and slogans – “The Artists are the Poor” and “We are falling spectacularly Apart”. This mass hysteria combined with the overthrow of religious and political controls and the descent into anarchy mirrors some of the contemporary paintings of Hieronymus Bosch such as  “The Triumph of Death”.

Much of the time there appears to be a strong connection with earlier contemporary works such as the “Rite of Spring” and there is an underlying sense of anxiety and unease associated with Covid 19,

The musical score by Lucien Johnson who plays musical instruments on stage as well as controlling the digital tracks is brilliantly integrated into the narrative proving  a  dramatic soundscape and emotional charge.

Director and Choreographer Lucy Marinkovich has devised an intelligent and expressive work in which the dancing becomes a metaphor for the state of society. We are made very aware of the nature of  dance as an art form  where individuals engage in intense relationships both physical and emotional. The dancing was immensely varied with ethnic displays, rock, tribal and Pacific slap dancing.

The six main dancers Hannah Tasker-Poland, Sean MacDonald, Kare Rudd, Xin Ji, Eliza Sanders and Emmanuel Reynaud gave stunning performances their ferocious, seemingly random dancing which was by turns confronting,  abrupt, sinuous, sensuous and dangerous.

The final tableau in which the dancers disappear to be replaced by Parmenter and Marinkovich, neatly tied the whole work together and we were left with the silhouette of Parmenter not just as Death but as the supreme creator – the choreographer/ dancer.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Voices at the End: Mesmeric Minamilism

Reviwed by John Daly-Peoples

Auckland Arts Festival

Voices at the End

John Psathas and  Steve Reich

Auckland Town hall

March 18

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

“Voices at the End” featuring two large piano works was a major feat for the six pianists involved but also a brave move by the festival to put on a programme of minimalist music. But, the packed Auckland Town Hall showed that there is an avid audience for such work. Hopefully future festivals will aim for other innovative work. It was also great that a  major American work, Steve Reich’s “Six Pianos” from fifty years ago could be paired with New Zealander  John Psathas’s “Voices at the End”.

“Six Pianos” is a minamilist piece for six pianos and Steve Reich’s idea was originally for a piece titled “Piano Store” that could be played on all the pianos in a piano store and was initially played on an ensemble of sixupright pianos so that the close proximity would  allow for very precise timing and avoid the  the resonances of grand pianos.[

The  six pianos played overlapping variations on a simple melodic theme for the piece’s duration. The developments and manipulations which  occur are subtle, the shifts barely noticeable, creating a mesmeric minimalism.

There are changes in the simple melodic structures as well in the rhythms and the volume of the different pianos.

Unlike many piano performances the pianists appeared to be less engaged with the music performing almost robotically, all part of a programmed approach to playing.

Overall the work seemed to be like a flowing river or ocean surge with waves and surges endlessly repeating, creating an ever-evolving organic entity with an internal life of its own.

In contrast to the simplicity of the Reich work John Psathas’s “Voices at the End” was more complex, almost operatic in its reach.

Inspired by the film “Planetary”  the piece expands on various themes around ecological and organic systems and the need to move from an industrial growth society to a life sustaining society.

The work has five sections which included texts ranging from the Sanskrit “Mahabharata” through to the greeting from the United Nations to others living in Outer Space sent on the NASA Voyager spacecraft in 1977.

In each of the sections there are different moods created from the dreamscape of the opening section building through the tone poems with the music becoming the dramatic background to a Sanskrit tale.

The various sections express  concerns about the social and ecological challenges and there is an intense dialogue between the pianos. At one point there was what could be a dirge or love song to Earth with an edgy counterpoint between nature and the man made.

The sounds and music range from the brutish sounds of actual bombs being dropped in war through bird song, passionate dance and jazz rhythms, Eastern music  and a beautifully mannered minimalism.

The six pianists in both works were Stephen De Pledge, Arts Foundation Laureate Michael Houstoun, Somi Kim, Jian Liu, Sarah Watkins and Liam Wooding 

Reviews, News and Commentary

“The Artist” a classy mix of physical theatre, mime and visual humour

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Thom Monckton

Auckland Arts Festival

The Artist

Q Theatre

Until March 21

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

“The Artist” should come with a warning – make that two warnings. Don’t sit in the front row. You could get to go on stage as The Artist’s sttoge. Also, if you can remember where it is, bring a table tennis paddle.

We are in an artist’s studio where we encounter The Artist (Thom Monckton) who over the course of an hour produces / assembles / finds several artworks which in the end are brought together for an art exhibition. Monckton explores a number of the tropes about art and artists which he plays with or gets lost in.

He must be a French artist because he wears a blue and white striped top but no beret – so he is bit like Picasso, but his activities have him more like, Marcel Marceau the great mime artist. But then again he is also disconcertingly like the very un-French Mr Bean.

Monckton is a conjurer, acrobat, mime and contortionist  who creates endless visual jokes, making use of the artists  equipment and the everyday items of the studio. His attempts to get hold of a brush have him entangled in a table, a set of shelves and a rogue ladder while his attempts to secure some fabric to a stretcher  with a staple gun are complicated, hilarious  and dangerous.

There is an elaborate set-up around a still life where the fruit are given a life of their own and the traditional image of a bowl of fruit, bottle of wine and glass gets reworked in a clever visual  joke where the artist paints one of the real green apples red so it matches the apples in the painting .

There was a bit of audience involvement. One  young woman was cajoled onto the stage to sit for a portrait and then got given the job of painting artist’s portrait. There is also a rapid game of ping pong (remember the paddle) as he fires balls into the audience. The audience provided feedback with waves of laughter, but Monckton was particularly  concerned with the chuckles of a young child pointing at his watch, letting the parents know it was past the young ones bedtime.

Monckton displays brilliant timing and pace in a mixture of physical theatre, mime and visual humour which makes this act classy and entertaining.

While he is silent apart from a few guttural phrases the background sound and music are brilliantly integrated into the performance.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Artists in Eden

John Daly-Peoples

Stanley Palmer

Artists in Eden

Essex Rd Reserve, Mt Eden Village

March 20, 10.00 – 2.00 (Auction 2.30)

This Saturday Mt Eden Village sees the annual Artists in Eden, one of Auckland’s great community arts events which has taken place each year for the past 33 years.

The event in which artists create interpretations or respond to Mt Eden is a unique event and an example of the community arts in action – artists and the community focussed on some common theme and outcome, the artists aware of the audience and purpose, the audience participating in the event as viewers and commentators.

The day provides artist with the opportunity to demystify the production of art, to let people see how artists create their work, how it evolves on the page or canvas.

David Blair

The public have an opportunity to engage with the artists to discover how and why an artist works in a particular way and what their relationship to Mt Eden is. It was also a way for the artist to move their studio outside and let people see how they work

This year forty artists will be taking part including Dick Frizzell, George Baloghy Russell Jackson and Peata Larkin. There are also several younger emerging artists who have won the Eden Arts Art Schools Awards and the Young Mt Eden Artists Award including Brittany Walker-Smith and Rhea Maheshwari

Over the years there have been over fifteen hundred paintings, drawings photographs and sculptures produced by close to 100 artists and many of the artists have taken innovative approaches. Jeff Thompson brought along his machine for knitting strips of corrugated iron into a sculpture of Mount Eden.

Nigel Brown made a woodblock print producing a two coloured print in an edition of three and in the case of Robert Ellis his participation led to  his major series of paintings –“Maungawahua / Mt Eden”.

Among the artist who have taken part in previous years have been Pat Hanly, Don Binney, Peter Siddell,  Terry Stringer, Alexis Hunter, Clyde Scott, Geoff Tune, Martin Ball, Peata Larkin, Dick Frizzell and Stanley Palmer

Reviews, News and Commentary

New Jeffrey Harris paintings grapple with love, sex and death.

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Jeffrey Harris, Possession

Jeffrey Harris, New Paintings

Suite, Auckland

Until April 5

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Jeffrey Harris creates dreamscapes where the real and surreal, the spiritual and the earthly the sacred and profane jostle with each other with a rich imagery which grapples with issues of love, sex and death.

In his latest exhibition of new paintings from this year he draws on medieval styles of depiction,  artists of the Trecento such as Giotto, Francis Bacon and Colin McCahon. His cartoon-like approach  and the Christian imagery creates a unique view of the social. psychological, and spiritual dilemmas of society.

Like many artists over the years, his use of  Christian symbolism, has overtones of ancient meaning as well as contemporary psychological interpretations.

Many of the symbols used by Harris are multi layered as with the case of the severed or floating head.

The symbolism of severed head as its roots in early art – David slaying Goliath, St John the Baptist’s head demanded by Salome and Judith slaying Holofernes.

The Symbolists such as Redon saw this floating head as the  embodiment of purity and martyrdom as well as the dangerous eroticism of the femme fatale, which leads to the emasculation  of the male while Freudians would see it as a symbol of castration.

But there are many other rich symbols – the snake, the two headed snake, the crucifix, the crucified man, the book, the drop of blood, the candle, the single tree.

It means that these works are narratives combining biblical tales, recreated myths, dream sequences and psychological  insights.

In using Christian imagery Harris creates ambivalent narratives. While the Bible stories are about God/Christ, Harris uses them as  symbols of human suffering, addressing issues of personal spirituality and angst.

These stories range from the simple depictions of Adam and Eve in “Female and Male” where Adam prefigures Christ by piercing his side with a spear. But the two figures hold symbols of violence – the woman a pistol and the man a spear and sword. The  violence done to the Male/Christ figure is self-inflicted, the image  suggesting that our suffering, violence and antipathy are self-generated.

Jeffrey Harris, Family

His  “Crucifixion and Figures in Landscape derives from the many religious paintings as well as Colin McCahon’s technique of placing the biblical scenes in local landscapes.

“Family” has a much more ambivalent sexual content with a Christ figure into bondage confronted by a religious dominatrix. There is also  an emasculated penis image on the wall.