Reviews, News and Commentary

Christian Li and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Christian Li and the MSO Image Laura Manariti

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Mendelssohn and Brahms

Conductor,  Sir Andrew Davis

Violin Soloist, Christian Li

Hamer Hall, Arts Centre , Melbourne

December 3

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Earlier this year the young Chinese violinist Christian Li played works by Saint Saen’s and Ravel with the Auckland Philharmonia. The then fourteen year old giving an impressive performance. I noted at the time that it was as though this fourteen year old  had been taken over by a violinist ten years older and that his every movement and expression seemed to be channelling the  emotional energy and technical brilliance  of a mature  musician.

In that concert he performed technically challenging but rather short pieces which showed his ability to produce sounds which were truly capricious with sudden changes of mood and style which resulted in an electrifying performance.

Last week the now fifteen year old appeared with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis playing a much more substantial work, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Mendelssohn had spent nearly ten years writing the concerto adhering to the classical style of Beethoven while combining much of  the romantic ethos which leads on to the music of Brahms. In several ways he broke with tradition such as having the violin make an instant introduction to the work . Then there is no break between the first and second movements, with a bassoon note held between the two sections and the work also calls on the soloist to function as an accompanist to the orchestra for extended periods.

Li  opened the turbulent first movement with a  relentless vigour  responding urgently to the orchestra and conductor . At times his playing was raw, almost visceral revealing the passionate aspect of the work  while at other times he exposed the delicate and sensual elements of the music with his playing being little more than a whisper.

He seemed very much in control tackling the work with lively self-confidence, even the passages which Mendelssohn must have written to technically challenge the performer were effortlessly disposed of.

The dynamic energy he put into the playing  showed that he not only had an understanding of the technical aspects of the works  but also an appreciation of the works emotional impact.

In the second movement with its more restful mood there were passages where he was dominated by the orchestra as though sinking under the weight of the music but this changed when he erupted like a blossoming flower with an exuberant intensity

In the third movement in which many of the motifs of the first movement were restated he displayed  a playful jousting  engagement with the orchestra in a very physical manner.

Throughout he managed to conjure up some graceful unforced tones with crisp articulation heightening the romantic sweep of the music, discovering its emotional depths

The opening work on the programme was  Carl Vine’s “MicroSymphony” which in twelve minutes creates a compact abstraction of a symphonic work allowing each of the sections of the orchestra to demonstrate their strengths.

It opened with a percussion onslaught followed by waves of gentle strings along interspersed brass and woodwinds. The overall impression was of some giant mechanical machine, at times roaring at other times purring, slowly evolving and resolving -a metaphor for the creative process and the evolution of a creative work.

The major work on the programme was Brahms’s Symphony No 4. Like all the composers works there is a strong personal element. to the work and one is conscious of the composer using the music to reflect on his physical and emotional journey through life. The tensions and contrasts of the music  reflect the composers intellectual and musical refinement of the work, as well as his attempts to express the delights as well as the tragedies of life in a sort of pre-Mahler emotional and psychological landscape.

Sir Andrew Davis realised the  depth of the work, ensuring that each of the complex musical sections flowed seamlessly into the other.  Thereas the impassioned intensity of the opening movement through the earthy sounds of the  pizzicato strings  sounds in the second movement  and on to the final movement which takes one of Bach’s Cantatas as a starting point turning it into a  pursuit of darkness and drama. These all combined to create a momentous journey and we followed the composer; drifting, buffeted, cheered and saddened by event and encounter. Even though the composer had more than a decade to live the symphony seems like a contemplation of his own mortality.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra 2023

Next year’s MSO programme offers other appearances of Christian Li including playing the Sibelius Violon Concerto

The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon rattle will be performing May 5 & 6 with works by John Adams, Debussy and Ravel along with Mahler’s Symphony No 7.

Among the big symphonies on offer will be Mahler’s Symphony No 5, Dvorak Symphonies No 5  6, Beethoven’s Symphony No 8

There are also  Violin concertos by Brahms, Mendelssohn, Beethoven on the programme.

Reviews, News and Commentary

History, myth and culture explored in Greco-Māori Exhibition

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Marian Maguire, Ko wai koe? Who are you?

Who Are You?: Athens, Aotearoa & the Art of Marian Maguire

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

Until May 2023

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The New Zealand artist Marian Maguire is currently showing a set of lithographs and etchings at Melbourne’s Hellenic Museum which combine British, Māori and ancient Greek culture and history to create a visual conversation that touches on colonialism, memory, cultural interaction, history and myth.

The works are  from several of the artist’s series, including “The Odyssey of Captain Cook”, “The Labours of Herakles”, “Titokowaru’s Dilemma” and “A Taranaki Dialogue”.

Herakles, whom we tend to refer to as Hercules, was a Greek hero of extraordinary strength, who roamed the ancient world performing extraordinary feats and founding many cities. He stands as symbol for the colonial endeavours of Greece whose empire encompassed much of the Mediterranean. In these works Hercules, Captain Cook and Britain are conflated into complex notions about colonialism as well as the impact of European civilization which has Greek culture at its institution.

In the exhibition Hercules has arrived in New Zealand to continue his activities, integrating himself into the world of 19th century New Zealand. This ancient world traveller is depicted in the style of an Athenian red and black figure bearing  his attributes , the wooden club and the lion skin. He, along with Queen Victoria are seen signing the Treaty of Waitangi but it is Hercules who is doing the actual signing rather than Victoria indicating the continuing impact of a colonial mindset. We also see Hercules as the coloniser/farmer in “Herakles Dreams of Arcadia” where he is depicted digging in the ravaged forest lands. He is also depicted as the coloniser./ intellectual in “Herakles writes home” sitting in his study which has various books of Western culture including The Bible, a Māori/ Greek Dictionary, Anne Salmond’s “The Trial of the Cannibal Dog”, Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and books about Cook’s voyages.

Marian Maguire, Herakles writes home”

Hercules becomes a mixture of the mythic Greek hero, 18th century European navigator and 19th century colonist, his New Zealand exploits paralleling the colonial ambitions of classical Greece.

The artist has depicted scenes from early New Zealand’s history including works from  “The Odyssey of Captain Cook” series which features an Attic vase with images  of sailors disembarking from a Greek trireme, Joseph Banks  bartering with a Māori for a lobster (an image based on the drawing by Tupaia) and the death of Captain Cook shown in the style of a Grecian frieze. Another image features Cook landing on a beach holding a palm frond in one hand and a musket in the other. In the boat with him is a large Greek vase depicting soldiers fighting and behind that, a partial view of the Endeavour firing its cannons.

Marian Maguire, Captain Cook makes his approach from the West

One of the images, which was widely used to publicise the exhibition, featured a Māori face confronting a masked Athenian figure, with the designs on the helmet resembling the whorls of the Māori’s tattooed face.

Many of the works make use of early images of encounter including Heaphy’s view of Mt Taranaki while “Te Whiti and Titokowaru discuss the question what is peace” is modelled on a vase painting by the Greek artist Exekias depicting Ajax and Achilles hunched over a board game during a lull in the fighting of the Trojan War. The discussion around the nature of peace references dialogues around the concept from the ancient times of Plato and Socrates and is alluded to in other images such as “Socrates asks the Mountain, What is Wisdom”. These works also emphasis the attempts at peace-making by Titokowaru  in the nineteenth century. 

Marian Maguire, Te Whiti and Titokowaru discuss the question what is peace”

The exhibition explores some of the issues around the notions of culture and change – the way European culture has been formed by various waves of colonisation, changing religious, and social ideas and concepts. It also touches on the 18th century idea that Māori were a noble race untouched by European civilisation, a notion which was addressed in Lisa Reihana’s video work “In Pursuit of Venus [infected]” as well as the political struggles of Māori over land issues during the nineteenth century.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Snowflake: Two Immoveable Objects, One Catalyst

Reviewed by Malcolm Calder

Michael Lawrence (Andy) and Clementine Mills (Maya) Image Tatania Harper


By Mike Bartlett

Directed by Paul Gittens

A Plumb Theatre Production

Pitt Street Theatre

Until December 11

By Malcolm Calder

24 November 2022

What an enjoyable little play.  And perfectly timed for Christmas too. 

Mike Bartlett, perhaps best known for winning three Oliviers, has come up with something quite delightful that has plenty for the pondering classes to consume.  And Plumb Productions have placed it perfectly in the pre-Christmas slot at the Pitt Street theatre.

Bartlett’s Snowflake has a generational divide, a language divide, a social divide, a political divide and a whole lot of other divides. No spoilers here but it ultimately ends up not being about division at all. 

Michael Lawrence opens the first Act with a meandering monologue as Andy, a rumpled and slightly disheveled, 50-ish, white-male widower.  He is questioning and over-thinking a three-year estrangement from 21-y-o daughter Maya, after a longstanding family disagreement.  Despite his efforts to understand the estrangement, the issue of blame lurks somewhere in his head.  Could have been his fault, could have been hers.  Yes, a lot hers.  Well maybe just a tiny bit hers.  She is still pretty young after all.  But he doesn’t really understand himself and understands Maya even less.  Ergo, the blame issue becomes a generational one.  That is simpler.  Isn’t it?  So, perhaps irrationally, he has convinced himself that Maya will return for Christmas, and he is making every effort he knows to ensure a welcoming and festive reunion.  He has gone out and hired a rather nondescript hall and made a passing effort to decorate it appropriately with Christmas lights that metaphorically fail to initially light.  What he is aiming for is the restoration of a familial pater-et-fillette unit that never really happened 6 years ago when the wife/mother passed away after a sudden illness.  But, of course, it’s not that simple.

Layla Pitt (Natalie) Image Tatania Harper

Rather unexpectedly, a hip young woman, Natalie (Layla Pitt), who may or may not have also booked the hall, arrives to pack up some crockery.  She is intelligent, smart and pretty articulate.  Despite his better intentions, an initially reticent Andy reveals why he is there.  After some preliminary sparring, so does Natalie – eventually.  And she is not there just to pack crockery

Unfortunately, Andy is irretrievably locked into the past, while Natalie is not.  Just as he is a dithering middle aged white male who works in a museum and takes a lot of things for granted, she is an onto it, well-educated and socially aware darker skinned professional woman.  She is of a totally different generation with a comprehensively different worldview.  Even that is flawed to some extent and some of her viewpoints, while different, carry their own undercurrent of self-righteousness.

It’s not long, however, before things speed up and she becomes the catalyst for an Act 2 discussion (her word) or argument (his word) that challenges their respective values, attitudes and politics on everything from education to racial stereotyping, from lifestyle to dress sense, and Brexit plays a big part too.  But we’re a mature mob in Tamaki Makaurau in 2022 and we can put that context to one side and simply regard it as wallpaper or context.  Far more importantly, Snowflake fairly bristles with the drama and tension that now erupts between the two. 

But that is only a curtain-raiser to the eventual arrival of daughter Maya in Act 3 and the drama ratchets up even further.  Maya (Clementine Mills) quickly confirms herself as the real contrapuntal immoveable object to Andy, and her presence confirms the part Natalie plays as a catalyst between them, ultimately agreeing, disagreeing, supporting, opposing, listening and encouraging.

I could go on to describe where the finale of Act 3 goes, but that would be a spoiler alert.  Suffice say it’s all about two opposing viewpoints, and their catalyst that leads to eventual redemption.

Michael Lawrence gives a bravura performance as Andy – a remarkably well-written character.  He is real.  I know someone just like him.  And so is Layla Pitt – I know someone just like her too.  Both give simply outstanding performances.  It is always difficult coming on towards the end in a critical and briefer role, but Clementine Mills’ Maya sustains the tension director Paul Gittens has crafted.  Ultimately the drama and that tension build wonderfully in Snowflake. It is to be admired, respected and applauded.

Yes, it is an English drama and, yes, it is a tad dated at 4 years old, but the universality of its larger issues stand easily in Aotearoa in 2022.  As a play, Snowflake it is structurally rife with theatrical contrivances you could drive a bus through at times.  But this is theatre after all, and Snowflake asks its audience to suspend any disbelief and simply wallow in the dialogue and let the drama shine through.  It does.  

When the Old Fire Station Theatre at Oxford commissioned this play from Mike Bartlett, their single stipulation was that it have an ending appropriate to Christmas.  They got it.  This cast and its director deliver it.

Clementine Mills (Maya) Image Tatania Harper

Reviews, News and Commentary

The Art of Black Grace 1/5

Reviewed by Malcolm Calder

The Art of Black Grace 1/5

Neil Ieremia

A Black Grace dance installation

Karanga Plaza

Wynyard Quarter

Multiple daily performances

Until 10 December 2022

The Art of Black Grace 1/5

Director and Executive Producer Neil Ieremia

Executive Producer Abby Ieremia

Lead Producer James Wasmer

Post Production Delainy Kennedy

Director of Photography Duncan Cole

Reviewed by Malcolm Calder

It was wet and rainy Sunday afternoon on the Auckland waterfront.  On one of the open spaces at Wynard Quater a cylindrical tube about 6m long is standing on end, surrounded by lights and carefully fenced off with railings.

Clutching umbrellas, some casual passers-by stop.  Seeing only a kind of round wall with lots of wires and plugs, they become intrigued.  ‘What is it?’ they ask.  “Could be a rocket ship” he says laughing. “Yeah, maybe be a Spacelab thing …” she replied.  Upon learning it is a new Black Grace project they become even more intrigued.  “Yeah, I’ve heard of Black Grace”, he said, “but modern dance just isn’t my thing”. “Why don’t we check it out?” she responded.

So they did.

Inside they found the cylinder is about 15m in diameter and comfortably holds about 100 people.  Standing.  The inside walls are completely clad in a myriad of LED screens.  They are dark.  Black.  Overhead, and also black, a sound and lighting system lurks on a gantry.  Above the gantry they can see only the sky and scudding storm clouds.  But mercifully the rain holds off and their umbrellas remain furled.

On looking around they soon realise they are encircled by dimly lit … darkness.  No, wait.  They are no longer standing on Wynard Quarter concrete.  Underfoot has become a stage floor, edges barely lit, yet revealing traces of people.  Sitting.  And moving. Then standing.  Are they naked?  No, they’re in black leotards.  Phew … they’re dancers.  Slowly, discreetly, the dancers move closer and encircle this large group of people who have never met and do not know each other, but who are about to become a single entity as they share and experience something unique.  They do so with 360-degree vision around the wall-with-no-corners, turning in different directions as new images capture their attention. 

Or so it seems. Now the dancers are doing warmup routines – stretching and arching and breathing.  Their expirations can be heard, globules of sweat run teasingly down well-muscled limbs.  Their feet can be heard.  It is as if the concrete vibrates under them.

Now Neil Ieremia appears from nowhere and the dancers come even closer, encircling him.  This audience is a part of the circle.  He addresses their huddle, eyes locked like a rugby team listening to its coach just before kickoff.  His quiet words reassure them. He exudes a confidence that instils, reminding them what they have achieved in rehearsal and that now is their time to shine.

As an ominously murmuring sound track growls beneath his words, and Vivaldi starts to filter through, his passion passes into each..  Truly motivating them.  “Above all, enjoy”, are his closing words.  Just like that rugby coach, this director and choreographer must now leave it to the team.

What immediately follows is an intermixed semi-documentary that’s almost an aside.  It includes Neil Ieremia’s reflections, with a cross-faded soundscape ranging from hip-hop to old favs that pulse with everything from cultural drumming to electronic sonics.  The images and the storyline start with Neil’s early days in Porirua, move to grappling with the cultural shock of being Samoan in a new country, and then disbelief from his own family upon learning that he wants to become a professional dancer.  His reflections are intermixed with a pastiche of street dancing, some of it inside what looks like a concrete silo, and some with his early work.  At heart Neil Ieremia remains a space cowboy, though dancing his way through life and into the present via snapshots of things and events that have remained with him.  Spread across a 50-year period of recent NZ social and political history (the 1981 Springbok tour, Moruroa, Rainbow Warrior, Bastion Point, to name a few), it is akin to a dash of This Is My Life mixed with events that illustrate an Aotearoa story as much as a Neil Ieremia one.  The impact on him is clear.

The finale however is a reversion to the performance audiences have been warmed up for. 

Now things really get interesting as dancers run, leap, fly and echo a work premiered earlier this year.  It is exciting and exhilarating, is filled with seemingly inexhaustible energy and is pure Black Grace.

And the cylindrical tube works too.  Please remember that the audience is still ‘on stage’ and are almost a part of the performance even though it is never actuality, only a filmed recording of such.  During one sequence where the dancers hurtle over, above and onto a series of large, rounded stage prop rocks, one of the rocks has a tiny wobble.  And someone standing next to me gave a gasp and stepped back very quickly … just in case.  

So, a success?  Yes, for exploring a new medium.  Yes, for bringing world-class contemporary dance to new audiences.  Yes, for creating something of which this country can be proud even though it’s not quite ready for somewhere like Times Square – yet!   However, this is only Room 1 of the Art of Black Grace.  I cannot wait for Parts 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Later I was fortunate to catch up with those initial passers-by and asked how they felt after leaving.  They were thankful they hadn’t used their umbrellas, were staggering just a touch and a little glassy-eyed and then he said, “Man, I am utterly and totally exhausted just from watching”.

Session times every half hour;

Mondays – Tuesdays 6pm – 8.30pm

Wednesdays – Thursdays 6pm – 9.30pm

Fridays – 6pm – 11.30pm

Saturdays – 11am – 11.30pm

Sunday, Nov 27 & Dec 4 – 11am – 8:30pm

Tickets from

Reviews, News and Commentary

Robin White: Something is happening Here  at the Auckland Art Gallery

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Robin White, This is me at Kaitangata

Robin White: Something is happening Here 

Auckland City Art Gallery\

Until January 30th 2023

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Robin White: Te Whanaketanga | Something is Happening Here is a marvellous retrospective exhibition of work by contemporary New Zealand artist Dame Robin White.

The works range across fifty years, from her early colourful prints of herself, family, friends and her local environment to the large collaborative works she has undertaken with artists from across the Pacific, including Japanese artists Keiko Iimura and Taeko Ogawa and her large-scale tapa works with Tongan artists, Ruha and Ebonie Fifita, and Fijian artist, Tamari Cabeikanacea.

Robin White. Soon the tide will turn

In “Soon the tide will turn” one of her large collaborative barkcloth works the artist includes a small image based on a painting of hers from fifty years before. It is of the building which dominates “Mangaweka” but without the old Bedford truck sitting outside. The two works illustrate her commitment to recognising place and her links to the land across time. For many artists their work is an expression of and a contemplation of their physical, emotional and spiritual connections, with White the images she has created constitute a visual diary of the places she has lived, the environments she has inhabited and the people she has encountered.

Robin White, Mangaweka

As she has previously said of her work “A consistent thread in my work it that it’s made in response to place and what’s happening around me – physical and social environments provide raw material, the inspiration and the starting point”

This connection with family and community is noticeable in the early works such as images of Sam Hunt, Claudia Pond Eyley, her mother Florence and her son Michael. Then at the end of the exhibition there is the large diptych “Aoi ngairo – This is us” in which she depicts members of her village.

Ronin White. Clouds, Hill and Claudia

The exhibition follows her career from the early successes, selling work to the University of Auckland and The Dowse through to her relocation to Kiribati. It traces out  the development of a personal style and shows the various influences on her work and the similarities related to artists such as Michael Smither and Don Binney.

Her work up till 1982 when she moved to Kiribati is quite distinctive from the latter work she would produce. Her work of the 1970’s includes images of building and landscapes of the places she encountered – Bottle Creek, Porirua,  Mt Eden, Dunedin and Harbour Cone. Some of these paintings recall McCahons line about “a landscapes with too few lovers” but they also hint at Rita Angus’s Cass.

The large portraits of that time set in landscapes seem to link to the portraits and religious depictions of the Renaissance where the backgrounds perform a symbolic function as well as providing a sense of place.

The work after 1982 when she began living in Kiribati, touring the Pacific and the world have a different style and different outlook. As she says about arriving in her new homeland “You look one way and there is the ocean, and the other way and there is more ocean. It’s just the sense of vastness and the nothingness of space.”

A lot of these works focussed on the domestic and everyday life on the island. A series of woodblock prints from the 1990’s was inspired by a young woman with “Nei Tiein goes for  a walk” and  another of The Fisherman loses his way.” The Nei Tiein works are linked to the poems of Yeats and Blake and the Fisherman series look like Pacific reworking of biblical images and narratives.

Many of the  significant works she produced were collaborations. The first of these was with her artist friend Claudia Pond Eyley and their set of woodcuts “Twenty-eight day in Kiribati.” Later collaborations were with female artists of the island as well as artists from Tonga Fiji and New Zealand. Some of these large-scale works were on barkcloth , the images made from earth pigments and natural dyes  featuring a range of stencilled motifs of Western and Pacific art. In “Soon the tide will turn” which featured her own work she also includes Henri Matisse’s shoes and hat, a reference to the time the Frenchman spent in the Pacific.

There are some massive works in the final galleries the most impressive being “Moana Lolotu – The Crimson Sea”, a collaboration with Ruha and Ebonie Fifita. This large  black work is imbued with a depth of history and culture of the Pacific but it links to works by Robert Motherwell and Anselm Kiefer.

Robin White. Moana Lolotu – The Crimson Sea

There is also her collaboration with Keiko Iimura, “Summer Green” which is a reflection on the tragedy which occurred during World War II at the POW camp ibn the Wairarapa. The work which is a more political work brings together White’s imagery along with the symbolism of Iimura.

Accompanying the exhibition is a new book  Robin White: Something is Happening Here, which includes fresh perspectives by 24 writers and interviewees from Aotearoa, Australia and Te Moana Nui a Kiwa, the Pacific. It offers an insight into the artists multi-layered  life and greatly expands our knowledge and appreciation of her work.

The book contains more than 150 full colour reproduction, numerous photographs. While the main text of the book is  by Sarah Farrar, Jill Trevelyan and Nina Tonga there are also  a number of shorter essays on particular works and aspects of the artist life by other commentators including Peter Brunt  Helen Ennis, Gregory O’Brien, Justin Paton , Linda Tyler and Haare Williams.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Ten art works at the Aotearoa Art Fair

John Daly-Peoples

Areez Katki, Tim Melville Gallery

Ann Shelton, Two Rooms Gallery

Aida Tomescu, Fox Jensen McCrory Gallery

Emily Wolfe, Melanie Rogers Gallery

Yuki Kihara, Milford Galleries

Monique Lacey and Gregor Kregar – Sculpture Court

Mickey Smith. Sanderson Gallery

Terry Stringer, Milford Galleries
Hamish Coleman Bartley & Company
Reviews, News and Commentary

Martin Ball’s new visions of old masters

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Martin Ball, Otira: After van der Velden

Martin Ball, Homage

Orex Gallery

Until December 10

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

In one of his  short stories entitled “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” Jorge Luis  Borges tells of the nineteenth century author who writes a version of Don Quixote which is word for word the same as the original. However, his intention is not to copy the words, but to write them as if Cervantes had not already done so. The resulting work is said to be more subtle and relevant than the original Cervantes work.

This notion of invention and relevance as opposed to copying or appropriation has  a bearing on the work of Martin Ball and his references to pre-existing imagery. In his latest exhibition “Homage”,  the artists own vision is separate or parallel with that of the original artists, providing a new interpretation and a new way of seeing.

Where van de Velden’s Otira Gorge paintings encapsulate ideas about nineteenth century untamed Nature and the Sublime, Ball’s versions have been transformed through notions of Impressionism and abstraction into a new way of looking at the subject.

Ball’s van der Velden versions like “Otira Waterfall” has pared back the landscape, rocks and the dramatic  torrents of water to the basic elements of  colour, light and form.

Martin Ball, Pope Innocent X: After Velazques

With his paintings related to Velzsquez’s  “Pope Innocent X” portrait he joins a number of artists who have used the original works to create radically different versions. Even Velasquez himself painted several other versions as it was regarded as the high point of portraiture at the time. Francis Bacon used the portrait  as the basis of over forty of his works to make social, and personal comment. The interest in the Pope’s portrait also appears in Somerset Maugham’s “The Moon and Sixpence” as one of the protagonists in the book has a copy, painted in Rome, in his studio.

In his Queen Mariana he has removed most of the background dramatic curtains, furniture and elaborate dress of the original which emphasise the sitter’s status, instead concentrating on the complicated hair style which gives more focus to the individual’s face which takes on the mystery and intensity of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Martin Ball, Queen Mariana

While the van de Velden and Velasquez works are related to paintings, Ball’s waterfall works are based on the photographs of George Valentine. In these paintings such “Waitakere Falls; After Valentine” he produces soft focus or blurry  versions of the originals. This technique is the antithesis  of his previous works, notably his large portraits in which the attention to detail appears to be more realistic than that of a photograph.

Martin Ball, Waitakere Falls; After Valentine

Removed from their original historical setting and context the artist’s works take on a new distinctive, independent life.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Sculptures and Projects at the Aotearoa Art Fair

John Daly-Peoples

Aotearoa Art Fair Sculpture

The sculpture display at the Aotearoa art fair is always worthy of a visit with many of our major sculptors exhibition along with never before seen works. There are works by  Fred Graham, Simon Lewis Wards, Monique Lacey, Paul Dibble, Gregor Kregar, Semisi Fetokai Potauaine and Nathan Hull

Fred Graham, Kaitiaki 

This is a smaller version of the large public commission Kaitiaki, 2004 by the artist which is in the Auckland Domain adjacent to the Auckland War Memoral Museum The 12 metres high work and has become a landmark acting as a kaitiaki (guardian) of the lands of Ngāti Whātua.

His smaller-scale Kaitiaki, stands 5.5 metres high and  is in an edition of three

With an artistic career spanning over 65 years, many public commissions and important works in national collections, and time spent travelling and working with artists internationally, Graham is an honoured Kaumatua and recognised artist statesman who has made a tremendous contribution to the arts in New Zealand.

Simon Lewis Wards, Giant Knucklebones

Cast concrete, 1500 x 1000 x 500mm each

With the Giant Knucklebones I wanted to explore how scale influences the viewing experience. Each knucklebone weighs in at around 300kg, I hoped the enormity of the pieces would shrink the viewer to childlike proportions, magnifying feelings of nostalgia which is a common theme in my work.

Aotearoa Art Fair Projects

This year the Aotearoa Art Fair has commissioned seven artists from across the country to reflect upon our inherited understandings of land, geography, and national identity.

Through the mediums of carving, print, photography, recording, moving image, and virtual reality, the artists draw upon the rich, complex, and nuanced histories, stories, and personalities to offer a forum to explore, critique, and, at times, better our paradoxical relationship to each other and the outside world

Projects is a curated exhibition designed to showcase the diversity of contemporary practitioners working across Aotearoa and the Pacific. These responses are installed throughout The Cloud, Yu Mei  and the Britomart precinct from 16–20 November. This edition is curated by Michael Do.

Among the projects on offer are:

Miranda Bellamy and Amanda Fauteux, slew, slough, slueReclaimed kahikatea timber, butter.

Miranda Bellamy and Amanda Fauteux’s sculptural installation explores the interconnected relationship between Aotearoa’s native kahikatea trees and the history of New Zealand’s butter export industry. The work emerges from the artist’s research into the history of Queens Wharf, where the Fair takes place, and of the first shipments of New Zealand butter which were sent from wharfs across the motu in the 1880s in boxes made from kahikatea. By 1917 the British government was purchasing all of New Zealand’s exportable butter, cementing New Zealand’s status as world’s largest exporter of butter.  

Using found Kahikatea planks the artists have created a ”booth”, similar to the commercial booths in the fair, to display a series of moulded butter sculptures that reference hawsers (ship ropes), wharf cleats, and bollards, objects with an association to shipping and wharfs. 

Our practice is in conversation with the overlooked meanings and stories held within material aspects of the everyday. slew, slough, slue brings forward the intersecting stories of kahikatea, butter, and the site of Queens Wharf. In listening to the stories of plants, we look to understand what it means to be in the world.

We are attuned to the stories held within the materials that we use. Through the reclaimed floorboards, we consider their decades and centuries in the wetlands of Te Waipounamu, their time as a villa floor in early colonial Ōtautahi, to be cracked and broken during the earthquakes, before being saved from the firewood pile and making their way to us.”

Ziggy Lever, Amalgamated Brick and Pipe
Mixed media installation.

Amalgamated Brick and Pipe is conceived as an archive, combining sound, image, text and sculpture to create a system which explores the, now destroyed, Clark Brick and Pipe Works in Hobsonville-Point, west of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Building upon his sculptural practice and interest in New Zealand history, Ziggy Lever‘s installation centres the detritus of the factory, tracking its legacy of contaminating the nearby shoreline with ceramic waste from the factory. Scattered across the bays, ceramic objects weather, grow barnacles and host the mangroves taking root around them. Making comment on history, industry and nature, Lever’s work invites careful critique and examination into national narratives of this New Zealand industry success. 

“Upon a visit to the site in 2013, it struck me that these objects were going through a process of returning to clay. Removing some of the objects from the site, I wondered how this act might affect their relationship to time, and both preserve the state of the “amalgamated brick and pipe” and interrupt its material journey. Here there is a parallel to the problems of archaeological intervention, which seek to preserve certain aspects of an historical site yet affect other aspects of the site itself.”

Arapeta, Aloma in Velvet (exhibited in The Cloud and at Britomart).

Aloma in Velvet transposes the artist’s ongoing project of carving heru, Māori ornamental wood or bone combs, into a series of photographic interventions across the Cloud and Britomart. These large format images depict the artist’s combs placed against rich, blue velvet. Drawing upon their whakapapa and understanding of heru, a r a p e t a  renders their ancestral knowledge into contemporary contexts, emphasising the importance of story, symbiosis and solidarity as tools to enlarge and expand the way Māori culture can take up space in the world.

The artist states, “Aloma in Velvet is a love letter to my Kuia (Grandmothers) who had held the space for the nurturing of new generations in my whānau (family). Heru became a prevalent reference point of this creative body of work as symbols and indicators of matriarchal lineage and succession of legacy practices.”

Daegan Wells, Local Makers
Mixed media installation.

Local Makers pays homage to the stories of a small clothing factory in Riverton, in the South Island of New Zealand from the 1940s – 1980s. After learning of their heartening stories, including that workers would take scrap pieces of fabric to construct hats and clothes for their families, Daegan Wells has made a series of textile works which remember, recognise and comment on the changing face of New Zealand’s primary industry and the communities which serviced it. In mirroring their efforts of the handmade and local sourced materials, the artist has used muka, natural dyed linens and wool that he has cultivated from animal to yarn in his home in Southland, which forms a key part of his textile practice. 

“I met a local woman who told me about a clothing factory that operated in Riverton. She had undertaken an apprenticeship at the factory in the 1970s, making school uniforms and utility clothing. The factory mostly hired women; however, a few local men had been employed as pattern cutters and fabric designers. This meeting was notable to me because of a recent conversation with my partner where it was suggested that I get a ‘real/full-time job’, moving away from the arts towards something more financially stable. This was frustrating at the time, primarily because of the lack of employment options within small-town Aotearoa. Historically, most small towns had many different types of industries that manufactured and produced various products. However, this decreased in the 1980s with a shift towards overseas manufacturing.”

Reviews, News and Commentary

APO’s monumental Alpine Symphony

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Alpine Symphony

Auckland Town hall

November 12

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Strauss’s Alpine Symphony is a monumental work, a musical equivalent of the stunning alpine landscape that the composer loved. Giordano Bellincampi guided the Auckland Philharmonia through this alpine wonderland with an exhilarating performance. The audience  journeyed  through twenty-two musical sections taking the the listener through the sights, sounds and events of a day hiking in the Alps.

The work opened with the  enveloping darkness of pre-dawn night with snatches of Wagner followed by a glorious sunrise. We then enjoyed all the delights, vistas and anxieties of the day finishing with the  deeply sad conclusion when as we returned again to the ominous night.

The work is filled with brilliant descriptions of birdsong, landscape and weather as well as rich emotional  encounters. All this conveyed with the composers deft and acute musical language.

We had an extra horn-led chorus, offstage sounding as though calling from  another mountain top, and then series of  evolving melodies full of warm textures, muted vistas  as well as several big climaxes

During the massive storm sequence where a wind machine and thunder sheet were employed one  felt the full force  of the orchestra’s sound pummelling  the body but equally  impressive were the refined musical passages with which the work abounds.

It was refreshing to have Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 1 on the programme. His works help give context to the canon of Western music. Hearing his ingenious technical skills in contrapuntal composition, his ornamentation, and inventive approach to  harmony is something that should happen regularly.

This work was performed by members of the orchestra led by Andrew Beer with a nimble virtuosity

The violinists stood grouped around a harpsichord as would have been common during the composer’s time. This appeared to allow some of the players a much more vigorous and demonstrative manner of playing.

The work included several opportunities for solo instruments with some particularly lovely woodwind sequences.

Opening the programme was the avant-garde Hungarian composer György Ligeti’s “Lontano”. The title is an Italian word for distant and much of the music seems to be just that, as though played at a distance or heard from  a distance.

The work opens  with some  are abstract sounds providing a tremulous soundscape which varies between sounding like electronic music and a faint singing voice,

There is much tension and  an uneasiness, especially towards the end of the piece where a  climax is tentatively reached. Familiar harmonies are presented in a range of different ways with overlapped tempos and rhythms creating an eerie atmospheric work.

Next APO Concert

Chopin and Schumann

Auckland Town Hall

November 24th

Conductor Giordano Bellincampi
Piano Yeol Eum Son

Mendelssohn Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage
Chopin Piano Concerto No.2
Schumann Symphony No.4

Reviews, News and Commentary

Highlights of the Aotearoa Art Fair

John Daly-Peoples

Aotearoa Art Fair

The Cloud, Auckland Waterfront

November 16 – 20

Next week the Aotearoa Art Fair  will be hosting over forty art galleries from New Zealand and around the Pacific at The Cloud on Auckland’s waterfront. The event will feature the breadth and diversity of art from the region. 

As well as exhibiting the latest and best in New Zealand contemporary art there are galleries showing major international works, historical works, aboriginal art as well as craft work by significant artists.

NZ Arts Review contacted five of the exhibiting galleries to provide a selection of their artists works.

Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

Exhibiting Judy Millar and Peter Halley

Judy Millar

“These works are the culmination of an intense two- and half-year period of painting which I have spent almost entirely alone in my isolated West Coast home and studio. Even though I have lived in this spot for almost 40 years, during the period between 2019 and early 2022 without travel or other distractions I have experienced the nuance of place in completely new ways. Wondering how a relationship with place; with the subtleties of shifting light, moods of weather, sounds of wind and birdcall, could be presented rather than represented, I have worked to develop this group of paintings which attempt to capture the beingness of this specific land. To show the spirit of a place that I can no longer separate from my own being. These works then, are an expression of place. Being there, being now, place based.”

Judy Millar, The Light Comes Quickly ($35,000)

Peter Halley:

New York based painter Peter Halley is a contemporary American artist who is widely known for his geometric, neon Day-Glo paintings. He is considered a central figure of the Neo-Conceptualist movement of the 1980s, which originated from a group of artists exhibiting in New York’s East Village. Halley’s paintings merge geometric abstraction with digital and urban landscapes, as he ponders social space from both a psychological and physical perspective. His hard-edged compositions of horizontal and vertical divisions focus on motifs of prison cells, barred windows, and the grid structure of city environments; they offer a sociological exploration of the isolation experienced in contemporary life, with its increasingly complex networks and systems. Halley has exhibited internationally throughout his career, including large-scale public installations across Europe and the United States. He is also a published writer and was the founder and publisher of Index Magazine in the 1990s.

Peter Halley, The Social Dilemma (POA)

Page Gallery, Wellington

Exhibiting Max Gimblett, Turumeke Harrington and Reuben Paterson 

New York based Max Gimblett’s  practice encompasses influences as varied as Abstract Expressionism, Modernism, Eastern and Western spiritual beliefs, Jungian psychology, and ancient cultures. His work explores the multiplicity of meaning attached to revered objects and symbols. The quatrefoil shape dates back to pre-Christian times and is found in both Western and Eastern religions symbolising such objects as a rose window, cross, and lotus. Gimblett steps further into the realm of the spiritual with his use of precious metals; materials such as gold and silver are religiously associated with honour, wisdom, enlightenment and spiritual energies.

Max Gimblett , Quest of Gold, 2014, gesso, acrylic and vinyl polymers, rosanoble gold leaf / canvas,. $58,000.

Turumeke Harrington (Otāutahi Christchurch, Ngāi Tahu) has a background in industrial design and fine arts. An interest in whakapapa, space, colour and material sees her regularly creating large sculptural installations at the intersection of art and design. The artist’s clarity of form and function is supplemented by a poetic pragmaticism and a commitment to making that is at once playful and provocative. Her sympathetic approach to materials combines with a bold colour palette to create engaging works that speak to the artist’s own personal relationships, cultural anxieties, and everyday musings.

Turumeke Harrington, Ārai (Māreikura), ,acrylic, steel, LED bulb, electrical components, $2,500.

Reuben Paterson (Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau, Ngati Rangitihi, Ngāi Tūhoe, Tūhourangi) harnesses the mesmerizing properties of light through his practice. Paterson is renowned for his inimitable, iridescent paintings, made through a distinctive application of glitter on canvas. These paintings encompass all manner of subject matter – from cloudscapes to wild cats, botanical blooms, kōwhaiwhai, and fireworks – each providing a source of exploration, contemplation, and self-reflection for the artist.

Suite Gallery Auckland / Wellington

Exhibiting Georgia Spain, Richard Lewer and Tia Ansell

In Naarm/ Melbourne based Georgia Spain’s paintings people are repeatedly together in. In their collectivity, they’re always in the middle of something — often the most cataclysmic and euphoric moments of existence.  With limbs akimbo, flesh melting into flesh, Spain has a sea of figures awash in a tsunami, or wielded together as flood waters sweep in. Other canvases contain a sheer jumble of bodies, signalling the messiness that however much power we might ascribe to solipsism or individuality, we are inescapably tied up with another. 

Georgia Spain, When all your friends are leaving $4,500

Richard Lewer is showing a series of four works based on Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby-Dick is an epic story revolving around Captain Ahab and his obsession with a huge and elusive white whale. The whale caused the loss of Ahab’s leg and the disciplinarian is so preoccupied by his desire to kill the whale, that he is prepared to sacrifice everything, including his ship, the lives of his crew, and his own life, in order to exercise revenge.

The ocean features often in Richard Lewer’s work, for him the sea is an overwhelmingly powerful force, but also a place to find one’s self. In this instance the ocean is a place to investigate human delusion, power and control. The white whale brings to the surface emotion from the depths, and reminds us of the peril and futility of human’s desire to contain and control nature.

Richard Lewer, The Act of Impalement $11,500
Deconstructing fundamental elements of a painting, Tia Ansell practice calls attention to the origin of the woven substrate and its context within contemporary art. Tia Ansell utilises the loom to explore intricate weaving patterns generated using her idiosyncratic coding system based on urban landscapes. Her weaving-paintings form a structure of intertwining colours with bold compositions of geometries and hardlines, a language of architecture which frames the weaving medium. Tia threads these ideas within the context of Melbourne architecture extrapolating facade compositions into the construction of the woven plane, with painted architectural patterns and design symbols interrupting the image.

Tia Ansell, Daphne, $2,500

Futures Gallery

Exhibiting Tim Bučković

Tim Bučković’s small and multi panel paintings selectively hold and release contextual information, such as dissolving figures engaging in bizarre rituals, fictional or diagrammatic settings of vacillating flatness, depth, perspective and optical noise. His practice pushes historical painting values through a sieve, reconstituting disparate parts into a pixel-like language that is unmistakably his own. His dynamic compositions are informed by historic, modernist and avant-garde practices and brim with the semiotic qualities of Eastern European visual culture and technology. These works are laced with a tension between time and space that is simultaneously neo-utopian, ominous, sci-fi, and mystical; qualities often found in alternative histories.

Tim Bučković, Light Performance AU$4200

Tim Bučković Untitled  AU$4200

Scott Lawrie Gallery, Auckland

Exhibiting Roy Good, Ara Dolatian and James Collins

Roy Goods dedication to modernist abstract painting has now reached beyond 50 years. After the success of his recent solo show at Scott Lawrie Gallery, Scott brings to the art fair a hand-picked selection of work from 1973 to 2019. Spanning these decades are some outstanding and rare works from Roy’s private collection (which Scott had to plead with him to let go of!) which are being presented as a major solo show at this year’s Aotearoa Art Fair. An important figure in New Zealand art, Roy’s continual exploration of form, order and harmony has now come full circle to reach a new generation of collectors.

Roy Good, Lintel for Joseph, 2009,Acrylic on canvas, $25,500

It’s unusual to bring an emerging artist into the realms of an Art Fair, but that’s exactly what Scott Lawrie Gallery is doing with Ara Dolatian’s sensational recent ceramic works. As Ara explains, ‘After the US forces occupied Iraq – modern-day Mesopotamia – instability caused a booming trade in stolen artefacts, in addition to their outright destruction. In my recent work, I seek to reinstate some of this lost history, while at the same time highlighting the fragmented nature of its archives. The work also pays homage to the foundational materials used and skillfully developed in ancient Mesopotamia. My use of bright blue glazes mirrors the use of lapis lazuli in Mesopotamian civilisations.’

Ara Dolatian, Myths, 2022., Glazed ceramics $3200 (Image to come)

James Collins made a mark for himself while still a young painter studying at Wimbledon College of Art, and consequently the Royal College of Art in London. His career has progressed ever since, with impressive group and solo shows around the world, including Claas Reiss in London, and James  Fuentes in New York. Scott Lawrie Gallery is delighted to welcome James to the Aotearoa Art Fair for the first time, where two magnificent smaller paintings of his will be included for the VIP opening event, and continue for the duration of the fair. Known for his lush, boldly sculptural, dense impasto paintings (often 20-30mm deep),James was a recent highlight of the Brussels Art Fair, with his presentation for Claas Reiss Gallery.

James Collins, Liquid Engineers 21, 2018, Oil on wooden panel $6000