For many people the name Richard Wagner is synonymous with the worst of operatic music a composer of long turgid Teutonic sagas with valiant Aryan heroes and large stentorian heroines. But some of his music is also among the most recognised and emotionally powerful such as his Ride of the Valkyries.
There are also musical examples in which he expresses love such as his Siegfried Idyll, his birthday present to his new wife, Cosima. On Christmas morning 1870, the day after her birthday, a small group of musicians directed by Wagner played the new work to awaken her.
The work is one of the composers most personal as it celebrates both her birthday, their recent wedding and also their young son Siegfried
Playing this for the first time at Christmas with the New Year looming it also celebrated a time of renewal for the composer.
It is this sense of a new dawning that was apparent in the APO’s Seasonal Vistas concert. The entire work has various element of dream, reverie and awakening. The is a sense of the physical awaking from sleep, and creeping consciousness conveyed by the blissful strings, then there are the sounds of birdsong from the woodwinds and towards the end the brass herald the new day and future
Throughout the work the composer creates evocative moods as the sleeper’s images, thoughts and emotions come to them through the haze of slumber.
This sense of seeing the world through a dreamlike state was also apparent in Honegger’s “Pastorale d’été” (Summer Pastoral), which was inspired by the composers vacation in the Swiss Alps in 1920 and references an epigraph by Arthur Rimbaud: J’ai embrassé l’aube d’été (I have embraced the summer dawn).
It is placid and restrained piece with the opening languid theme on the horn taken up by the strings with their sounds matching the pastoral nature of the theme and the sweep of the music provides an evocation of a lazy, sunny day. The middle section is livelier, filled with hectic events, the strings bristling with energy. The main theme returns in the same peaceful, manner of the opening to then finish with an abrupt conclusion.
Earlier this week the APO played Britten’s Simple Symphony which was partly based on composition’s the composer had written when he was nine. Last night they played Mendelssohn’s “String Symphony No.9” (The ‘Swiss) one of the twelve he had composed by the time he was 14. They are works which shows considerable talent and experimentation in one so young.
The work opened with some leisurely sparring of the strings sections and the orchestra embarked on some variations of dance themes with a whirlwind of sound like some work by a brazen young Mozart. The second movement recalls his debt to Bach’s Art of Fugue with two sets of the strings providing a study in counterpoint. The third movement is almost textbook symphonic style with the instruments battling over various musical themes leading to a feverish conclusion.
Britten. Simple Symphony Sibelius. Romance in C Bridge. Suite for String Orchestra
Conductor Vincent Hardaker
Auckland Town Hall
Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples
The second movement of Britten’s Simple Symphony always surprises as its opening is the same as the notes which begin the theme of the long running BBC radio show, The Archers. It underlines the pastoral links of much British music and how its elegant simplicity reflects on the country’s rustic dance traditions.
The symphony’s bright and lively quality comes from the fact that the tunes are based on compositions Britten wrote as a nine-year-old, ten years prior to his writing the symphony in 1933. The work also has connections with many of Britten’s other compositions for children such as “A Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra”. But, as with many other works such as his opera Billy Budd, and Death in Venice there is the occasional ominous aspect, notably in the third movement.
The titles of the movements are not the typical traditional tempo indications, such as Allegro, but instead are descriptive: a Boisterous Bourrée, a Playful Pizzicato, a Sentimental Sarabande, and a Frolicsome Finale, an indication of his love of dance themes and in creating music for children.
The four dances with their intertwining melodies conjure up the movement of the limbs and bodies of the dancers. Each of the sequences has a different mood with the first movement a classic country dance, the vigorous bowing and interplay between the strings creating light and shade. The second has a fast-paced pizzicato theme with its hearty stamping of the rowdy village dance . The third movement features a more elegant and graceful display with a tinge of sadness threaded throughout. This is followed by the energetic final movement where the composer brings together themes and techniques from the past three movements to make up a more elaborate finale.
Conductor Vincent Hardaker guided the orchestra with precision, his own dance-like directions showing that the symphony is anything but simple.
Also on the programme was Frank Bridges engaging Suite for Strings composed in 1909. The work is beautifully designed and technically sophisticated with solid Edwardian values continuing a British version of the late nineteenth century masters such as Tchaikovsky. It was works like this which inspired much of Benjamin Britten’s own music .
The orchestra under Hardaker showed off all the suppleness of the work carefully detailing all its embellishments and flourishes.
Live Live Cinema, Silo Theatre and Jumpboard Productions
Available at Auckland Arts Festival Online
Until March 27th
Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples
In 1960 Corman produced and directed the cult classic “The Little Shop of Horrors”, about a hapless florist’s assistant who cultivates a plant that feeds on human flesh and blood. The film includes a cameo appearance by Jack Nicholson as masochistic dental patient.
The film employs black comedy with farce, Jewish humour and elements of spoof. The scene with Jack Nicholson adds another dimension as the sequence is set at a dentists – “the murder house” in the popular imagination. In Auckland Festivals Online version directed by Oliver Driver the comic elements are further extended by the four performers on screen alongside the original film.
Byron Coll, Barnie Duncan, Laughton Kora and Hayley Sproull re-voice the characters as well as playing instruments and providing sound effects. The quirky antics of the four performers who are in four different location –lounges, bathroom and kitchen provides another entertaining part of the production. The score composed by Leon Radojkovic is an outstanding example of ingenuity and musical humour.
The way it is presented with the four musicians alongside the film means that the work retains the films original sensibilities, with its sense of the macabre and film noir.
Its a show which would probably have worked well on stage but this digital; format is innovative and pacy with some clever dialogue.
In April Webb’s will be presenting the auction Don Binney: Observer. The auction will feature 57 sketches and field drawings by the artist which have been sourced from the Binney Estate.
The successful bidder on each artwork in this catalogue will receive two additional items along with the drawing. The first is a certificate of authenticity signed by Philippa and Mary Binney, and the second is an NFT derived from the work.
Some of the works on offer are among the earliest drawings he made of birds, many of which later became the basis of his major paintings
In 1972 I interviewed Don Binney for the video series “Six New Zealand Artists” about his fascination with birds. The following is the transcript of part of that interview
JDP: Why do you choose birds to use as your visual images?
DB: Well, that’s because I’ve been a bird watcher for a lot longer than I’ve been a painter. In fact I was seriously watching birds by the time I’d turned ten and I was still at primary school, and I’ve only really been seriously exhibiting my own paintings, with or without the bird images, since about 1962.
JDP: Do you treat the birds as the real objects or do you abstract them?
DB: This is not a simple question to answer. I was thinking this to myself today as I was sitting up at Aorangi Pt looking at a number of the spotted shags hatching their clutches on the rocks, in their little nests on the headland, and I was also, at the time, chewing over what I’d been saying to the local ranger last night at Juliet’s place. It seems to me that birds are a pretty fundamental human image, it seems to me that the human species if you like, has perhaps, twenty or thirty or forty odd, primary image references, perhaps tables may be one, perhaps death may be another, the sun is almost certainly another, stars very likely another, birds I think come well within the short-list of ‘say, very essential human images, and birds mean a hell of a lot, whether you’re a cosmopolitan twentieth or twenty-first century person or an eighteenth century person or a barbaric [person]… a bird is an image, is a life quality, imbued with a great many, I think, tangible references to people. It’s a very sensitive point.
JDP: Yes, so you see them as anthropomorphic.
DB: No, I see them as anthropomorphic, but I see them as a whole quality of existence in themselves, and I see them as forms, recurrent forms in space and in place, reappearing in the world of men as they’ve done in New Zealand, as long as men have co-existed with them, in this country and as they’ve always done over the world-.birds have lived in the world for so much longer than the human species, the hominid species and I think we owe them tremendous respect for this alone.
JDP: Do you see the links between bird forms and the natural forms of the landscape?
DB: Oh sure, this of course carries on, without my sounding presumptuous, but what I was saying is that the birds have lived in harmony and have co-existed with the topography, with the space, with the light, of habitable earth space, so much longer than people, and they have won their place, by means of flight, by means of nesting patterns, by means of migration, by means of their feeding habits, and the whole way that they deploy themselves against this, this land and this life, be it in New Zealand, be it New Guinea, be it Iceland or be it East Africa.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, 3 May 2015, thirty-one-year-old Sheku Bayoh set out to walk home from his friend’s place after watching a boxing match. Just hours later, he had lost his life when police attacked and asphyxiated him on the streets of his hometown – Kirkcaldy, Fife.
Lament for Sheku Bayoh adapted and directed by Hannah Lavery from her book attempts to examine and explain the tragic event. While expressing the grief and the effects on the family it also looks at the endemic racism which exists in Scotland.
It questions the notion of Scotland as a liberal and welcoming country and whether this liberalism is only a veneer.
The work was originally commissioned by the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh and filmed on stage at the Royal Lyceum Theatre as part of 2019 Edinburgh International Festival.
The work is structured like a traditional Greek drama with all the action happening offstage and the three fates represented by Saskia Ashdown, Patricia Panther and Courtney Stoddart commenting on the action and the ethical nature of the events and of the characters.
The lone guitarist, Beldina Odenyo acts as the chorus who opens the play with a gospel-style version of Roberts Burns’s “A Man’s a Man for A’ That” .
Much of the play uses the words from accounts by eyewitnesses and the police testimony along with comments made by news media. These lines are repeated in an almost poetic manner over and over like a refrain.
“I heard the man shout to get the police off him and they never moved”
“The BBC understands… The BBC understands”
Mr Bayoh’s muscles were bulging, He wasn’t listening to commands and he looked intimidating and he looked aggressive”
There is also a repeated reference to the thirty seconds that it took for Bayoh to die once he had been wrestled to the ground and that thirty seconds is counted down in the final moments of the play.
The stage is in shadows and the three actors move through the dark brooding space articulating the poetic expression of grief for the individual behind the headlines which mirrors the tragic events behind the death of George Floyd 2020 death in America. The three actors switch skilfully from impassioned, expression to forensic detailing of events creating an ominous and threatening atmosphere
Bayoh’s family launched a campaign seeking justice and a statutory public inquiry was established in 2019 to determine the manner of his death, and whether ‘actual or perceived race’ had played a part in it. The inquiry which has been delayed several times will not actually begin until later this year.
Nightsong’s “A Stab in the Dark” opens with the Old Testament Noah moaning, “Why God chose me to save the world is a fucking mystery?” We never really get to deal with Noah’s question but there are lots of other ambiguities and mysteries to be explored.
With “A Stab in the Dark” there is a melding of two interpretations of the phrase. The main plot line is about a stabbing which has occurred and the police investigation into the murder. Another less specific part of the narrative is around the notion of the random stab in the dark, where we make choices or decisions which are just as likely to fail as succeed.
The main character John (Joel Tobeck) is accused of murdering Ann (Alison Bruce) and much of the work focuses on his interview with the police in which he tells of meeting his doppelganger Warren who invites him to dinner where he meets Ann, Warren’s wife.
After a short affair with Ann which is discovered by Warren Ann is killed and Warren disappears. Just who is the killer is a bit murky.
However, this is a Surrealist/Absurdist drama in the tradition of Ionesco or Beckett so neither story or staging follows traditional presentation. The interviewing police officer is a large puppet, several times the size of John and towers over him during questioning. Various elements of the production are outsize such as a large glass of water, a fly twice the size of John’s head, a metre long cigarette and a giant pen.
Alongside the main plot line, we encounter Noah and his story of the Deluge as well as a wooden puppet who informs us that it is by turns a sandpiper, a crocodile, a caterpillar / butterfly and a peacock. The symbolism of these events and animals never really becomes clear but does provide for some philosophical and psychological ruminating. The play can be seen as an inquiry into the nature of the psychotic as well as dealing with the issues of guilt and innocence, trust and lies, reality and illusion
The play would normally have been on stage but with this Covid era production the creators have used other theatrical techniques such as Noh Theatre and film noir gives the work a visual density which is mesmerizing.
The set which is just a large circular panel is ingeniously used as a podium, a table and a screen which along with the puppets give the play a disconcerting appearance where everything is tilted, on edge and bizarre.
Joel Tobeck gives a compelling performance as he switches between his two characters as well as being presented in a filmed version of John. Ann played by Alison Bruce is only partially and fleetingly seen but adds a nice dimension to the work. Carl Bland voices the giant police inspector with a commanding, overbearing tone and Dave Fane, the puzzling Noah.
When you first encounter Yona Lee’s installation “An Arrangement for 5 Rooms” from the stairway at the South Atrium of the Auckland Art Gallery, the handrail on your right doesn’t end at the top of the steps like a normal handrail. It just keeps going, becoming part of a maze of interlinked pipes, becoming part of the architecture.
Many years ago, when I worked at MOW Power Design a Bauhaus trained architect on the staff asked me about a handrail I had designed, wanting to know what it was saying apart from my notions of functionality. For him the handrail was not just there to hold onto, it was an extension of the eye, the hand and the footstep, leading them into the next space. It was not just a utilitarian addition to the architecture it was an intimate part and experience of it.
Lee’s installation provides that idea of design and architecture being more than pragmatic shapes and spaces. The network of pipes alerts us to the hidden infrastructure of pipes, tubes and conduits which are all around us but often invisible, underground and inside walls. These become metaphors for interconnectedness of the world in general.
Across five rooms she has installed a maze-like construction from hundreds of metres of stainless-steel pipe of the same shape and texture as the gallery’s handrail taking the hand and eye into a series of surreal Alice in Wonderland-like spaces. The circuitous pipes are both a guide to travelling through the spaces and an experience of the spaces.
In the journey through the five rooms we encounter a domestic interior, a café, a bus, a picnic area and possibly a public bathhouse.
The lone double bus seat sits with its back to the view of Albert Park and a room away is the bus call button (which can be buzzed) and a hanging strap fixed to a pipe five metres above.
The domestic interior is like a small apartment – a bunk room, a dining space, work bench some hanging plants and a fan which gently blows a shower curtain.
Some of the piping snakes outside through the windows of the gallery to an outside “picnic” area under the trees in Albert Park. It features a table, two benches an umbrella and at night the shapes are picked out in neon tubing. There is also a letterbox stuffed with some irises.
Her constructions recall the quote of Le Corbusier’s that “A house is a machine for living in” and also the exposed functional structural and utilitarian elements of the Pompidou Centre in Paris
The artist says of the work “‘My ambition for this project is to activate the whole building. To break down the barriers between what is art and non-art, the inside and outside, the day and night, and the public and private. The highlight of the work is where it transitions from the inside to the outside. There is a sense of freedom in this moment that I believe is necessary for this current environment.”
The show is open-ended with various interpretations – as structures or systems, as serious or playful, as authoritarian or utopian, as utilitarian or pointless. But there is one unanswered question – who delivers the irises each day.
A few years ago Waiheke’s Sculpture on the Gulf was included in the New York Times top things to do and the event is regarded by many as one of the great outdoor sculpture exhibitions, not just for the standard of the sculpture but also for the experience of the two kilometre walk with a backdrop of bush, hills, sea and headlands as well as panoramic views of distant Auckland and the islands of the gulf.
Now in its tenth year the event attracts tens of thousands of people for the three week show which features over fifty works by thirty artists although this year one work is still in transit from China.
The works range from the monumental Corten steel “Head Within” ($39,800) by Jorge Wright to the small-scale resin works of Joel Dyer ($4850 – $9850). Wright’s work features two smaller head shapes inside a large head referencing the various levels of “self” we have and our perceptions of ourselves and others.
There are works which link to nature such as Margaret Feeney’s “Bird and Insect Bath” ($8000) as well as abstract art works such Julie Moselen’s “Continuum Amplas” ($32,800) which is a Corten steel version of a Mobius Strip. There are also several works which reference the history of Waiheke’s Māori and European history.
Aiko Groot was one of the artists to exhibit in the first Sculpture on the Gulf in 2015 with a kinetic work which was at the time wired up to an electricity source. This year his “Three” ($70,000) is powered by solar panels which are incorporated into the works design. Three stainless steel columns create a grove of metallic trees which mimic the movement created by winds, the upper ‘branches’ slowly moving in what seems to be a random or unnerving fashion.
The most successful artist as of opening day has been Chris Moore who sold six of his large, curved forged steel “Introduced Species” ($14,500 – $18,450) which reference the impact of introduced plants which have impacted on the local flora.
Several of the works have links to the manu whenua of the island. On the main headland is Janine Williams’ “Black Picket Fence” ($59,800) a five metre square enclosure composed of black painted palings which sees the space enclosed partly as a European picket fenced area and partly with palings designed for surrounding a pah site.
With Te Riongo Kirkwood’s “Te Rangi I totongia a Tamatekapua” ($38,000) the artist recalls the clash between Tainui and Arawa for authority over Waiheke. The large piece of basalt is rent into four sections referencing four dimensions of life with discs of glass signifying the blood spilt in the battle.
Anton Forde’s “Te Kotahitanga o Whakamaru” ($145,000) consisting of fifty-five pou with pounamu adornment positioned above the harbour at Matiatia in an arrowhead formation act as a welcome and a protector, again referencing the contested position of the island. Forde also addresses issues of climate change in using jarrah rescued from the Australian bush fires
Several works are of a more architectural nature with Francisco Carbajal’s Unified Peaks” ($35,000) addressing the issues of sustainability related to the design and construction of buildings. His work is made from mainly recycled materials taken from building sites.
Jonas Raw has constructed “Reflect” ($158,850) a small shelter which has a beautifully finished interior of cedar and an exterior sheathed in reflective polished steel. As one circles the exterior the whole area of Matiatia is reflected – the water the boats the various buildings and the hills enclosing the bay. This panorama contrasts with the meditative interior.
Natalie Guy’s three works titled “The Genius Loci of the Chapel” ($22,500 – $24,000 ) are a response to Le Corbusier’s Notre-Dame du Haut chapel at Ronchamp and John Scott’s Futuna Chapel in Wellington. These two buildings are examples of early cotemporary modernism where the architects were interested in the geometry of structures and in the play of light and colour from stained glass on the interior surfaces. The deep-set windows of the Ronchamp Chapel in Guys work are pared back to their abstract forms as fragments of the original.
Denis O’Connor’s has returned to his delving into the history of the island with “The Last Post Office”, a work which follows on from some of his previous built works for Sculpture on the Gulf such as the “Tanglers Cave” in a horse float and “The Archive Wine Bar” which is now part of the Mudbrick Bistro. With “The Last Post Office” he has envisaged a post office with sets of private post boxes inscribed with the names and nicknames of local identities. Inside he pays homage to Waiheke’s history and the cultural identities who have had connections with the island including Sam Hunt and Janet Frame.
With several of the works a little background is necessary as with Virginia Leonards set of ceramic constructions. These seven “Urns for Unwanted Limbs and Other Things” ($4200 – $22,000) were inspired by the artists struggle with the complications of possible foot amputation. Rather than being containers for actual objects these are containers for the concepts of real or imagined things. These highly coloured, ornamental works have their origins in the reliquaries of many religious where the body parts of saints are preserved, taking on great spiritual significance with healing properties.
Lang Ea’s “KA BOOM!” initially seems to be a playful celebration of spring with showers of red blossom bursting from the Pohutukawa. But this celebration is also a remembrance of the thousands of lives lost to the Kymer Rouge in the artists home country of Cambodia.
SOTG Small Works Showcase
At the Waiheke Community Art Gallery there is an exhibition SOTG Small works Showcase featuring maquettes, smaller works and sculptures by walkway artists and invited exhibitors.
Jorge Wrights has a small “Head Within II” ($1250) and Julie Moselen has a version of her “Continuum Amplas” with “Balance” ($6500) in Corten steel.
Virginia Leonard is showing a further three urns (($3500 – $3800) and there are also maquettes or models by Aika Groot, Anton Forde, Janine Williams, Lang Ea and Chris Moore
Also included in the show is an archival history of Sculpture on the Gulf with maquettes and archival imagery from previous SOTG events held in the gallery’s permanent collection.
Over the next few months, the Auckland Art Gallery will be showing a wide range of exhibition with works of art from the 14th century through to contemporary International and Pacific works.
There will be the controversial British art duo Gilbert & George, icons from the Christian Orthodox tradition, contemporary feminist art from New Zealand as well as installation by Yona Lee and Sione Monū and Manuha’apai Vaeatangitau
Yona Lee: An Arrangement for 5 Rooms From Sat 26 Feb – A free exhibition
Yona Lee makes large, maze-like installations from hundreds of metres of stainless-steel pipe which are cut and welded to form elaborate linear structures, bisecting and transforming gallery spaces and the activities that take place there.
In her installation Yona Lee: An Arrangement for 5 Rooms she negotiates the relationship between domestic and public spaces and objects. The five rooms of the Gallery adjacent to Albert Park will be the site of a meandering journey through both densely and sparsely filled rooms.
The Auckland-based, New Zealand–Korean artist’s work can be variously interpreted – as structures or systems, as serious or playful, as authoritarian or utopian, as utilitarian or pointless.
For her installations Lee maps the gallery space analysing its particular spatial and social dynamics. In the case of her Auckland show Lee picks up the signature handrail of the Gallery’s architecture and weaves it playfully through the building, turning it into sculpture, and supplying new seating and lighting for visitors. She even pushes the railing into Albert Park where it knots and pauses in the shade of a neighbouring tree. Incorporating familiar signs, like the fabric of Auckland Transport seating and bus bells, this new sculptural installation will interweave common experiences of transit for many across the Auckland region.
She says of the work “‘My ambition for this project is to activate the whole building. To break down the barriers between what is art and non-art, the inside and outside, the day and night, and the public and private. The highlight of the work is where it transitions from the inside to the outside. There is a sense of freedom in this moment that I believe is necessary for this current environment’ says Lee, prior to the exhibition’s opening.”
Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda From Sat 26 March – A free exhibition
Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda brings together 12 prominent artists from across the Pacific whose works set a feminist agenda by bringing to the fore the most pressing issues of our times: climate change and resilience, activism, social justice and tino rangatiratanga.
Artists in this exhibition draw on the power of matrilineal knowledge, put their bodies on the line and amplify voices to reflect an approach to feminism that empowers the agency of all genders. Presenting major commissioned projects, rarely seen artworks and ephemera from institutional and private collections,
Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda will feature works by Jasmine Togo-Brisby, Marti Friedlander, Jessicoco Hansell, Taloi Havini, Lonnie Hutchinson, Ioane, Sione Monū, Suzanne Tamaki, Latai Taumoepeau, Molly Rangiwai-McHale & Luisa Tora, Kalisolaite ’Uhila and more.
New commission – Sione Monū & Manu Vaeatangitau: Kindred: A Leitī Chronicle From Sat 26 March – A free exhibition
Tāmaki Makaurau-based Tongan artists Sione Monū and Manuha’apai Vaeatangitau present Kindred: A Leitī Chronicle, a multisensory installation that projects leitī (transgender women) experiences into a futuristic alternate reality. Executed in Monū and Vaeatangitau’s animated and playful graphic style, each portrait pays homage to these leitī and their significance in these artists’ lives.
Set in a time where colonisation has not occurred, we follow the journeys of ultimate leitī in an alternate world firmly embedded in the familiar landscape of Tāmaki Makaurau. Their portraits include important leitī leaders such as activist and advocate Joey Mataele and Monū’s family members Tisha Manumua and George Manumua. Together they move freely in a utopian world, undertaking mundane activities such as eating sushi whilst listening to The Meaning of Mariah Carey audiobook and spiritual pilgrimages to Māngere Mountain.
Further drawing viewers into the work is an accompanying soundscape which, like many of Monū’s video works, intertwines speech with minimalist music to evoke emotional responses, memories and space to dream. This mashup of imagery and sound, crossing between the material and immaterial, creates dreamlike sequences that are at once fleeting, humorous and fragile.
Suji Park: Meonji Soojibga | Dust Collector From Sat 9 April – A free exhibition
Suji Park is a Korean-New Zealand ceramic sculptor and artist, known for creating pieces of distorted human forms, vessels and abstract objects.
Her Dust Collector project consists of many heads. Heads that turn, pushed and pulled, pressed and cracked, holding space within them like vessels. The forms themselves are imaginatively based on the traditional totem poles found in South Korea across the countryside.
Of her exhibition Park says “When I was travelling around visiting small villages in Korea I could find janseung (Korean totem poles), sotdae (wooden poles or stone pillars with carved birds on their top), doltap (a stone-built pagoda) and sinmok (sacred trees) in the entrance way. While the origin of these structures is unknown, they are believed to bring protection.”
Park’s installation reveals her creative handling of clay, drawing from linguistic, cultural, ceramic and sculptural traditions – its highly material display will be a sumptuous feast of hand-melded traditions.
Heavenly Beings: Icons of the Christian Orthodox World
From Fri 15 April – Adults $24.50
Heavenly Beings: Icons of the Christian Orthodox World introduces the profound and timeless tradition of icons, the devotional art of the Orthodox Christian world. This ancient visual tradition, which until 1453 was centred in the Byzantine Empire, is surveyed through over 100 hauntingly beautiful icons dating from 1350- 1800. To believers then and today such images of holy figures, painted on gilded wood panels according to age-old methods, serve as ‘windows into heaven’ during the act of prayer. The works also show how Christian iconography was created and developed based on the Bible, myth and invented stories.
The exhibition includes work by some of the great icon-painting regions and workshops and of Russia, Crete and beyond. The spirit of the Russian artist-monk Andrei Rublev and the touch of Cretan masters, Angelos Aketantos, Andreas Pavias, Nicholas Tzafouris and Constantine Tzanes animate icon after icon, created in deference to the divine. Discover the beauty and power of icons, and their dynamic role in the lives of pilgrims, priests and everyday believers of the early modern world.
Gilbert & George: The Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Exhibition From Sat 7 May – Adults $24.50
Often controversial, sometimes cheeky and always questioning, British artists Gilbert & George have been creating art together ever since they met in 1967 at one of London’s leading art schools. From the very beginning, they have appeared as subjects in their own art and shared a belief in ‘Art for all’.
For Gilbert & George anything – and everything – is a potential subject matter for art. They have peered closely at the big questions of life: religion, sex, violence, hope, addiction and death. Through their films and ‘Living Sculptures’ they have challenged taboos, fought artistic convention and taken a fresh look at the way we live now. From their own bodies to their long-time home in London’s East End, nothing is too personal or too forbidden for these two artists whose work is a portrait of life today.
Developed exclusively with Gilbert & George by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, The Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Exhibition brings together existing and new work from the 21st century to look back over a joint career that has courted controversy, challenged the status quo and championed alternative views. Exhibiting work direct from Gilbert & George’s own personal collection, it brings some of the most exciting of British art to New Zealand for the very first time.
The APO’s opening concert for the year, “Magnificent Mendelssohn” was a strange event. One hundred people scattered through the circle of the Auckland Town Hall above an empty auditorium. There was not the usual hectic crowd and buzz of an opening night but one of the main topics of conversation was the about the luck of having acquired seats in the ballot for the concert.
Along with the masked audience, members of the orchestra were all masked except for the brass and woodwind players along with conductor Giordano Bellincampi
The opening work was Niels Gade’s “Echoes of Ossian” based on the mythic poems of the Scots poet James Macpherson or more likely the large painting “The Dream of Ossian” by Ingres, where poet Ossian dreams of warriors, and maidens.
The triumphal sounds of the music, the surging brass and strings conveyed a sense of a new dawn which was appropriate for the occasion as the orchestra entered its new challenging times.
Gade had a connection with the next work on the programme, Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto” having conducted the first performance of the work in 1845 replacing an ill Mendelssohn.
Mendelssohn had spent nearly ten years writing the concerto adhering to the classical style of Beethoven while containing 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 and the work also calls on the soloist to function as an accompanist to the orchestra for extended periods.
Soloist Monique Lapins who is the Second Violinist for the NZ String Quartet opened the turbulent first movement with a relentless vigour, grappling with the music as though she were in competition with the orchestra. At times her playing was raw, almost feral while at other times she exposed the delicate and sensual elements of the music.
While very much in control there were times when she struggled with the music, as though it was going to overwhelm her but she tackled the work with lively self-confidence, even the passages which Mendelssohn must have written to technically challenge any performer.
The dynamic energy she put into the playing was echoed in her general deportment, her body contorted and writhing as though immersed in an internal struggle.
In the second movement with its more restful mood there were passages where she was dominated by the orchestra as though sinking under the weight of the music but this changed when she erupted like a blossoming flower with a exuberant intensity.
In the third movement in which many of the motifs of the first movement were restated she responded in an almost playful way engaging with the music in a very physical manner even appearing to do a surprised jig.
Throughout she managed to conjures up some graceful unforced tones with crisp articulation heightening the romantic sweep of the music, discovering emotional depths in the music
The major work on the programme was Dvorak’s “Symphony No 8” which is like the soundscape to a Czech epic tale. Like other composers of the period this is nationalist music like Sibelius “Finlandia”. We encounter nature, landscape, events and dancing, it is the music of adventures, heroics, and larger than life figures,
The music is focused on the landscape and ethos of the country with Dvorak presenting changing moods and unfolding spectacle. He moves from the playful to the picaresque, from the dramatic to the contemplative. There is wit and there is angst.
The third movement is full of shimmering, sounds created a spring-like impressions full of joy followed by passages of dark foreboding. The fourth movement opens with a big bold march tune which erupts into a sequence of Czech dance tunes such as the polka, Dvorak turning these simple melodies into clever musical inventions.
Conductor Bellincampi guided the orchestra through the lively four movements with a familiar flair and the musicians responding to their first big outing with one of their scintillating performances.