Blog Archives

Connecting kindred tribes, David Eggleton

Black Marks on the White Page
Witi Ihimaera and Tina Makereti (eds)
Penguin Random House, $40.00,
ISBN 9780143770299

Billed as a guidebook to the contemporary literature of Oceania, Black Marks on the White Page is not quite that; it’s too eclectic, too much of a hotchpotch for a start, sweeping erratically back and forth across the Pacific to locate, we are told, “the best new and uncollected fiction” generated out of the rolling identity revolution of Pasifika peoples in the 21st century. You could make a very long list of “the best” that is not included. What this anthology is is a sampling: it contains 29 examples of “story-telling” by 25 writers, complemented or contextualised by images of nine artworks by nine artists.

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Posted in Art, Literature, Maori, Non-fiction, Pacific and Short stories

A most “vigorous afterlife”, Roger Blackley

Gottfried Lindauer’s New Zealand: The  Māori Portraits
Ngahiraka Mason and Zara Stanhope (eds)
Auckland University Press and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, $75.00,
ISBN 9781869408565

This extremely elegant book, with its unusual, tall-and-thin “hyper-portrait” format, brings the artist Gottfried Lindauer and the principal collection of his works into the 21st century. It achieves this by foregrounding Māori perspectives, by emphasising Lindauer’s involvement with photography, and through the diverse range of scholarly perspectives by which the collection is explored. With contributions from Czech and New Zealand art historians, curators and conservators – both Māori and Pākehā – the book is a scholarly triumph for the Auckland Art Gallery.

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Posted in Art, Maori, Non-fiction and Review

Imaging war, Stella Ramage

Behind the Twisted Wire: New Zealand Artists in World War I Jennifer Haworth Wily Publications, $50.00, ISBN 9781927167212 Recently, I had the privilege of watching the magnificently restored WWI propaganda film, Battle of the Somme (1916). Shot by official cinematographers

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Posted in Art, Non-fiction, Review and War

Christchurch circles and cliques, Helen Watson White

Bloomsbury South: The Arts in Christchurch 1933-1953 Peter Simpson Auckland University Press, $70.00, ISBN 9781869408480 When Christchurch poet and printer Denis Glover travelled to Britain in 1941 to serve in the Royal Navy, he left behind one literary circle and

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Posted in Art, Non-fiction and Review

Rethinking the past, Melissa Laing

Re-inventing New Zealand: Essays on the Arts and the Media  Roger Horrocks Atuanui Press, $45.00, ISBN 9780992245382 As I opened a blank document to begin this review, a tweet popped up in my feed from Morgan Godfery: “Sure,” Godfery writes

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Posted in Art, Essays, Media, Non-fiction and Review

Dazzling, dizzying cornucopias Stella Ramage

Marcus King: Painting New Zealand for the World
Peter Alsop and Warren Feeney
Potton & Burton, $80.00,
ISBN 9781927213704

Vivid: The Paul Hartigan Story
Don Abbott
RF Books, $65.00,
ISBN 9780473337117

Marcus King and Paul Hartigan belong to that interesting group of New Zealand artists who have successfully combined personal fine art careers with employment as commercial graphic designers and advertising illustrators. At various points in their careers, Russell Clark, Ralph Miller, Graham Percy, Milan Mrkusich, Dick Frizzell and doubtless many others have also juggled day jobs and private artistic practice. With the exception of Mrkusich and Frizzell, these artists have often been relegated to the margins of our national canon (hence the flurry of monographs in recent years intent on reclaiming their artistic legacy from oblivion). Are they suspected of lacking the passionate commitment of the “true” modernist artist: the torment of McCahon, the dedication of Angus, the activism of Hotere or the self-destructiveness of Fomison? The authors of these monographs firmly reject such Byronic assumptions, arguing effectively for a broader, more inclusive version of our national art history that acknowledges commercial art as a valid contribution to our visual culture.

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Posted in Art, Biography, Non-fiction and Review

“A most entertaining little man”, Chris Szekely

Hocken: Prince of Collectors Donald Jackson Kerr Otago University Press, $60.00, ISBN 9781877578 663 Dry bread and milk for breakfast. Dry bread and milk for supper. Not much chop for a boy of eight at Woodhouse Grove in 1844, but that

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Posted in Art, Biography, Non-fiction and Review

Fizz with zip, Wystan Curnow

Zizz! The Life and Art of Len Lye In his own words with Roger Horrocks Awa Press, $30.00, ISBN 9781927249215 Back in 1965, aged 26, I walked into the Howard Wise Gallery in New York and saw the best kinetic

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Posted in Art, Non-fiction and Review

Not just bits of cloth, Jennifer Shennan

New Zealand’s Historic Samplers – Our Stitched Stories
Vivien Caughley
David Bateman, $50.00
ISBN 9781869538668

Vivien Caughley’s opening definition of a sampler is “an embroidered cloth which records a stitched pattern, often the alphabet and numerals, sometimes pictures, and stitch techniques … They often commemorate events personal and national.” Through the 160 following pages, we learn much from the intriguing strands of story that Caughley draws from her selection of “self-expression with needle and thread” found in national, regional and private collections throughout the country. We readily concur with her closing ascription of samplers, not as “just bits of cloth” but as “another way history can be studied and illustrated”.

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Posted in Art, Non-fiction and Review

The thinking man’s cartoonist, Dylan Horrocks

Brockie: A Memoir in Words, Cartoons and Sketches
Bob Brockie
New Zealand Cartoon Archive/Fraser Books, $39.50
ISBN 9780958232074

David Lange called Brockie “the thinking man’s cartoonist”. Which is pretty nice of Lange, considering that Brockie had drawn him on various occasions being pissed on by a giant bulldog, with his head cut off, naked and (very frequently) in drag. Mind you, Lange was far from alone. Robert Muldoon, Jim Bolger, Colin Meads, Kim Dotcom and even Keith Holyoake have all, at various times, been stripped and humiliated by Brockie’s pen, which has been scratching away at public reputations for more than 50 years.

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Posted in Art, History, Memoir, Non-fiction, Politics & Law and Review
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