The Lowdown #58: Politician turned artist

Metiria Turei.
Rock Concert, Te Horo (1971) by Ans Westra.
Badlands, Tony De Lautour.
Colin McCahon, pictured in 1961. Photo/Bernie Hill/EH McCormick Research Library/Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.
Dominic Hoey is on the case rounding up Aotearoa’s art landscape of the amazing, the odd and even the political!


In the last Lowdown we urged readers to check out artist Toby Morris’s political comics over on the Spinoff. This week Toby sat down with former Green’s co-leader, Metiria Turei, to talk about life post politics and her arts practice. Metiria talks about her speech at the Greens AGM, where she admitted lying in order to make ends meet for herself and her daughter on the DPB.  Although the speech was a ray of light, in terms of truth telling, it eventually led to her resignation from the party. She’s since withdrawn from public life and completed a graduate diploma in visual arts.

But politics is still very much part of Metiria’s life, her new artwork is about the three babies a week uplifted by Oranga Tamariki. 

“I’m trying very hard not to speak politically, but to do art in a political way or at least with some political ideas “ Metiria said 

Conchords in Flight

It was announced last week that Bret McKenzie, best known as one half of Flight of the Conchords, will be one of three guest curators for 2020’s New Zealand Festival. 

This is all part of the biggest shake up in the festival since its inception in 1984. Late last year the festival put out a press release promising “More shows, more arts jobs, more diversity”

Bret is now based in LA, but has fond memories of the festival from his time in Wellington

"What I'm enjoying about working on the festival is looking back at things I loved when I was growing up.”

He’ll also be showcasing his stage adaptation of author George Saunders' novella The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil. It’s a project he’s been working for the last couple of years with the National Theatre in London.  Explaining it he says

"It'll be something more than a script reading, something less than a fully staged show."

In other Flight of the Conchord news, television producer Paul Horan wrote an article for the Spinoff about his search for the duo’s long lost pilot. Paul is in the middle of producing Funny As, a series documenting the history of New Zealand comedy. The Flight of the Conchords pilot was rejected by TVNZ in 2004, and Bret and Jemaine went on to become the worldwide superstars they are today. But rumours of the footage, and the implications of it being rejected, have persisted for the last 15 years, and Paul set out determined to find a copy. 

Instant satisfaction

The Timaru Library has just received delivery of a vending machine from France  that randomly prints out short stories for users. The machine has over 80,000 stories stored and prints them out on biodegradable pieces of paper. The machine is portable and there are plans to move it to different locations around Timaru. 

"In a time where everyone is just sort of staring at their phones, it's a little bit of physical reading again” Council spokesperson Stephen Doran told RNZ “And it's something just different and when you're always sort of choosing in a very limited sort of choices in life, this [machine] can just spit out something completely random for you to enjoy,"

Photography fights on 


Rock Concert, Te Horo (1971) by Ans Westra

Jenny Nicholls wrote a beautiful article in North and South about New Zealand's forgotten art photographers of the 1970’s. A few Lowdowns back we talked about Athol McCredie’s book The New Photography and in particular the work of Ans Westra. In this article Jenny goes into the stories behind some of the other artists featured in the book, including Photographer John Fields who left New Zealand for Sydney after the Inland Revenue told him he could only put photography down as a hobby on his tax return. 

In her article Jenny asks the question “even though they are the work of the photographic equivalents of painters like Ralph Hotere or Pat Hanly, why aren’t they better known?”

Some of Ans Westra"s work can be seen as part of The Crescent Moon: The Asian Face of Islam in New Zealand.  The exhibition was put together as a response to the Christchurch attacks earlier this year and opens at Percy Thomson Gallery in Stratford on August 17. Alongside Ans Westa's photography will be personal stories from 37 individuals of Muslim faith, written by Adrienne Jansen. The exhibition was originally inspired by a book of the same name, commissioned by the Asia New Zealand Foundation after the September 11 attacks of 2001.

"This exhibition has been resurrected after several years in storage, and it couldn't be a more opportune time," gallery director Rhonda Bunyan said.  

Dunedin art struts its stuff

Badlands, Tony De Lautour

One of the things the Spinoff does so well is find interesting voices for it’s articles. Last week Dunedin Poet, David Eggleton reviewed Christchurch artist, Tony De Lautour's exhibition Us V Them, which is currently on at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. The exhibition is curated by Peter Vangioni, and began life in Tony’s hometown at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu. Described by the Dunedin gallery as “low brow, high art” Tony’s early work used everything from found canvases to homemade street weapons to investigate issues like identity and New Zealand's colonial history. 

His more recent work is focused on colourful abstractions, such as Badlands pictured above.  As you’d expect from one of New Zealand’s preeminent poets Eggleton's article is a joy to read, filled with beautiful imagery and clever turns of phrase. 

“Here’s a city leading a life of its own: secret, silvery, entranced. What this artwork offers us is a dream-like depiction of Christchurch as the Radiant City, as the Big Nowhere, as yesterday’s Byzantium, all crosscurrents and cobwebs, about as substantial as swamp fog.”

Another Dundein gallery, Blue Oyster Contemporary Art Space has received $627,000 funding as part of Creative New Zealand's Toi Uru Kahikatea programme. The gallery’s director, Grace Ryder plans to use the money to pay artists more, provide better workshops and professional development for the gallery's staff.

"It's really nice to see that Creative New Zealand are really supporting better resourcing of the practices that are already existing in Aotearoa” Grace said to the Otago Daily Times “rather than asking people to produce more, because we already do produce a lot” 

The impact of Colin McCahon 

Colin McCahon, pictured in 1961. Photo/Bernie Hill/EH McCormick Research Library/Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Noted republished  an interview with Colin McCahon last week that originally ran way back in 1980. Journalist Sheridan Keith visited McCahon at his Titirangi home. Reading the interview I was struck how humble one of the countries most famous artists was. In the interview they discuss religion, art criticism,  death and of course painting. 

“I asked him what he cared about. He said that he cared about people, that it was important to cherish people, and that he cared about his painting, he cared very much indeed about his painting.”

Mark Amery interviewed Viv Stone of McCahon House and Sir Bob Harvey on RNZ in the weekend.  Bob caught the bus with Colin from the Auckland Gallery to Titirangi and recounted some interesting tales. 

McCahon’s birthday was August 1 and it marked the artist's centennial year. There are events planned around the country to celebrate.

Written by

Dominic Hoey

14 Aug 2019

Dominic Hoey is an author, playwright and poet based in Tāmaki Makaurau. His debut novel, Iceland was a New Zealand bestseller and was long-listed for the 2018 Ockham Book Award.

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