Lorene Taurerewa (R), Peter Robinson (L) James Wallace Arts Trust.
Our first major exhibition of 2017 features works on paper from the Wallace Arts Trust collection, created with graphic and painted media. This selection aims to showcase the breadth of the Trust’s holdings by presenting nine decades of New Zealand art. Predominantly drawings or watercolours, these works are displayed throughout the first-floor galleries and lobby spaces in particular groupings: mid-20th Century, drawings by sculptors, and contemporary practice.
In the Boardroom and Little Gallery are works from the mid-20th Century. Observation of daily life is a consideration for these artists with subject matter being portraiture, life drawing, studies and localised industry. Rudolf Gopas’ watercolour Portrait of Barry Ferguson of 1958 is one of the several portraits taken from life, of people who sat for artists in the studio or in domestic settings.
These portraits convey the past - Barry Ferguson is very much a man of the 1950s with his hair slicked back and large collar. A similar sense of documenting ‘what was’ is recounted in drawings of people in factories or most notably WWII in Tail Gunner c.1940 by Christopher Perkins.
Drawings by sculptors have a particular characteristic that relates to their practice. There is a strong sense of the three-dimensional inscribed on a flat plane, paper. The forms in Marte Szirmay’s Untitled 1992 are rendered tonally, resulting in a solidity of mass. It appears as if one of her sculptures were present so the viewer can perceive an actual materiality. Sculptors often draw to present ideas for commissions that may later result as sculptures - one instance being Chris Booth’s Working Drawing 1986. The drawing by Booth is diagrammatic with text and details outlining technical information, whilst also being an actual rooftop setting showing the sea in the distance.
Drawing has an important place in contemporary practice with a particularity of its own. Notably, it is now an intrinsic part of an artist’s identity - who they are and do. Further, drawing is very much an end in itself as opposed to a process for producing something else. The use of motif is disparate, even a mark or brushstroke being what it is. For many of the selected artists, it can be said that drawing/painting on paper is a thread, continuity of their practice. Of particular mention in this regard are: Kathy Barry, Mark Braunias, Kushana Bush, Michael Harrison, Marita Hewitt, Georgie Hill and Sam Mitchell