Sketchbook scan

It’s raining outside – a perfect day to stay indoors, type and drink some more coffee. Meanwhile, this week has been one of those where I’ve spent most of my time doing non-making art related things.

This has included:

  • Going through my contact list and slowly cleaning it up.

  • Reviewing what I’ve written about my work over the last few months before I write some more words for my upcoming show New Old Forms.

  • Attending a talk at Enjoy around developing an emerging practice.

  • Going to the Greta Menzies opening at Toi Pōneke last night, where I really enjoyed some of the drawings.

  • Reviewing and processing some of the topics from conversations I had the previous week.

As someone who enjoys making things it’s easy to feel I’m letting my practice slip if I haven’t made anything during the week, yet I know a break can be (and often is) beneficial.

The reality is making is only part of a practice. It’s easy for me to overlook the drawing I have done this week. However small it may be it keeps moving the work and ideas along. And sometimes that’s enough.

Three things from the last two weeks

1. The paintings of Bernard Piffaretti

Painting by Bernard Piffarettie. Black lines on white ground.

Bernard Piffaretti
Untitled (2005)
acrylic on canvas
38 1/8 × 57 3/8 × 7/8 inches
© Bernard Piffaretti

I’ve been aware of Piffaretti’s work before now and reading this article brought them to my attention again. I can’t help but look and keep looking at his work – it’s a spot-the-difference game coupled with the how-did-he-make-it question. And then there’s the language of gesture, of impulse and expression being undermined by the careful but not a one hundred percent accurate repetition – you see drips and small differences. They’re clever paintings and leave me wanting to know more.

2. I’ve got the moves by Habibi

Record sleeve image.


A great little song. And yes, I’m adding I’ve got the moves to my list of titles – just got to find the right work for it.

3. Gordon Walters at Te Papa

Gordon Walters, Untitled (X).

Untitled (X) 1989
Private collection, Auckland
Courtesy of the Gordon Walters Estate

Good to finally see some of Walters’ work in the flesh at Te Papa. It helped me put some of Simon Morris’ early work in context for me. I also felt very aware of my European heritage when looking at Walters’ work. My art history and exposure is, not surprisingly, different to my New Zealand peers – I’ve mentioned before how only after spending three months exploring the the landscape of the South Island did the work of Colin McCahon begin to make sense to me.

In this instance, while Walters is perhaps best known for his koru works, it was the works talking to European and American minimalism and abstraction which resonated with me.

A stocky, blocked black, white, and grey work of considered and subtle proportions reminded me of Sean Scully’s work. It had a real nice weight and presence to it.

A quiet, pale lilac / grey and white work of horizontal stripes with, I think, four asymmetrical interventions was gorgeous. I’m sorry I can’t find an image of it.

And a smaller canvas, pictured above, from the Transparencies works caught my too. Those colours, that blue for the overlap, are perfect.

Another small work in progress


Work in progress
acrylic on canvas
152 × 203mm

There’s a speed and ease in working at this size. I feel I understand how the scale of the marks work in relation to the canvas. In such a small work the energy of the marks becomes compressed and intensified. On larger surfaces this energy, being less contained, can easily dissipate. Marks and gestures often need to be much larger to carry a similar intensity, but it’s not just a question of scale. There seems to be a different relationship at work between the marks, the canvas and the larger space within it – it’s challenging to manipulate and manage these relationships.

Back to this small work and the challenge is to decide if it’s complete or not. Time for me to live with it, look at it, and see if it needs something more.

Talking not writing


acrylic on canvas
152 × 203mm

Trying to write some words for my exhibition and noticing I’m much more coherent when talking with people. Here are some notes made from conversations with friends about my upcoming show:

I’m wanting my exhibition to inspire people, so when they leave they want to go and make their own thing.

Where I’d usually show work from the “end of the funnel” in my process – this will be a show of work from an earlier stage of the funnel process. There’ll be several different works, and types of work – a wall work, some paintings, various works on paper. It’ll be a mix of things. It may appear incoherent and that’s ok, challenging but ok.

It’s a conscious decision to show these works at this earlier stage – work which is (hopefully) still open, has potential, and doesn’t have all the answers.

How to show this motley crew of works is a challenge. My previous exhibitions have mostly been quite reduced and focussed. This one, made up of multiple pieces, is less familiar ground for me – which is no bad thing.

It may be the show will feel a little rough in places. Again this idea of an unfinished / raw state pushes me out of my comfort zone of what I find acceptable for an exhibition. And that is partly the point.

Unfamiliar ground in uncertain times.

The exhibition is an honest reflection of where the work and my thinking is now at. Of course, come February I may be in a different place…

Already I’m feeling the urge to go and produce something more resolved for the show. I’m itching to pick one of the various threads and follow it to its conclusion, but that is the next show, not this one.

Each group or type of works could be a seed for my next show, a new body of work or the basis for a residency. I’m wanting to build on this show, using it as the foundation for future proposals and work.

New Old Forms is the beginning of something rather than the end.

And then this happened


Work in progress

And then, last night, I made this.
Still very much a work in progress.