The New Zealand Arts Review

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Roger Hall's "Winding Up"

Marian Fountain & John Blackburn, Parallel Reflections

Film Review, La Belle Epoque

John Turner; A Life in Photographs

Grace Bader and the New Cubism


Mark Hadlow (Barry) and Alison Quigan (Gen) in Winding Up. Andi Crown Photography (image)

Roger Hall's "Winding Up": Full of keen observation and incisive wit

Winding Up by Sir Roger Hall

Auckland Theatre Company

ASB Waterfront Theatre

Until March 8

Then Hamilton, Hastings, New Plymouth and Tauranga

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

There are probably a number of older couples who suspect that Roger Hall has installed a listening device in their home, recoding their daily lives – the big moments as well as the trivial.

In his latest play Winding Up he has managed to capture the essence of the lives of retired couples in a perceptive play full of keen observation and incisive wit.

In the play we meet Barry (Mark Hadlow) and Gen (Alison Quigan) who we encountered thirty years ago in the playwright’s Conjugal Rites. Now in their seventies, living in an apartment complex they are at new stage in their lives – planning overseas trips, coping with the problems of older children, dealing with their aging bodies and the body corporate.

There are also the minor issues of decluttering books and clothes, finding and using the technology – phones, smart watches and hearing aids as well as coping with the reading of instruction booklets.

The enjoyment of the play is not in a string of great jokes and clever punch lines though. Halls mere observation of people, seeing the humour in everyday interchanges and the banality of life makes the play relevant and comical. For Barry even a death in the family is good news and Gen’s attempt to get health insurance is more challenging than an appearance on The Chase.

Many in the audience were not laughing at the characters on stage but at seeing themselves parodied. There were times when couples in the audience would glance knowingly at each other at particularly sharp comments.

The several sequences around funerals, attending them and planning them allows for some black humour including a rant by Barry addressed to God for the creator’s lack of understanding of his predicament.

With all the reminiscing about the past and the funerals there is a great selection of music ranging from the Gluck’s soulful Orpheus and Eurydice, Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face to an off-key singing of Danny Boy. The music which adds another dimension to the characters also provides an emotional backdrop which enhances the play.

Hadlow and Quigan are a great team nicely pacing the comedy as well as expertly using body language in their physical encounters. They manage to invest their character with a real sense of personality, individuals who we recognise and understand .

Like his other plays the characters are stereotypes and much of the dialogue is clichéd, but they are New Zealand stereotypes and it is the idiom of our own vernacular. Which we can engage with. It is this familiarity which makes our responses both excruciating as well as sympathetic.

Marian Fountain, Here and There. & Mother Earth (interior). John Blackburn, Mountain Form & Ark

Marian Fountain & John Blackburn, Parallel Reflections

Marian Fountain & John Blackburn

Parallel Reflections

Artis Gallery

Until February 23

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The Paris based New Zealand artist Marian Fountain who recently created a memorial to the Wellington Quarry Museum at Arras has opened a new exhibition at Artis Gallery.

The work in the exhibition all relate to notions of the beginnings of life and ideas. She sees and explores connections between the beginnings of human life, plant life and the birth of ideas.

At its simplest this idea is seen in “Dancing Chromosomes” ($8850) the two ‘dancing’ objects are like small diagrammatic sculptures of the structure of DNA.The there is “Germination” ($7250), depicting a seed with the emergence of a shoot which is both organic as well as like a human form.

There are other works around this theme with “Vertical Pod” ($8250) like a large bean pod. a budding form with “Petite Pousse” ($6300) and a more developed plant with ”Green Fingers” ($10,850).

Works around the idea of human birth and development can be seen with the large “Mother Earth” ($13,500) which is like a large breast plate. The back / inside of this work acts as a shelter for dozens of small heads and swarms of chromosome shapes.

Then there is the large female / goddess work “Squeeze” ($17,500). These and similar works owe much to the prehistoric works like the Venus of Willendorf and indicate the artists referring back to the birth of sculpture.

The works which refer to the genesis of ideas has its culmination in “Becoming Conscious” ($11,600), a work which she had been commissioned to produce addressing the idea of mindfulness. The work consists of several bubbles or thought capsules with two small figures contemplating a search for meaning. A similar work “Here and There” ($5500) is also a contemplation on the nature and creation of ideas.

Also showing at the gallery is John Blackburn whose works show the artist grappling with approaches to juxtaposing texture, colour, forms and surface. The paintings which merge architecture, landscape and atmosphere, create works which hint at subtle narratives and environments.

They range from the almost ethereal “White Solitude” ($3500) to the boisterous “Sunset Harmony” ($26,000) Blackburn employs a limited number of shapes or forms some of which are variations on the basic shapes of triangle, circle and square, but mainly he use a simple curved shape which can be read as a cup, a hill or even some animal shell or skin. It is also a boat shape, and this is obvious with the work “Ark” ($7500) where a large protective curved shape encloses several smaller shapes

His use of colour is sparing but when he does use it as in ”Red Sunset” ($4250) it is to dramatic effect while in others such as “Retracting Sea” ($10,500) the colour has an airy delicacy.

Along with the landscape / abstract shaped works there are other which are used to create a sensation of tension as with the diptych “Fire Painting ($7500) and “Fire Painting – small ($3000) a work where the artist has used actual smoke to create the work.

With some of the smaller works such as “Mountain Form” ($3500) , “Storm Cloud” ($3500) and “Forms Touching” ($3500) the shapes, colour and texture come together in works where observation and abstraction mesh.

Victor (Daniel Auteuil) and Margot (Doria Tillier) on the recreated set of his earlier life

Film Review: La Belle Epoque

La Belle Epoque

Director Nicolas Bedos

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

La Belle Epoque was one of the hits of last year’s international Film Festival, it’s a clever multi-level film, a tongue-in-cheek romcom, a celebration of cinema, a rumination on the notions of illusion and reality as well as a look at the way the virtual world can change lives. It’s also a brilliantly scripted comedy.

Victor (Daniel Auteuil), an aging cartoonist without a job is given the opportunity to immerse himself in a new life by Antoine (Guillaume Canet) who has business which offers clients a new form of adventure and entertainment.

He uses the whole gamut of film and theatre to create historical tableaus or re-enactments where the client can be present at a previous time in history - on the battlefields of WWII, a drinking session with Ernest Hemingway or at a banquet for Louis Napoleon.

Victor initially goes for prehistory but then decides on reliving the week he met his wife Marianne  (Fanny Ardant) forty years ago, partly because she has just left him.

The street cafe is recreated (based on Victor’s early drawings) and a young actress Margot (Doria Tillier) plays the part of his wife. Victor falls in love with this recreation of his wife.

There are elements of “The Truman Show” but Bedos never tales the viewer completely into this world of facadism. There is always the director, cameras, the actors forgetting their lines and the canned music. At one point one of Antoine’s staff jokingly suggest he is playing God to which he replies “No, I’m a scriptwriter”.

The film suggests that it is through art – theatre, acting. Drawings poetry and film that we are able create, recreate and preserve moments of time and memory.

John Turner: A Life in Photographs

John B Turner, Library and Laboratory

Bowerbank Ninow

Until February 22

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

John Turner has been one of New Zealand’s most important contemporary photographer not just for his photographic skills. He is also a critic, teacher, researcher and collector. For many years he was a lecturer at the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland and was also founder of the photographers’ cooperative, PhotoForum.

His work is in all major public and private collections and he recently donated his substantial archive to the Auckland Art Gallery. It is an unparalleled collection that reflects his 60-year involvement in photography.

The current exhibition of his work, “Library and Laboratory” at Bowerbank Ninow provides an overview of Turner’s work as well as his own collection of photographs His photography is essentially documentary but across a range of themes and interests.

Some capture moments others are more considered. In many works he documented the natural environment and the built environment, with others it is the domestic environment. There are many which are records of his family and personal life.

All of these build a collection which creates a history of our times as well as of the individual, his relationships, journeys and interests as well as being an historic record of place and time. There are also many works which show a quirky observational approach as well as a visual wit and keen sense of narrative.

Turners personal life is seen in works such as images of his parents “Mal and Freda Turner” ($1800), the poignant “My Birth Mother’s file, Porirua Hospital” ($1600) as well as the only self-portrait, an image of him in bed with a lover in “Self Portrait, Thorndon, Wellington” ($1400)

The record of his journey through the physical environment includes “Lucy’s Fish Shop, Mount Eden” ($1200), one of series he took of shops and buildings in the Mount Eden / Kingsland area where he lived for some time.

Then there are images of domestic interiors of places where he lived, visited or worked such as “Ross’s Bedroom, Lower Hutt” ($1800), “Kitchen Cupboards, Lower Hutt” ($1400) and “Photographers Office, Dominion Museum, Wellington” ($1600.)

Then there are the images of Nature ,observations of the textures and light of Nature with the striated rock of “Ngaio Gorge” ($1600),and the tree bark of “Pohutukawa, Dominion Museum” ($1400).

There are also a collection of more whimsical works with “Drain pipe, Tory Street, Wellington” ($1200) and the surrealist toilet seat in “Lavatory, Paparangi” ($1400).

Another section of the photographers work hints at in his personal photographic collection with “My Print of Edward Weston’s Civilian Defence . (1942) in shattered frame”. ($2000).

This famous image of the great American photographer is one of the many photographs in John Turner’s personal collection of local and international photographers.

That image of Weston’s “Civilian Defence” is probably the most valuable in the exhibition along with George Silk’s two works, “Tokyo bath house ($7000) and “Diver at Princeton University’s Dillon Gym Pool ($6000).

There are a couple of other international photographers in the collection including William Garnett’s “Salt #1 Death Valley 1954 ($3000) and Shigeru Takato “Holmes” ($1200).

The collection of other photographers forms a comprehensive overview of New Zealand photography from the late nineteenth century to the present day.

The major nineteenth century New Zealand photographers such as the Burton Brothers and James Valentine are represented and there are several early urban views of Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington as well as images of settlements and events from the late nineteenth century including some images of the White Terraces by unknown photographers ($400).

Photographers of the twentieth century are well represented: There are three of Theo Schoon’s mud pool works ($1600 - $2600), Robin Morrison is represented with four works ($800 - $1000), Glenn Busch, four works ($800 - $1300) and four Peter Peryers ($2000 -$3000).

There are a number of brilliant individual works such as Les Cleveland’s dilapidated “The European Hotel, Charleston, Westland” ($1500) Megan Jenkinson’s “Maketu Hot Pools II” ($800) and Gary Baigent’s “Christian Spiritualist, Newton” ($600)

Grace Bader, Untitled 10

Grace Bader and the New Cubism

Grace Bader, Recent Paintings

Melanie Roger Gallery

Until February 22

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Grace Bader’s exhibition at the Melanie Roger Gallery looks as though the artist has come from an encounter with Picasso and Braque, creating a new offshoot of Cubism.

This new look at Cubism seems also to reference the earlier work of New Zealand artists such as Louise Henderson.

The works which are painted in subdued colours – ochres, greens, blues and red are rendered over a gesso surface which has a heavily applied impasto. These boards seem as though could be recycled from a previous purpose, the random clumps and swathes of underpainting unrelated to the artists overpainting.

Like the early cubists Bader approaches her subjects in an effort to depict three-dimensions on a flat surface breaking up the objects into many different shapes and planes, repainting them from a different perspective.

This investigation of the Cubist legacy, reinventing the ideas around abstraction allows for a new understanding of the painting process and of the links between observation and invention.

Her subjects are mainly of figures and still lifes, though In some cases, the distinction is blurred with many of the works having a degree of abstraction.

The figurative works include ones which have the monumentality of a landscape such as Untitled 4, ($1000) while with Untitled 2 ($2500) there is a sense of a figure in movement, and in Untitled 1 ($2500) the figure is facetted making it a multi layered portrait.

With some of the works the heavy impasto appears to have been used by the artist to emphasis aspects of the painting such as in Untitled 3 ($2500)where the vertical lines provide emphasis to the figurative forms and in Untitled 10 ($4000) the ridge of paint gives three dimensional quality to a cup.

Most of the works consist of flat intersecting planes but with the occasional work such as Untitled 11 ($1500) the work a has the appearance of collage with patterned coloured area contrasting with monochrome shapes.

With all these works there is a combination of a reworking of Cubism as well as an emphasis on the tactile nature of painting along with an ambivalence and tension between the depiction of the reality of the objects and their abstracted shapes.