Saturday, April 5, 2014

This is a work (in two parts) called

"Mona Lisa with adbreaks"... It is really funny when one googles the title... this is the first image that appears! ... the world's first Mona Lisa with adbreaks ha! I guess it says everything I can say about how advertising forces itself willfully into our personal time and space... shredding the cinematic arts in the body of which it parasitically 'cohabits'... this idea gave rize to rADz... radical art advertisements - born in the late eighties, consuated with two - jointly made by myself, Russell Colins (with some help from Carlos Wedde) and Red Mole Enterprizes - which is documented in Alan Brunton's article in Illusions Magazine ... as Marcus Moore has said...

Through the 1990’s Thomas’s experiences within and outside of the mainstream film and television industries trained in him collaborative skills toward the end-game, humility. The innovative RADZ® series was art as time-based projects intervened within advertising space on TV – placing art into that most widespread of public mediums – first thought of by Thomas in the late 1980s, what Alan Brunton later called ‘art dancing in the devil’s playground’ (Illusions, Issue 17, Spring 1991). 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Drawing from caves to computers

Another Joe Thomas shot of me - shot in Palmerston North when I was about 9 .

Hands and feet drawn when I was about 13



Mum knitting 

Mum in front of television

Chinese ornament

Glenda my first girlfriend

Ma and Pa

More TV mother

TV Dad exhausted in front of TV

Evan Webb 1976

A Mother

Mother on telephone

Mother and Child

Mother and child

Ruth and Justine Jungersen - Smith with Trevor Edmond and China Black in Lauris' bamboo

Blind sketches 

Ruth - from memory

Sylvia in chinese ink 1997

Hellen Bollinger with child c. 1972

British Waterways rubbish barge at Little Venice c. 2002

Tuturamuri... Kneeling before the hills c.1979

Tuturamuri - Wairarapa dry lands




A young boy learns how to draw. The nearest still things at hand – a Chinese ornament, his own hands, his parents as they watch television, sleep in front of television.

Why does he do it? He knows people will give him praise, he has a quest for this praise and he has a quest, is motivated to see through the eyes of a painter, an artist. But what do these words mean?

The core facts of drawing – from nature – are... a species called Homo Sapiens (wise man) has the will and capacity to translate and transfer what arrives through sensory devices to another medium. This is done to help the species along, to communicate. It started with a bare hand being silhouetted with basic pigment in a cave some 30 to 50,000 years ago. That momentous instant when a shadow from the most likely recently invented portable lights flickering in those caves cast shadows on the mainly limestone, creamy walls. Black on white. Either through a straw or with a mouthful of chewed or ground up carbon/charcoal and maybe some fat from the recently roasted animals this concoction was sprayed over an outstretched hand . When the hand was removed the negative imprint of the hand was left silhouetted on the wall – hey presto an image of mankind. A self portrait. And can you imagine the “power” this would have had among the artist's peers.

The artist could have then played all sorts of games with that image – imagine him (one does presume a male!) then holding out his hand in front of the lamp (yes lamp) to then cast another shadow of his hand inside the image on the wall – effectively we have a white and and a moving black hand. A smaller projected hand inside the large hand – the movies were born.

Inevitably this set of projections would have become the cinema of the times – and would have created both mirth, myth and legend, and would have created a very specialised person in the camp – the artist. No doubt the species already had manifold specialists at the time – great warriors, great hunters, awesome gatherers, hut makers, clothes makers, chefs let alone tattooists, weavers, rope makers, tool makers, fire makers, vessel makers, morticians and yes lamp makers.

I am speaking here of my knowledge of European cave art – which is most likely far younger – for some reason than certainly Australian early art. In Lascaux we see the lamps that made all of this possible and I think we are talking around 27,000 years ago. Lamps made from animal fat and a wick. Controlled light – in itself a work of art. Imagine the power the controller of light would have wealded when he or she first managed to understand and then create wicks. Sure any old animal roasting on a fire is going to create fat and oils which are then going to burn brighter than any other part of the fire – will then be able to be taken from the bottom of a fire once it is cold in the form of sand/ dirt and fat. It would not have taken long to learn that this fat when a stork of grass, cotton fibre is best – is dangled from the liquid fat allows the oil to be drawn up the fibres and burned at the tip. The wick was the pre-eminent piece of technology of the age. Alone in a fire the cotton or straw fibre wick would be burned in a second but when the oil is drawn up into the flame through the fibres there is very little of the wick that burns – why? I don't know. Perhaps the oil burns at a lower temperature? Or higher temperature somehow allowing the wick to be mainly preserved. Wicks do burn down of course and I do know that the diameter and thereby drawing power of a wick and the amount of wax around it have been carefully measured over  - no doubt – millennia so that the burning of the wax and the wick maintain an equilibrium and burn down together – another great unsung pas de deux of human ingenuity.

So back to the boy – drawn by the same propulsive mechanisms of race and culture, genes, hormones and whatever else – he sits by a fire and draws his own hand. The world has a copying machine. The boy shows his picture to his family. They praise him, he continues, get better at it – he studies other painters and drawers, learns techniques like cross hatching, methods of rendering shade, tone, light.

He learns that people like it, hold him in regard because he can render something onto paper. He has learned a valuable skill. He can translate nature into culture. He can take the wild world onto a piece of canvas or paper and go elsewhere with it. This stuff is portable – he can heap more praise on himself by taking it to his peers, to school. This is a lot to do with power. He becomes known as “a good drawer and painter” “an artist”.

So why is there this glow around the word artist – other than the glimmer surrounding other skills – like gardening, parenting, even mathematics. The artist takes the raw image of the world and translates it into language, portable language, shares this in depth and searching analysis of the object of his gaze through his depictions. Second hand ideograms, pictographs, symbols.

Back in tha cave I am sure it would not have been that long that images of the hunter, the hunted started to appear following the hand – who knows maybe the quarry was first? It doesn't really matter. Art and visual language had begun. And the animals from out there and the great battles won etc were all now able to be recalled, passed on, we had memory banks. Hard drives of hard walled limestone caves.

I recall the stunning image of a chimpanzee filmed in the 60's or 70's – that famous woman who lived with and studied them. The camp had a number of oil drums – tins left empty and this male chimp – for some reason chose to use this tin as a – well a kind of weapon – he bashed and smashed and rolled the drum to create a cacophony scaring all the other chimps in earshot... was this art?

Then in 1901 I think it was the Lumiere Brothers … for the first time played to a packed cinema in Paris the scene of a steam train coming straight for the audience... they ducked, screamed, ran out.

We honour, scare, enthrall and enchant. Challenge the status quo. But more than anything we collect the audience. - they make the work into the collective memory – they pass it on with word of mouth. In this way art is pure democracy – especially when it is possible for anyone to see the work, access  is an issue but so is newness and new technology – The chimp had some new technology – as did the Lumiere brothers.

 If it's worth remembering... then don't forget it. Or – if you can't remember it – forget it. And it's worth remembering for many reasons – sometimes it really is just the new tricks of the techno trade – like Speilberg with the dinosaurs, the chimps and some of Jackson's tricks like Stephen Regelous' use of AI in Lord of the Rings crowd scene software “Massive” but often these are forgotten with the money that made them – mainly the lasting art that gets real memories going is driven by conscience – (the science of the con? – na just kidding). Conscience is the driver for much of my later work – after many of these drawings were done. The Cabbage Patch, much of the artist's co-op stuff – where one's thoughts move through – concern, to contradiction to a synthesis of new direction – a truly cathartic process as TARKOVSKY says – art is essentially “a purging trauma”. The artist, in the first instance, followed by the audience. This catharsis – endured, enthralled provides a learning and it thereby coheses  the audience into a shared belief, a culture – with the work as the talisman. 

Conscience drives comedy and most drama. As Duchamp said (mainly of esthetics) “I wanted to throw (the urinal) in their (the art judges) faces”. He wanted revenge of sorts, was motivated by pure need for the written words that “all works will be displayed” to be tested. The egalitarian driver of the show was not able to live up to it's aspirations when confronted with the comic yet vicious Duchampian response. His conscience said – let's see what happens if I take this to an extreme. In doing so he changed art forever. He challenged authority pure and simple. The artist out on the electron field of culture – orbiting the hub – fires a random yet targeted arrow back into the status quo and changed the nature of that atom. In this instant, unlike most of his other work, he was purely political. I have found a rare small Da Vinci drawing that I have no-where seen commentary on which shows Leonardo's only similar political anger. Drawn around the time of his deluges Da Vinci shows an hypothetical situation of a flood of cultural flotsam and jetsam – pots and pans, brooms, junk commodities all sailing down to earth (from nature) – man's or Da Vinci's revenge on commodification in Renaissance Italy!  Brilliant. His conscience said to him... we have too much junk in our lives mate. By the way – while we are on Da Vinci – I learned ages ago that Leonardo  Da Vinci means – Leonardo of  Vinci (the town) so I thought I could call myself Barry  da Upper Hutt... it has such a ring nay?

Why draw? Why copy nature? It shows and displays a discipline – a devotion a respect for the world as it appears. It creates a memoir to the time and place of the thing drawn. It displays the fact that we humans can and do hold the language of surrogate, sign and symbol, metaphor dearly. Like money being a surrogate for energy/ power, resources art and language stand in place of something, stand for something – a value at the heart of the matter at hand. Values drive culture, what we believe holds us together and propels culture forward... these are our myths and until they are bettered they stand firm, sentinels in the sands, markers for the directions we all need to live by. In the absence of the church and with an ever growing gap between haves and have nots – an increasing homelessness in western cities – a virtual plague of “nots” and a media increasingly at the mercy of those who pay their bills, banks that care less, politicians playing all of the above for their short term re-electability and corporate feeders  - we need something like art to hold our values up. Get moral, make art.

Like Da Vinci – after one has done one's study, can draw well then – as with his “commodity deluge” it is then necessary to imagine, consider and reflect on what is wrong with the world and use art to re-design the future. I think this would be a pre-requisit of any art school I ran – learn to look, draw and then reflect.
 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

b'art'sart # 2 Photos in the blood

 dfgdfg


 So – going back a little – I thought I would show a little early b’art's photography. And what better to start with than one of my Grandfather's photographs of me when I was about two, maybe three years old. I think therefore it as taken in our Porirua house up on the southern hills of Porirua where we lived in an old cottage... I can still, just, remember -  white weatherboard single story - with a huge macrocarpa hedge. We had no toilet in the house - the l'eau being a 'short drop' out in the backyard... a shed and a tin can under the toilet seat. Dad's job was to empty the tin by digging down a foot in our vege patch and letting nature have its way with the contents. Mum and dad said this garden was the best they ever had - bar none.

So why on earth do we need huge, expensive, difficult to maintain and difficult to manage sewage systems one wonders? better to spread the concentration of effluent into each and every section - especially the suburbs...  grow goddamned food! The way we deal with "waste and energy is almost unbelievable.

I had a realisation back in the early nineties when these new mushrooming gymnasiums - where gyms (read - business) were paid to help lose the energy (read fat) people had worked so hard for only to then shove down their throats...  My thought was - we could turn this on its head by charging the gym for the energy one is giving... ie... all treadmills in the gyms to be hooked up to generators. Could at least re-charge Kindles, lap tops or phones nay?

This photo depicts a part of what I think was a long and often difficult reconciliation between my father and his father Joseph Thomas. Joseph - the photographer, Joseph - the musician "Uncle Jo" as we called him (itself part of a complex web of no doubt pain suffered by dad at having his estranged father deliberately ignore him on the street once in wellington). Uncle Jo would later come and visit and do what he could - like take studio-ish shots of us then take them back to his Adams Terrace home and develop and print them.

Jo was part of a band of vaudeville musos back in the early 1900s. I still have his guitar in parts having suffered the cow glue melting in damp places I have lived... it has simply sprung apart. The other shots of family are staid normal but mine was this moment of joy and laughter - I always smile when I take it in - the gingernut in my right hand, my left hand bracing against an impending pee and my face - one of those great memories of innocent unbridled laughter.



The next shot is one I took while at Heretaunga College - part of the art scene there I guess - fellow photographer Glen Jowitt has made his name for his photography and once, later visiting on holidays from Ilam art school where we both went Glen and I took it upon ourselves to go and shoot an old people's home - I think I still have a few of these stills somewhere.

Uncle Joe was a golfer too and a very good competitive swimmer - and this is part of where our family sportiness comes from - Dad was a good swimmer as am I. Dad trailed once for the  all blacks - a fullback playing for Poneke.  My brother Ron , his son and I have all been reasonable golfers.

This shot of mum and dad - fills me with both the respect and a kind of terror I have of working class life. Mum - the stay at home, dad almost literally knackering himself daily for our well being. It fills me with my love for them, the hope in mum's clasped hands, but for them - all that work, the war, orphanages, pain - I give thanks.

Much later on I took it upon myself to record much of dad's story - having failed to do the same for mum before she passed away. Failed is too strong - more like that I was not then aware of the value of doing such a good thing as record one's parents' stories. I shot four, hour long hi8 video tapes of dad talking to me about his life - and recorded another similar number of hours of his stories on audio cassette - both in the film archive now. My plan has always been to make a film with this material - for my kids and any others interested. The title is "Dovetail" because - dad - being a cabinet maker and I asking him to show me  (on audio tape) how to make a dovetail - and it being a loving tribute between a son and a father... I still absolutely love "dovetail", love the sound of the word, the feelings, the colours of the meanings it calls up... A dove's tail, the fan shape made from hand sawn and chiseled wood to hold the corners of drawers and boxes together - for just about ever - so strong, so little else involved, no glue, just wood holding two pieces of wood together at right angles.

There is mum in her scarf, every bit a house bound housewife of the 60's and 70's,  My sister Linda always says I had a particularly strong relationship with her and her with me - me being the youngest, the naughtiest, the one who didn't get the strap over the bath, got away with things... for better and worse. Easy can be a curse.

Mum was christened Florence Olive Gameson - daughter of Alfred Isaac Gameson of Birmingham - a carpenter , son of carpenters. He was a tall man who lived the latter part of his life in Foxton yet who had suffered the indignity of being left to fend and care for his kids as a working man failed and deposited them (mum among them) at an Upper Hutt orphanage where they were homed for many years. This - as with my father's identical orphanage situation where his mother Maryann also had to leave her kids for a few years as she got herself back on her feet to manage a home without a spouse after she and Joe split.  Dada spent most of his earl life in downtown Wellington - the later part of his childhood in a house on Kent Terrace.

A couple of years back I gave usage rights of some of my photographs of Cuba street characters - including one that Peter McLeavey bought off me - of him and his daughter in their gallery - to a film being thrown together about Peter's longevity in art dealership and Cuba street life. This film was made by Luit and Jan Beiringer . At the opening party Peter said to me he suspected my art legacy was going to b that of a photographer. I am not sure he is right. I think I am more like Lye - with a finger in many art pies. A hand in many a gingernut art genres. The stills were shot for my 1992 Cuba street calendar with one large and four smaller stills on each month. This was published by the Illusions collective - Lawrence MacDonald , Lyndsay Rabbit and another chap who's name I have forgotten. The group were tenants of mine at my 181 Cuba street studios in the Yeti days - 1990 - 2000.

The pic of mum and dad is always liked by people - there is something about dad's nervous whistling, their (probably directed par moi) looking out to their suburban estate, mum's chubby fingered hands clasped in a real pride, Dad's arm cuddling mum, his hand made furniture in our north facing Brentwood street living room, Mum's home made "shift" frock patterned for real 70's fash.  This was Trentham, beside the Bartons bush and park, beside the childhood loved Hutt river - before the MOW mowed our river into a surrogate canal so it could make yet another bloody motorway against the western hills of our valley. Gone those days of flinging ourselves off the rope swing into the big pool. gone those snorkeling sessions seeing trout swimming with us in our own river pools.

I always recall too the sadness of mum trying hard to re-enter the workplace - a difficult stint at a newspaper outlet in Trentham lead to tears and a foreboding in the house and home then another entrepreneurial effort which saw mum invent a method of making icing cake with wonderful patterns - using templates like plastic serviettes to impress the icing. I must have been around 17 years old when I offered to take mum to a small factory in Porirua where she attempted to "sell" her icing invention to the boss of this place. It must have taken less than half an hour and huge sadness and pain as mum returned to my car enfeebled by her rejection. I can't remember tears but I do recall dad's not wanting to support mum's free market adventure.

Entrepreneurialism - a hard road for an ex orphan with next to no education, low self esteem and the isolation of suburban child-rearing.
at Heretaunga College - part of the art scene there I guess - fellow photographer Glen Jowitt has made his name for his photography and once, later visiting on holidays from Ilam art school where we both went Glen and I took it upon ourselves to go and shoot an old people's home - I think I still have a few of these stills somewhere.

Uncle Joe was a golfer too and a very good competitive swimmer - and this is part of where our family sportiness comes from - Dad was a good swimmer as am I. Dad trailed once for the  all blacks - a fullback playing for Poneke.  My brother Ron , his son and I have all been reasonable golfers.

This shot of mum and dad - fills me with both the respect and a kind of terror I have of working class life. Mum - the stay at home, dad almost literally knackering himself daily for our well being. It fills me with my love for them, the hope in mum's clasped hands, but for them - all that work, the war, orphanages, pain - I give thanks.

Much later on I took it upon myself to record much of dad's story - having failed to do the same for mum before she passed away. Failed is too strong - more like that I was not then aware of the value of doing such a good thing as record one's parents' stories. I shot four, hour long hi8 video tapes of dad talking to me about his life - and recorded another similar number of hours of his stories on audio cassette - both in the film archive now. My plan has always been to make a film with this material - for my kids and any others interested. The title is "Dovetail" because - dad - being a cabinet maker and I asking him to show me  (on audio tape) how to make a dovetail - and it being a loving tribute between a son and a father... I still absolutely love "dovetail", love the sound of the word, the feelings, the colours of the meanings it calls up... A dove's tail, the fan shape made from hand sawn and chiseled wood to hold the corners of drawers and boxes together - for just about ever - so strong, so little else involved, no glue, just wood holding two pieces of wood together at right angles.

There is mum in her scarf, every bit a house bound housewife of the 60's and 70's,  My sister Linda always says I had a particularly strong relationship with her and her with me - me being the youngest, the naughtiest, the one who didn't get the strap over the bath, got away with things... for better and worse. Easy can be a curse.

Mum was christened Florence Olive Gameson - daughter of Alfred Isaac Gameson of Birmingham - a carpenter , son of carpenters. He was a tall man who lived the latter part of his life in Foxton yet who had suffered the indignity of being left to fend and care for his kids as a working man failed and deposited them (mum among them) at an Upper Hutt orphanage where they were homed for many years. This - as with my father's identical orphanage situation where his mother Maryann also had to leave her kids for a few years as she got herself back on her feet to manage a home without a spouse after she and Joe split.  Dada spent most of his earl life in downtown Wellington - the later part of his childhood in a house on Kent Terrace.

A couple of years back I gave usage rights of some of my photographs of Cuba street characters - including one that Peter McLeavey bought off me - of him and his daughter in their gallery - to a film being thrown together about Peter's longevity in art dealership and Cuba street life. This film was made by Luit and Jan Beiringer . At the opening party Peter said to me he suspected my art legacy was going to b that of a photographer. I am not sure he is right. I think I am more like Lye - with a finger in many art pies. A hand in many a gingernut art genres. The stills were shot for my 1992 Cuba street calendar with one large and four smaller stills on each month. This was published by the Illusions collective - Lawrence MacDonald , Lyndsay Rabbit and another chap who's name I have forgotten. The group were tenants of mine at my 181 Cuba street studios in the Yeti days - 1990 - 2000.

The pic of mum and dad is always liked by people - there is something about dad's nervous whistling, their (probably directed par moi) looking out to their suburban estate, mum's chubby fingered hands clasped in a real pride, Dad's arm cuddling mum, his hand made furniture in our north facing Brentwood street living room, Mum's home made "shift" frock patterned for real 70's fash.  This was Trentham, beside the Bartons bush and park, beside the childhood loved Hutt river - before the MOW mowed our river into a surrogate canal so it could make yet another bloody motorway against the western hills of our valley. Gone those days of flinging ourselves off the rope swing into the big pool. gone those snorkeling sessions seeing trout swimming with us in our own river pools.

I always recall too the sadness of mum trying hard to re-enter the workplace - a difficult stint at a newspaper outlet in Trentham lead to tears and a foreboding in the house and home then another entrepreneurial effort which saw mum invent a method of making icing cake with wonderful patterns - using templates like plastic serviettes to impress the icing. I must have been around 17 years old when I offered to take mum to a small factory in Porirua where she attempted to "sell" her icing invention to the boss of this place. It must have taken less than half an hour and huge sadness and pain as mum returned to my car enfeebled by her rejection. I can't remember tears but I do recall dad's not wanting to support mum's free market adventure.

Entrepreneurialism - a hard road for an ex orphan with next to no education, low self esteem and the isolation of suburban child-rearing.














The next shot of Dad in his own chair - slumped back, smoking indoors, endless chops and sunday lamb roasts. Again the clasped hands - an almost prayer. He also made the cushions and did most of the sewing in our house. He had left his trade of cabinet making after the war - somehow returning he could not get back into it - he blamed the introduction of all the new machinery the industrialization and dehumanization - the cutting off of the hand made part of the making - he once lost one and a half fingers to his trade. So post war he did a stint as a dress maker's cutter. so was very competent at this stuff. i am sure it was an issue between mum and him - that he was better than her. She probably knitted the jersey - as she did for us all - later she got into a flash knitting machine - all that speed but it was never as hand made after that.

Here he sits watching the black and white Bell TV, curved sides. Television - my first memory was of going to the Spicers in Manor Park where we lived after Island Bay - which followed Porirua. I was about six or so and the Spicers had the only TV set so we were invited to go and watch - and one night I saw William Tell - and was so terrified Mum had to bring me home to console me. I can still very clearly remember her stroking my forehead as I drifted off to sleep. All my kids have received this treatment.We used to play around the English styled village green in Manor Park - by name - by nature? cricket every Sunday - but these games and collectivity waned under the TV wave. It had swept in and over us all.



Sunday, June 24, 2012

REAR VIEW FORWARD

I have had one of those - middle of the night moments - love em! Thought... due to the fact that no institution in Wellington or that I know of is interested in collecting the history of the artist's co-op Cabbage Patch, Art Centre early days Capital art of the 70's - yet there seems to be a growing chorus of mainly younger artists re-creating their own versions of these early feral/collective art/politics/community efforts and are keen to know more of these days in the 70s etc. (groups like Concerned Citizens Coalition "CCC"), various academics like Giovanni Tiso's Bat,bean,beam blog and other writers like Marcus Moore (Massey), Chris Trotter - I thought I would at least attempt putting a serialised musing on art I have made or had a substantial hand in the birth... without being a wanker!

So... looking back to look forward - starting with my very early art - it's context and reflections of its place/ meanings, connections with current art, ideas about - where to from here et al. "Rear view ahead"... All three of you in favour?

b'art

b'art'sart # 1 Tawas and Moonshine


                                
     



Time – the endless stream
Gravity pulling the ages down
The tickin tocks of

I
remem
Ber
Somewhat this and probably 
that’s why I need to remember the


Two trees
Misnamed
Kahikatea masquerading as Tawas

I remember clearly painting this propped up in the kitchen at our Brentwood street house – was it number 51? Trying Oils for the very first time, that lugubriously slippery, deeply pigmented richness that only linseed can give, Mum was there somewhere baking, encouraging.  I must have been about 11 or so – probably at Fergusson Intermediate school in Upper Hutt. We were the second year through this brand new school named after Sir Bernard Fergusson – “another Pom who didn’t come here” as Sir Tipene once, later, described Queen Charlotte to me” although Bernie was GG that – as far as I can see is all he ever really did for NZ.

Mr. Gibson was the art teacher – Mrs Tui the music teacher, Mr. Bronze - metalwork, Mr Birch - woodwork – so there really is plenty in a name eh?

I remember becoming someone through my art and sport I guess I became or was certainly on the journey in becoming - me, started to get the hang of me as distinct, apart from the hoards, unique?, well that’s not for me to choose but one does need a peg or two for one’s hats. Distinction, leadership, and or excelling, standing out from the poppies.

Mr. Harvey was my teacher – he made me a prefect in the second year – and gave me a wonderful little book – I still have it - entitled “building small sheds and garages”. Such beautifully, carefully drawn pictures of how to build. He also told me he was a student of a little known and now long gone country school at Hukinga – on the western tributary of the main Akatarawa river. The Hukinga valley is a very steeply gorged and precipitously ravined road that I traveled over so many times in my adolescence with my later friend Roland Klocek. Roland’s father was Peter known as “the deer hunter” – because only Peter and deer would dare to go into some of that thick regenerating scrub between Upper Hutt and Paraparaumu. Peter was Polish and drove the water board land rover. He arrived somewhere around the war, I believe, with his Scottish wife. Smoked endless cigars and ate those pine forest mushrooms called bollets – for me it was my first introduction to something other than Kiwi – he was from somewhere else – a European, ancient, and distinct culture..We had so many trips into the Hukinga chasing goats up hillside, almost horizontally trunked trees with a huge mongrel dog before we could own our own rifles. We stayed many a night in Mr. Harvey’s old school house before some idiot burned it down.

At Intermediate I also painted a portrait of a woman – an idealised, imaginary torso and teachers were amazed – a little like their reactions to my ever increasing speed as a softball pitcher – I remember scaring the living what-evers out of teachers as we kids played them – the awesome power of a 12 year old having teachers ducking in fear of my speed ball. The portrait hung on the wall of the school foyer for a long time. I remember being crowned captain of the rugby and softball teams – as I was later to be crowned at Heretaunga College although I was never an easy leader – it has always seemed quite alien territory for me. Dad once, before I left high school, said I was “a leader – you will always lead, it’s just who you are.” (no pressure eh?)

The image of the two Tawas – very funny because – of course they are actually Kahiatea – two remnant, solitary, bare trunked soldiers after the war. The attrition of – slaughter of the bush – well not all of it but a lot of Barton’s bush – I never knew who Barton was exactly  but his name remains in this little patch of bush between the uppers of Barton avenue (Heretaunga) and us working-class Brentwood street suburbanaries to the north. I went to primary school in our own street – Brentwood primary school – broke my leg on my tenth birthday, had 6 weeks in a full leg length plaster cast. Mum had to cut off the toes of old socks and stuff the toe piece up into the plaster to hide my exposed web toes – I was so embarrassed about showing them to my just pre-adolescent peers.  Weird because I later broke my archillies tendon on my 40th birthday playing squash – such are the needs to perform on one’s special day.

Mr. Gibson nurtured me – he gave me special places to paint away from the throng of the rest of the art classes – but this could well be late primary school I think looking at the skill levels.

The bush – god it was amazing leaving Palmerston north where I had done a little excelling at school – in Barthedoor – (the very game that left my leg broken on my tenth birthday at Kim Higgenbothim’s place) – I was almost always last in, in that rugged testing and quite brutal game – the forerunner to a small career in rugby for moi. Anyway – I can recall quite clearly announcing to myself or someone, maybe a teacher, that I was going to paint my first oil painting – and this was it – and now looking at it all those many years later I can see and recall Trentham Memorial Park - the other part of Barton’s bush reserve – mainly playing fields now but then quite rough sheep grazing – where I taught my mother a little of how to play golf – I think Dad couldn’t be bothered and mum was often left at home every weekend in fact - so I started what was to be a long other career in worrying far too much about the underdog – and mum’s being a housewife, having so little confidence and skills really, to get out there and mix it in the market place after we three kids had spat the nest  meant she became quite depressed – as we now call it.

So I tried to help, had learned some capacity for empathy, and as I got some of my art interest from her – I always felt a deep connection with her- a sensitivity to the world around one. I remember a now long lost painting of hers which was of a Tui – I am sure she did it as a school girl, copied from the front of a cake tin or calendar – the Tui with Kowai blossom. I still have a re-worked and reworked paint by numbers painting she did as she went over and over it – unsatisfied by the results she tried and failed damaging the paper – god the damage those paint by numbers books did to people. Makes me cry remembering this – I think the last ones she did may have been when she was living those last two and a half terrible years following her second stroke away from us all in Auckland – but trying to paint something with her left hand – well this is my memory – perhaps the paint by numbers series was prior to this but even if I am mixing my time episodes I feel so strongly the pain of her later life.  Dying in the washhouse after her final heart attack only a couple or so days before their move south to Hastings to be near my older brother Ron and his family. Tragic.

So the two Kahikatea – I was given a bit of writing distinction when I was at primary school by a Mr. Smyth I think it was – who liked my diary account, retelling my efforts to study the native birds of Barton’s Bush – the Tuis, Fantails, even Kereru I think – who just loved those swollen tawa berries. I later made Tawa drupe jam from them and have to recommend it – absolutely unique yet so well known in the jam memory banks. 

The two Kahikatea standing there having lost their protective skirt of bush around them – come Wahine day some few years later I recall waking the next day to not only the scale of the tragedy of the 52 deaths in Wellington harbour but also the Kahikatea having lost their provident top foliage – as they were completely un-natural lollipops of trees without their protection – the vast scale of the winds snapped our or my wondrous trees like twigs.  Gone – forever after so many years and so much living.

During that extraordinary storm and as a prefect I was asked to go into classrooms upstairs where the roofs had been opened like tin cans – water streaming in and down the stairs – and all this without any high-viz gear, without teachers just a 12 year old kid in dread fear checking if all the classes were empty of kids. Then being sent home – walking about three miles? Straight into the throat of the southerly back to Brentwood street – corrugated iron flying toward us, wrapping itself round lampposts en route. Dear old Mr. Harvey trusting us to get home alive – and I am sure we all did – and no wonder those trees had little chance – it was so seriously a fury to behold.

But as I was a bird watcher my diary in the pre Wahine storm days at primary school saw this little boy noting how starlings alighted on sheep backs to pluck ticks or some-such from their wool. I used to go into the bush all the time alone and with my note book, jot down sightings of this and that, sketch,  and I became a great admirer of actual tawas in the bush ever since. Tawas are the most South American swamp trees – (like Kahikatea too) their trunks swaying and growing like elephant legs and torsos on occasions – I have even photographed them completely green barked from a skin of almost lime green lichen. The more common is the almost jet black bark and the dead straight new shoots issuing from the lower parts of the trees made fantastic arrows for my bows. I would always choose Indian to play over cowboys – we got so much more sneaking up and camouflage than those silly white men with guns. I remember spending days making the variant cross bows – especially one using red rubber car tyre tubes as the propellant with a tricky trigger system – it went so far and high it got to the top of the Kahikateas.  I would also make improvised bird hides of old – I think rimu – stumps hollowed out by years of rot… this little lad hiding under the small ferns inside the stump looking skyward, hour after hour to the occasional native bird scurrying through the tawa canopy – wonderful memories.

Chris Trotter lived over the other side of the park in the snotty area of Barton Ave – neighbour to Ron Trotter – His dad (I learned at high school when we cemented a now lifelong friendship) was a Country Calendar TV producer – Chris and I would go for walks in the bush – I still have photos of us – the dawn mist, taking rusty the dog for a stroll – hard light shadows cutting the bush through the mist – wonderful. We also wrote songs – mainly (consensually competitive) and about five years ago Chris sang me a song I had written and then forgotten since about 1974.

Chorus (unaccompanied)
“Oh why don’t you break away
You weren’t born to obey
Come to the country
Be rained on”

What a great memory and honour.

So these trees, this scratched oil image brings a lot back – foresaw a lot of downstream interest and passion for the bush, wildlife,  forest depletion, conservation, film making, art. A lot. 



    

Here’s another undated, untitled wee watercolour painting – it issued from my attending a Saturday art class while I was at intermediate. The art teacher’s name I forget now – but I can still see his face clearly – he was short and balding and such a lovely man – he was very encouraging of my painting and I can still hear him saying to me and the class “now someone here is starting to make real paintings” when he saw this impression of Moonshine bridge that goes over the Hutt river.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Release the ferals

THE FERALIST MANIFESTO

Saturday 29 May 2010 Wellington

Feral art…

- is any art that acts to resolve, highlight and poke a stick at social and environmental contradictions and discriminations
– says that all people, acting as artists, have the right to speak - through their chosen art forms - to wage a new regime in the art world – often against the vested interests of the industrialization of art through corporate, agents, national and local body controls over the freedom of languages to speak
– often employs humour but is not constrained thereby
– is mainly expressed outside the traditional art gallery and funding systems
– is mainly done within the bounds of current law
– employs any mise en scene, media, environment and art form to achieve its expression
– aims to change the world, shift the status quo – to make it a far fairer, healthier and better place
– engages and attracts individuals and groups to either anonymously or otherwise achieve its aims
– is boundless feralism in, mainly, direct action
– can test but will not harm, hurt or endanger, threaten or abuse anyone or any thing
– is owned by no-one and is utterly not for profit
– has no structure, organization or property – its is utterly a peoples movement of the likeminded
– is artist mandated art - not curatorial manipulation of artists to conform to what amounts to curatorial art - using artists as their paint brushes

b’art Homme
Aro Valley
Wellington