The Shape of the Walk Exhibition

On the 10 August the paintings went up on the walls of The Waiheke Community Art Gallery. It took over two days to prepare the walls and to fill and paint and place the work on the walls. On the first day Linda and I set the works out on the floor to decide on where the paintings should go. The two 120x240cm paintings found their positions quickly and the smaller works followed. The wall that is set on a diagonal axis seemed to suggest that the works on paper would be suitable there with two grid cluster groupings positioned perfectly in the space. The three round pieces that are 80cm in diameter were more challenging as I wanted them to activate the space of the gallery in a more dynamic way. I had the idea of elevating them in a diagonal row reaching towards the ceiling. The circles positioned to the right of The Honeycomb Clay Road Painting (120x240cm) worked well in the space.

After the installation photography was completed (photography by Peter Rees) the doors opened for the Patrons Private View at 5pm. A very well attended and lively event with almost feverish activity around the paintings with red dots appearing in quick succession mainly concentrated in one corner of the room but quickly spreading to other parts of the gallery. At 6pm the gallery was open to the public and the party began with large crowds.

Standing with Susie and Christine, who were responsible for telling me about the residency

The speeches followed with a touching introduction by Sue Flegg.

My speech followed with reflections of the residency and also a list of people that I wanted to thank and was eventually relieved and satisfied that the Exhibition was now officially open. A feeling of elation and a warm glow of achievement washed over my senses, the mission was now complete, all my efforts over the last three months had come together for this moment, seventeen works on canvas and panel and forty one works on paper, a total of 58 pieces of work in total had been made.

The night was one to remember, huge numbers of people and well wishers turned up which was a wonderful experience. After the private view a number of close associates and friends celebrated at Fenice restaurant in a private function room at the back of the restaurant, I had a really wonderful evening.

Road trip to Rotorua

Taking the Sealink Car Ferry from Kennedy Point, Waiheke we parked up and went over as foot passengers to the Half Moon Bay Terminal, Auckland. We picked up a car kindly loaned by Tim and Ginny who live on the island from Buckland Beach yacht club and set of south to Rotorua. The drive took us through mainly flat fields and pasture land, with occasional farm houses, barns and large herds of cows on excellent straight and curved roads with very few cars on the road. The Subaru Forester made for a solid drive and handled well.

As we approached Rotorua we drove through The Mamaku Ranges, which is an area that has some impressive rugged and conical shaped hills, some of which had large stone forms resting on top. This area reminded me of Stonehenge and the surrounding area of Salisbury Plain, back in the U.K.

We arrived at the Regent Hotel early afternoon and we were greeted by rather a strong smell of sulphur, with geothermal bubbling springs dotted around the town, it’s hardly surprising. The following day we took a trip to the nearby geothermal volcanic valley, Wai-O-Tapu where we were rewarded by spectacular vistas of brightly coloured pools, mud pools and steam activity. The active, Lady Knox Geyser was spectacular even though it had to be induced by a powdery detergent, but with spectacular results.

The following day we visited an area of woodland known as The Redwoods (Whakarewarewa first) not far out of Rotorua. In 1899, native and exotic tree varieties were planted in an area of around 13993 acres. It was a wonderful experience, silent, meditative and sensory.

Lastly we visited the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, a magical excursion underground, guided through caves of stalagmite and stalactite structures, deep into the darkness where finally on an underground river boat we saw thousands of these little creatures emanating light like the cosmos. (no photography was allowed) the photos below were taken exiting the cave.


To the summit of Rangitoto

Rangitoto is a volcanic island near to Auckland it is an iconic and strongly visible landmark with a distinctive symmetrical cone like hill rising 260 metres. Rangitoto is Maori for ‘Bloody Sky’ and was active around 600 years ago. Over the years windswept seeds have made there home on this unforgiving volcanic lava which gradually became more fertile over hundreds of years through decomposition of plant matter. It now has the largest forest of Pohutumawa trees in the world as well as many northern rata trees.

Approaching the island on the Fullers Ferry boat, the island has the most welcoming and tranquil Bay. The route takes you through dense woodland on a lava dust pathway up and around to the lava caves and then up to the summit. On this bright and sunny day the views from the top are breathtaking and inspiring.

The Shape of the Walk

As part of my art practice I have been recording circular walks through the GPS mapping App Strava. It is a neat way to see where I have been and gives me data such as the time it took to do the walk, the overall distance and some information about the terrain. I find by having a visual record of each walk it helps me define the moment and aids memory.

I am fascinated by the way in which the mind appears to shut down on a walk to the point where external visual information doesn’t appear to be processed and the brain is left to wander internally finding unrelated life stories from the past and other debris. At times it seems that the rhythm of the walk takes ones mind into an area that is open to the void of meditation.

Another aspect of the walk for me is the latent image stored in our subconscious. The image, shape or colour may only be discovered long after the walk in the studio, the results have a sense of deja vu.

Peripheral vision is an interesting aspect of how we look at the world or other ways of seeing. Not focussing on the extremities of our vision is where the suggestion or the broad brush stroke is, arguably more beautiful than the fully realised and understood target image.

On Tuesday of this week I went on a delightful walk with the ceramic artist Penny Ericson. We explored the area known as Whakanewha Regional Park or Rocky Bay. It was a short walk taking in the flat area of beach, where we saw Herons, a pair of Paradise Shelducks and Kingfishers. We walked up to the headland through dense trees to a Maori Pa, which is a village or defensive settlement with visible archaeological concave indentations on the hill top that would have been used for food storage.

The map shows our progress as we loop round twice. The shape has an uncanny resemblance to New Zealand, North and South Island, an unexpected and wonderful surprise to see these shapes.

Another occasion while painting in Owhanake Barn, I took a break and walked the edge of the barn and around the garden boundary to create another GPS walk shape. On this occasion the walk seems to resemble a strong head shape.

On Wednesday afternoon in between rainfall I took a walk from the Barn and around Owhanake bay through Fossil Bay vineyards and back to Korora Road.

Bigger Paintings

I have started several new large canvases and I’m beginning to channel my inspiration into the paintings. I want to continue themes around the relationship between walking in the landscape and the satellite technology circling earths orbit, but I don’t want to be dictated by the concept and I’m trying to allow the work to develop organically. I am also trying to imagine the landscape from different view points without any particular hierarchy. Certain colours are appearing that have more of a literal equivalence to colours found in the landscape- blue for sea and sky, green and ochre for earth and so on. I am finding myself painting out the more obvious colours with their associations and explore colours that are personal to me reflecting my own internal logic and subjectivity. The paintings below are works in progress and may change to a smaller or larger extent, but it’s good to have made a start with the bigger canvases.

Auckland Art Fair

Today I visited Auckland Art Fair with Geoff and Lesley Land who are patrons of the Waiheke Community Art Gallery, they have kindly escorted me to the art fair and helped me find my bearings around the city. The art fair is quite small compared to New York, London and Miami, but none the worse for it; easy to navigate and not overwhelming. To my surprise and delight we found some excellent paintings and well considered arrangements of sculpture and conceptual works.

Lisa Reihana’s work was excellent, pigment prints on paper mounted on panel behind acrylic glass. I had seen her panoramic video installation last year at The Venice Biennale (2017) it was truly one of the standout pieces of the festival. These static pieces are a great reminder of my trip to Venice.

The painting above is one of the artists showing at the Two Rooms Gallery, Rohan Hartley Mills, Golden Lifestyle, 2017 looked fresh and the stand was excellent. I also enjoyed the Shaun Waugh minimalist pieces using old Kodak boxes and what looked like inlayed painted panels of yellow- a real delight.

Less is more, Colin Mc Cahon, South Canterbury Rain 1968, synthetic polymer paint on board. See below for shots of other works throughout the fair.

Outside the art fair we visited the Lighthouse which is an artwork by Michael Pārekowhai. Its exterior is in the form of a 1:1 scale 1950s family home and its interior features an installation of light as well as a sculpture of Captain Cook, titled The English Channel. It is surrounded by a wooden jetty that ‘floats’ on Queens Wharf. The public can explore the work by looking in its windows, through its door and by climbing the staircase.

Nature is Boss

While walking the coastline around the island it struck me how vivid, robust and unforgiving the untamed natural world can be. Each view, great and magnificent, each step revealing a complex orchestration of form, colour and texture – Nature is Boss. As an artist I like to draw out and extract small elements from the natural world so that I have some information to begin paintings in the studio.

Today I took a drive to the east side of the island from Onetangi and through the reserve on unmade roads up to the very high point called Stony Batter, where there are large standing stones and WWII tunnels and a viewing area. I didn’t stay long as the weather was turning to rain and the light was fading. I continued my drive around to Orapiu and back west to home. It felt like quite an adventure and the hard winding drive paid off with breath taking views of the shoreline and the unusual interior views of the multiple hump like hills which seemed majestically ancient. How does one represent such a landscape and reveal its depths and sensations?

‘Painting is but another word for feeling’ John Constable

One of the best aspects of participating on this art residency is the time it gives to focus on the present, unhindered by distractions of everyday life.