Yayoi Kusama


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Kusama is an artist I have been thinking back to for a while now.

I went to her exhibition at the Wellington City Gallery when it was on in 2009. This was back before I had ever actually been to a proper gallery for an artist exhibition, and before I had really taken any interest in art at all other than to play and make my own art. So when I went into this exhibition I had no real concept of what I was seeing, or why I was seeing it.

I walked around this exhibition sort of medium pace. Taking in the spaces. And each room I went into blew my mind more than the last. Still I wasn’t sure what the work was about or how to really interact with it. But I put my faith in the Art and the institution of art and its exhibitions and I took it all in.

This show was probably one of the best exhibitions I could have gone to see as a newly interested spectator. It was light, playful, airy, and it seemed to draw something from me even as I looked without trying to read the work. And I’d never heard of Yayoi Kusama before, so I literally was going in dark.

The piece that really had me going infinity mirrored room – fireflies on the wall.

In this one you enter the room individually and stand on a little black platform surrounded my mirrors, leds, water, and the reflection of the leds and yourself over and over and over again. Standing there I felt something. And at the time I wasn’t certain exactly what it was – I had no words, and wouldn’t have been able to put them together correctly if I did. It was this artwork that stirred my soul indescribably.

It was for this piece of artwork that I brought my family to the gallery to see the artist’s work. I was so excited to show them what I saw. Have them experience what I felt. However when I took them to the gallery excited to have them experience this little room. They seemed unimpressed. My sister, particularly, said she didn’t “get” it and as far as I know she wasn’t moved to the fearful shaking mass that I was.

At the time I was disappointed the people I was with didn’t have the same shattering experience as I did. But in time I’ve realised that art is truly a personal experience whereby the artwork that speaks to one person might not speak to the second person, or the third or fourth people. But this does not make the artwork any less relevant or honest or deep or important.

I think if Art can move one person in any way then that work is profound and has a place and an importance.

Yayoi Kusama started creating her “dots” artworks after hallucinatory dreams. This is what any description of her work will tell you. Her works are about infinity, the universe, and oblivion. Again, this is what any google search will tell you. What they don’t often tell you are the strange feelings her work creates in you. Particularly her rooms that position you literally inside the dreamscape.

Inside a room like this you feel lost. Am i up or am i down? Instinctively (and because you know how gravity works) you know you are up. But inside this room there is no up or down. It is just simply dots. This is both disconcerting. And fun. And in some ways a bit hilarious. I mean what is the point even in knowing which way is up? Particularly if you are of the thinking that we are essentially a whole mass of teeny tiny dots (or atoms- if you will). And what will become after we die? A whole bunch of atoms again blended into all the other many atoms that make up everything else.

So the question here in this work is – what is the point? Is there really anything to fear? Is there really anything to celebrate? Is there anything… at all? Or is it just our minds and our imaginations?

Jim Carey had been getting a ton of stick lately regarding his newfound reality. (Youtube clip exploring Carey’s behaviour) however his theory relates directly (in my view) to what Kusama explores with her art. Albiet she did admit herself to a psych ward in the 70s. But she is exploring this sense of nothingness. Of infinity. And I’m not sure she quite understands it herself as I saw in a video playing at the gallery at the time that she was less interested in how her art played out. And more interested in how many people saw the art and how often it was in publications. Which is fine. But surprising for such a profound artist.

If you get the chance to see her work in the flesh I highly recommend it. And if not, she certainly is an artist worth exploring.

Heres a few more images of her works.


Visit to The Dowse


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On the drive over to The Dowse Art Gallery I was thinking about how strange going to an Art Gallery is, and how some people probably wouldn’t visit an Art Gallery because it is such a strange and personal thing to do. It almost has a feel like visiting someone’s house that you don’t know personally just to sit and look at their walls, and to pass judgment about the things on their walls. Like, when you go to a gallery you aren’t going there usually to buy anything, you are just going there to be there. To see something, and to hopefully feel something, or think about something in a new way.


Personally I never know what to expect at art galleries, even ones I visit regularly. I’m not one of those people who look like they belong in an Art Gallery. I’m not some hippy dippy, art party looking person. I look completely normal, if a little under dressed and mummy-ish to be at a gallery. But there I be any way.


So when I got to the Dowse it was lovely to be greeted immediately by a lovely young lady who asked if I was there just to have a look around, and then when I agreed that I was she then told me that there isn’t a huge lot going on at the moment as several galleries are closed currently while they set up new exhibits. She showed me the elevator (I had my baby in his buggy) and said there are a couple of shows happening upstairs currently. I was a little shocked that they would be setting up an exhibit during open hours, particularly if this left so much of the gallery closed. Surely they would do this outside of normal hours. But hey! What do I know?


The Dowse itself is such a lovely gallery, its light and airy, very friendly and very small. It would have been nice if there was more going on. But what was going on was quite lovely.



Upstairs they had 2 shows running. Handshake, and Scribble and Sculpt.


To be honest, even though I read the blurb for Scribble and Sculpt I didn’t really understand what it was talking about.  It kept talking about teaching art, and how important art is for students, and how the art would be regularly updated through the exhibition. This seemed fine, but other than a table in the middle with a few school journals and a couple of other old books, that admittedly did take me back to school days when I would have to read those oh so boring school journals, this was a little uninspiring and didn’t reflect to me the importance of art for schools or students.


There was a wall along the back, which you would be forgiven if you didn’t notice it as not very much was made of it, which had some school kids work, all of which was less than impressive. Ok so they’re school kids, so their work isn’t going to be phenomenal. But I feel like firstly, it is in an art gallery, make sure the work is top quality, secondly the work should be of a decent size, and thirdly at least make it feel like the kids works are important. Not just all bunched together in a big cluster of similar works. Anyway, moving along.


In the same exhibition there were some pretty amazing artworks hanging actually. But these were clearly not children’s works, and I found it hard to understand the connection. But anyway, they were there. The blurbs do mention that the artists with their works on show were taught by teachers at one point, which is a fairly obvious thing. At some point all children were taught by someone, and the children obviously grow up and some of them will become artists, while others will be something else. It would be nice to have seen a clearer connection to this, or to have the importance of the schooling more prevalent in the artworks shown, if that was their point.



Sandy Adsett – Riri (Left) and Warema (Right) [1977]

While I found these Kowhaiwhai patterns to be absolutely beautiful, the writing about them is very basic, and gives the sense, that while these are beautiful, and fine art, they don’t have much meaning for the artist. He basically says that he wants to understand why the kowhaiwhai was reduced to such basic patterns when most of the other patterns in the wharenui have significance or meanings. This is all he says, he doesn’t talk about whether or not these do actually have meaning, or what he has found out. But just says that he wants to use them to create meaning.

It really bugs me when artists (particularly important ones) don’t understand the importance of their own works, or can’t speak to it in a way which gives a direction of what they were going for with their work. Or at least to be open about ‘well actually it was just patterns I thought looked pretty, so I painted them.’ Moving on from the artist’s thoughts and onto the art now.



For me Riri was beautiful. It spoke to me a violent past but from a metaphor of a stormy sea. Obviously I am reading this fairly literally with the waves none of which are evenly spaced or following a similar wave. All parts of this differ. Its like our histories are always moving and changing, nothing will stay the same, nothing will ever stop moving and vibrating with life. And then there are the vibrant almost pulsing areas of bright bright read amongst the dark blues, browns, and greys. The red isn’t consistent across the whole workout only splashes up in areas. It does provide an almost sickly feel particularly as it seems to pull at the dimly red-brown colours through the rest of the work, your eye struggling to pull those earthy tones from the work. Its like there will be times when things will be a massive struggle and during those times, when focussing on the chaos you will try to find links to other areas of your history where really there might not be any links. So really we should just move on. Just let tide move on to tide.



Warema for me didn’t speak too much to me actually. But I was just intrigued with how the kore patterns broke free from the inner borders. and I wanted to show you it because of it. There is no doubt that this is a beautiful art work though, and my preference of the two.



Cliff Whiting – Whanganui A Tara (Ngake and Whataitai) [c.1990]

This for me was the show stopper. What an amazing amazing piece of relief sculpture! That incredibly vibrant blue with the red pressing through it, and the tan colours of the Taniwha in their lake.


I love reading my daughter the story of Whataitai and Ngake. Its a great story about two Taniwha who lived with each other in what was a big lake around Wellington. Then Ngake gets restless and decides he wants to go exploring in the ocean beyond their lake and begs for Whataitai to go with him. But Whataitai is too scared to (or maybe too lazy, I’m not sure which) and so Ngake breaks free with a great gush from the lake, and also from his side as he cuts himself on his way through. Whataitai, who is left in the new harbour that has been made realises his mistake that he should have gone with his friend as nothing has said the same. Now there are various sea creatures coming into his harbour, so he tries to go after Ngake, but instead he finds himself stuck upon the sand as he hasn’t realised there is now a thing called tides. Anyway, on it goes until Whataitai dies.


While you don’t get the whole story from this, I just love it. It has the two Taniwha, looking like traditional Taniwha should. And you can see their close bond with how they are playing together. In fact perhaps there is even water spraying from their mouths at each other. You get the restlessness of the water signalling the restlessness of staying put in one place for a long time, that you need to move through life rather than staying still as nothing really ever truly stays still. You have to have courage and be brave. And then you get the red coming through from the blood of Ngake who put everything into living.



Then through the other side we had Handshake. This one suggested it was about jewellery and you had some pretty average things in there (if I may be so blunt). One which was a video of a woman who looked like she was trying hard not to laugh her arse off at how she was conning the gallery into thinking that what she was doing was anything more than just a bit of a piss take. While the video did say it was tongue in cheek I felt like I would have wanted to at least see it looking like it wasn’t a joke, even if we knew it to be exactly that. So she just kept trying to stick various household things to her body, and not even very well. Things like a cleaning brush, and a power drill, and picnic bar. But seriously, this was just dumb.


But there were a few bits that I found were actually treasures.



Debbie Adamson – Up close and far away (2017)

In this one Adamson has used social media to bring together memory, storytelling, and relationships between people. She exchanged small cast silver necklaces in exchange for people’s memories which she had printed onto handkerchiefs. These handkerchiefs have been hung and get washed regularly, so some of the memories are fading, as memories do. Particularly when they are not your own. But also this shows how memories can change with time. The fact that Adamson has exchanged something semi precious for the memory suggests that memories are precious, but then in this there is a thought that while they are precious and you could trade them, or give them away, you will always retain the memory itself – unless of course you forget it, or change it or whatever.


I like that with this artwork while it talks fairly specifically about this idea of memory, and changing memory, and sharing stories, it doesn’t resolve all the questions, and it brings up new questions for the viewer.


The handkerchiefs were also perfect. They hold a sentimental feeling. Old movies where the male gives the female a handkerchief as she cries over something. Or memories of mother spitting on the handkerchief and wiping at your face and that wet warm softness as she rubbed whatever muck and fun you had been into off of you – literally wiping a memory off your face. Or wiping your own eyes as you watch your parent buried knowing that all those memories of growing up with that parent are all you will have left of them. Handkerchiefs are seriously an ingenious thing to have used for this project.




And they looked great hanging together.



Sarah Read – Hoard (2017)

In Hoard Sarah Read has taken hundreds of gold edged books and stacked them haphazardly into the bookshelf with the edges facing out, rather than the titles. Personally for me (an avid reader) I just want to get stuck in and find out what all these books are called, and about. Some of them you get little suggestions as you can see small, teeny tiny sections of their cover, so you start to kind of dream about what might be contained in there. But for the most part you have no idea what could be in these books.


Books hold stories, and it is only when the book is given to someone else for reading, AND accepted by the other person as something they are going to read that the stories are passed on to another person. Just by having the book doesn’t mean that the person will get the story. Similarly with memories a person won’t get the memory just by being with the person, or even necessarily when the person tells them their memory.


The gold edging of the books indicates something is precious, and as the blurb says books were edged with gold to protect the pages, stopping them from wearing out, and suggesting also the importance, or preciousness of the story within. Similarly with memory it is something that (if it has been allowed to become a memory in the first place, rather than just discarded with all the other non important junk in life) we would want to protect, and take care of. Look upon regularly to ensure that it is still as we remember it. Though it hardly ever is. As memories go, they change. Although not stories written down in books, but then if a book is re-written then the story changes.


And then one last thought with this (before I rescue my crying baby) – look how many books are in there. It is hard to believe that we would run out of room to keep more memories…

Just to keep you posted

So, the reason I’ve been away for a long time, is because over the past year I have been doing a lot of different things. Here’s a list:


  • Having a miscarried baby – and then getting over the grief of that.
  • Having an actual baby – which has been born on 5 September this year
  • Looking after new baby
  • Starting work on a degree – bachelor of communications management – extramurally
  • Working full time
  • And looking after my big 4 year old.


So those are the reasons I haven’t been present for a while. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking of you all, or thinking about what I want to write about on here. And I have also been reading more, and viewing exhibitions.


For now I am planning just to let you know why you’ve heard so little from me. and to let you know that I will be back when Jack (my new baby) is a little older and will let me put him down more regularly (he’s a cuddler.)


I have big plans to incorporate some of what I am studying about into my posts in the future (there’s some really exciting and interesting things coming out of that degree), and to talk more about what I am reading about in my art books research. I also have a plan for taking Jack with me to view exhibitions and then writing about them when I get home. But for now, I need to self love and take care of this gorgeous little boy.


For now, here’s a picture of my two little masterpieces.


Meet Jack (left) and Grace (right).



Art on the Internet


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I’m just wanting to write a short blog today, so sorry if there are no images, or its not long.


I just wanted to put out there a quick something around modern art. So, there are not that many people who will actually spend the time (and sometimes money) to go visit a gallery. Not many people will actually say to themselves “hey I know something fun to do today, lets visit an art gallery together”. Not unless they are in another country and seeing old masters’ works.


I’d really love to see people spending more time in Art Galleries, and around art. And I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see Art Galleries being more accessible to everyone, including families, and people not the usual art fan.


I would love to see children welcomed around a gallery, and encouraged to interact with the art. Those ushers standing around the gallery making sure you don’t touch the priceless artworks would be better ‘stopping little fingers’ by coming up to the children and engaging them in the artwork, asking them what they see in the artworks, asking them about the colours, and the shapes, and in this way also growing little minds into a love of art and being around art.


I also get that galleries normally are silent experiences, and I get that some art when you see it stuns you into silence, but why should a gallery be silent? Why should art be approached with a quiet reverie and no word spoken apart from people who are then glared at from disturbing the peace. Personally I’m always worried I’m going to be thrown out of a gallery…. I just think art is an experience, and people should come to it in any way they feel like it. Talking openly about it, expressing their displeasure, or their intrigue. Or even going right up close to the art (I always go right up close, and to be honest I love touching art works and try whenever I can to touch the art… though I know its wrong, and I know the reasons why…..shame on me….).


An art gallery should be fun, it should be an experience, and it should certainly be educational and inspiring. And as I always say it should promote conversation and communication between people, sharing their ideas and their responses.


I am pleased that places like the City Gallery in Wellington has days which are open for mums and babies to come through, but I feel like these one off days is not enough to really get the message across that they are welcome, that they don’t have to worry about little children getting excited and touching the work. It is just things at the end of the day….. Eventually time is going to catch up with it, and realistically grown ups have done more damage to priceless artworks than any children ever have. (I’m thinking of destroying art during wars etc.)


But, the good news is that even if you don’t want to go into a gallery most art is online now! Yippee!! So we can all get involved.


One thing though that I think is that creators of websites need to be getting more creative with the ways in which art is shown on websites. I would love to see art websites being more interactive, more noisy, and exciting. Exactly how I think galleries should be. They should encourage traffic, and not just from other artists, but from general other people. I think they should allow people to see and respond, and maybe to create response art that can be shared alongside the original art work.


There is so much art online. from everyone, just everywhere.


For a good mix of artworks, most of which are digital you can look at a website such as deviantart.com.

Or there is the brilliant website for art across the world with the cultural institute.


This website is so awesome! Its been built in conjunction with 1000s of leading art galleries across the world so that people anywhere can see art that they otherwise won’t be able to see. It is designed so that the images are of the highest quality, so that you can get right up close, and as personal as you’ll get when sitting behind a computer screen, and even sometimes when you are in front of the art work itself. You are able to group art from various locations together so you can create new stories with the art.

This website is what I truly imagine art needs to get to. I think there are some definite things it could do better, but I think as a start, this website is the most amazing secret project, and it should be huge! It needs to get to be a place where people stop by regularly in the same way they check out Facebook or twitter daily.


People need art in their lives, but so many people will never get to see all this amazing art in the world. And the ones who do get to see it, will not get to take say the Mona Lisa and sit it next to Starry night to see what story that creates. But the cultural institute allows you to do this.


The internet is so important for art, and I think Artists need to be free-er with sharing their work with the world. They need to be less worried about people making prints of their work. I get that there is a lot of greed in the world, and I get that artists need to have their artworks making them money. But I think Art is more important than just an income. Good art needs to be shared and shared again. It needs to be touching people daily, and getting people interacting, communicating, building communities, and living. Really living.


I think a lot of people have forgotten the power of Art. Or maybe not forgotten, but just stopped really caring. They’ve started looking for something else in the creation of Art. Fame, Money, eternity. And they have stopped realising that Art is bigger than any one person. Art is something that comes from the core of people. It communicates something larger than what can be spoken.


I think it is so awesome that social media makes it so easy to share Art with the world. And I think it is amazing some of the works that people are sharing. Social media is creating artworks that reflect the state of the world at that instant, not the state of the world in a particular time period, but actually in that very second. I’m not sure that all the art that is shared online is great (a lot is shown just to boost recognition, and thats fine) and I think a lot of art is created very quickly, in response to things that are happening in each moment. I think a lot of art that is shared online is created to get a message across in a way which isn’t difficult, it doesn’t have other meanings. The images are straightforward and provide one perspective only. Something that I don’t think makes great art, but instead makes a great message.


The picture above I found on Facebook, I’m not sure who is credited with the artwork – which in some ways is a problem, because we need to know who made the art so we can see it in the context of their work as well as being able to give them the recognition and reward for their work that is due. But looking at the artwork above, its a good image, with a good meaning, but there is only one meaning in this artwork. The image is instant, and provides the instant gratification that we expect on social media, as this picture shows, the gratification of a like or a smiley face, but it doesn’t provide us with anything meaningful, or lasting. This image is one of those things which will hit us for an instant, and then we will keep scrolling and we won’t think about it again.



Again, the image above is not credited to anyone on Facebook, and again it makes a good point about mothers giving everything of themselves for their families. On the surface it appears that the message is deep, but really without allowing the viewers other ways to think about the image there is nothing lasting about this image. Maybe someone might reference ‘a picture they once saw’ in conversation at some stage. But they are not going to say to someone about this image that really made them stop and think about the world, and really have to search deep for their own thoughts on the matter. Because the only thoughts on this matter are the ones that the artist is forcing you to see, and the story they are telling you to read. The quality of the drawing isn’t great, and although there is a meaning in this, quite a shocking meaning that I’m sure people can relate to, it isn’t the sort of image that you could imagine being shown in an art gallery somewhere. It would not sit with any master of art anywhere.


Although it seems, and feels, like i am criticising online art. I’m not. I really think this sort of artwork is great. It is important for people to respond to the environment and to really shock people into the issues, or to begin a conversation. But I just think artists need to spend decent time working on an image, working on their ambiguity so that a real discussion can be had, rather than just a forced response.


And I think people need to start seeing the internet’s possibilities in bringing more people to art, and into the discussion.

Cindy Sherman exhibition


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Exhibition on at the City Gallery Wellington from the 19 November 2016 to 19 March 2017.

I first learnt about Cindy Sherman’s art when I was studying at NMIT, and I was so blown away by her work, and the ideas in it. I loved how much I found myself relating to her work, and how powerful and uncompromising it was. Since coming across her work I have constantly thought about her art, and related her art to the kinds of work I might like to one day make myself. So, when I saw that Cindy Sherman was coming to City Gallery Wellington I nearly cried!

I went to see her art on the Sunday morning after the opening and I was blown away. I really loved the exhibition. I took my 3 year old daughter along to the exhibition with me, and she was happy running around the gallery, yelling about what she was seeing (for a 3 year old this art is so bright, a little bit scary, and so magical. Not to mention City Gallery he huge open spaces that are awesome for a little kid thats been on a plane all morning to run around in.) Grace, my daughter, chatted happily to me about the art works, and pointed to the ones that she was particularly drawn to, laughing at some (such as the sad clowns “ha ha ha mummy, look at the clown, it’s so sad”) and telling me about what the characters were doing “Aww mummy this one is sad because her bum hurts” (fyi – to my daughter everyone’s bum hurts. She’s not a particularly politically correct wee thing.)

The large installation, which I would just call a mural even though it wasn’t drawn onto the wall, was huge and imposing. My daughter wanted to touch the people and go right up to them (much to the great fear of the staff watching her. She got yelled at, I thought we might have been kicked out at that point – eek. Sorry Cindy for touching your art!) The figures were imposing, much much larger than life, and all but one, the guard, was looking towards you with their huge eyes which follow you where you go. For me I wasn’t overly fussed with this one, but it was something to see, and it set you up for the feeling of being watched (or gazed at as my art teacher taught me when I first learned about Sherman). This gaze is reflective of the idea of the way men (according to feminist art theory) look at women. The way they look at them as something they hold power over, in a way that they are a thing to be devoured or enjoyed – I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. I would be inclined to suggest that this idea of the gaze doesn’t stop at men gazing at woman (and I feel – after seeing this exhibition – that this is where Sherman’s ideas are going) but extends to everyone gazing at everyone else. That everyone else in this world is there for someone else to judge and look upon in any way they feel like.

The Clowns


Untitled #425 (2004)


The first exhibition we went into were the clowns.


The clowns are all quite sinister and ironic. Clowns always are in my opinion. These people dressed up and acting overly happy and crazy. They are everyone’s friends straight away. But then some people are terrified of clowns. There are clowns that are always sad, or shy or meek. Clowns are like these hyper real people which are design to overemphasise some element of humans for the benefit of making others laugh. Clowns work as a catharsis where you can laugh at the foibles of human kind, or of yourself or someone you recognise. It a way of looking at the tragic elements of life and laughing at them, seeing the ridiculousness of the situation so you can move on and heal yourself.


These photos reminded me of the fairly recent death of Robin Williams. Someone who was so funny, that wore a mask in the form of a smiling face and humour, and managed to hide the fact of his deep sorrow from the world. Images like the one above really hit home for me this idea of people laughing at someone who has the intention of making others laugh, but really needs support from others. There is a sense of foreboding, and isolation despite the fact that the image is crammed with laughing faces. The image above has put into focus the clown standing meekly in the background, small among these huge laughing (maybe screaming) faces. You can’t help but wonder why this clown is alone, why is she standing there appearing to be naked though being fully clothed.


Untitled #74

With her depiction of the clowns Sherman comments not only on this catharsis, and on being human, but she also comments on her own artwork. Clowns painting their faces in an exaggerated way designed to make the audience know beyond a doubt that they are made up, that they are wearing a mask, you were never supposed to believe this person with a painted face looks like this without the paint applied to their own face. Sherman’s art works in the same way, she applies the make up and other elements of her “sitters” so that you are completely aware of the make up they wear, you are aware that it is make up, but you are never able to see clearly the person behind the make up. It is often said that even though you have seen a hundred photos of Sherman in the art gallery, even if she were standing next to you in the gallery of her work, you wouldn’t recognise her. This is the same with clowns, when they remove their make up they are a completely different person.



Untitled $413 (2003)

What struck me about the clowns particularly ones like the above one is that even though clowns have this image of being happy (they turn up to children’s parties, or are at circuses playing around and joking with each other) there were clowns that look so sad. But you know that they are “made up” so how could you possibly know if the person behind the clown make up is really sad and showing that overtly, and how can you know that they aren’t actually overly happy and trying to mask that by being sad?


The image above has Cindy’s name printed on her jumper. This could just be a label that is worn such as “Gucci” a brand to raise the image of what she wears, or of the photograph itself – like a logo – or it could be a way of identifying the person behind the clown, even though, even with a name that “identifies” the person, we can never truly see the person, or understand the person without the mask taken away. But then the question with this artwork, being that most people don’t very often see Sherman as herself, is whether even if Sherman were herself is the “real” her also a mask that she wears. How can we as onlookers ever know who the true person is? Particularly because life is a journey in “finding one’s self” and change, so if the person is constantly changing how is the person ever able to be nailed down as one thing, or one particular way, therefore everything we are, or appear to be is just a charade, a series of choices, and changes as we move through life and discovery.



Untitled #419 (2004)

Even in this clown image where the clown is apparently naked we are at once aware that though she is projecting herself as naked, and exposed for the world to see in all her imperfections, she is actually wearing a body suit designed to appear that she is exposing herself when really she is fully covered. And yet still we look at this little girl clown as if she wear naked, staring at the pubic region and strange breasts, and even though we know they are fake and designed to be odd and unnatural we can’t help but judge them and laugh.


Even though she is “exposed” we notice quite clearly and definitely that she is still showing herself to us in the way that she wants to  as she wears a full face of make up and looks directly at you while you look at her. She invites you to look at there carefully composed self, which is not actually herself at all but rather a made up character that she portrays to us. We are at her mercy as much as she is at ours. And even though she is shown as an innocent and an impressionable young girl (because of her teddy and pigtails as well as the childlike way she kneels) we can see that because of how composed and thought out this pose and costume are, that really she is not as impressionable or innocent as we might have thought.


Its like any idea that we get about the sitters in any of Sherman’s portraits have to be deemed untrue because all the elements of the seemingly complete and cohesive image contradict other elements and therefore confuse us about the sitters.



Untitled #462 (2007-8)

I was quite amazed with the portraits and a little taken back by the intensity of the eyes around the room watching me. These people (such like the photo above) are part of a distinct group. They belong together and you, the viewer, don’t belong with them. Its like they are judging you from their typecast world that somehow you don’t belong in. The images had a way of making me feel a little insecure. Maybe it was because of their large scale , or their self important frames (all over sized and decorative), or maybe because they seemed to be in a world which I wasn’t in. Here I am standing outside the frame in the gallery, and though their gaze was intense and seemed to break the barrier of the photo the viewer could never enter their space, and they could never enter the viewers’ space. We were at once cut off from these people and yet included in their world.

You could almost make out what they were saying to you or to each other about you. The sharpness of the photos added an element that was more real than real life. They were so crisp that they seemed to be more part of this world than what we are, or what we feel. It seriously had the effect of making you realise your feelings of inadequacy. But then you couldn’t help but disregard these feelings as you realise that these people are ridiculous, that you would never want to be these people standing their, clearly showing their feelings of insecurity even while they look like they have it together in their cliques. The two women above standing there apparently mocking you watching them, look identical and so they should, they are the same person – literally. But this is reminiscent of the way we will follow a particular trend, the way that we will imitate one another and others to fit in, and yet this makes us fit out (is that a thing – it is now…) of what we ourselves truly are. But then how can we find ourselves when we are so busy trying to find how we relate to others?


These self portraits are people that we each recognise from society. Or at least we know the type. We laugh at the imperfections that have been put on show for us to stare at and to laugh about. Sherman’s work is so funny, its playful, ironic, sarcastic, honest, scary, truthful and so many other things. It talks about so many issues, and so many ideas, it talks about humans, society, the search for self, the creation of art, the creation of self, among other things.


The people in the portraits have all composed themselves to present themselves in a certain way to whoever the intended viewer/s of the photo were meant to be (imagine the photo given to a lover to remember her by, or the photo that parents keep of a long lost child, or the photo that an aged woman keeps with her to remember herself in her prime by). The irony of these works is that Sherman is presenting herself to represent these women. She has composed her own make up, body shape, clothing and posture represent a particular person. Looking at each image as separate from the rest, or even as a group it is hard to see each person as the same person, they all seem to have their own personalities, stories, and appearances, and yet (because you know what Sherman is about) you know that these are all the same person, pretending to be someone else, the same way we might be a different person every day at different times of the day. I’m someone different at work than I am at home. I’m different when I am making art than when I am playing with my daughter. At every moment of every day I am someone different, the very fact that I think and make conscious decisions about my behaviour, and the way I react to things means that constantly I am reflecting my own personality in the way I want to portray myself to the world, or to myself in that particular time and place.


Even if you didn’t know what Sherman does to create her art it would be easy to guess that something is off about each of these people. Their make up is just a little heavy in places, or their wig isn’t sitting quite right, their clothes don’t fit in the right places, or as in the picture above and to the right you can clearly see the breast plate that she is wearing. All of these things are designed to make you feel a little uneasy about these people and to question your identity and the identity of others and how we construct identity and push an identity onto others.


This exhibition is truly amazing. There is so much to see in every single image, and I would suggest that even though photos can be recreated fairly accurately in a book or on a screen I would suggest that there is nothing that could compare to having stood in front of these images in the way Sherman intended them to be seen (at full scale and with the correct colouring and lighting). If you have a chance you must go to this exhibition!


What artists talk about in their artworks


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Art can communicate so many different things, that’s why often it is so hard to actually read what the artist themselves are thinking about with their artwork.


It can also be super hard to figure out what the artist is thinking about, because what they are talking about could be easily read, or it could be obscure, or it could be completely in the head of the artist, or in the actions of the artist rather than in the resulting work. That’s why I would encourage anyone confused by art to either read more about the artist, and their work, or to talk to someone, preferably the artist, about what is going on. I would also suggest that this communication with the artist, is a two way street. Not only can you learn from the artist, but the artist often learns, and gets further inspiration for future works from the conversations they have, from viewers of the works. And as I always say, Art is about communication. Something we sometimes forget how, or are too scared or embarrassed to do. Believe me when I say that I believe that for far too long Art has tried to be more than it really needs to be. That artists, critics and other Arty people have tried to make Art more intellectual than it really needs to be, and have almost made Art into a cult. Either you are intelligent and enlightened enough to understand, or you are not. There is no learning, or interpretation. But this is so totally not what Art is for, and not what it is meant to be, and not what you have to accept or buy into as a reader of art, as an artist, or as a person in society at all.


But anyway, we get to a question then:

So what do artists create work about??
Here are some things, and some examples of work:


  • The work might purely be a representation of what the artist is seeing. A record.

 Artwork: Moss on Mai Mai

Artist: Michelle Bellamy
Michelle paints pictures that are pretty true to life. Her artworks, and the way she talks about and describes her artworks are in the sense of remembering and documenting a place. Sometimes artworks are purely designed simply to make a note of something that was, or is, there.

Usually works like this have an element of memory, story, and atmosphere, but often you will fine images like this are just as a record, more than anything else.
These are what I term as “bathroom art”. The kind of art that is easy, it is pretty, and unconfrontational. Personally, despite how beautiful, or technically perfect the pictures are, I just really don’t like art like this. I really prefer art that challenges me, that I keep finding new ideas, and thoughts in, and that I can learn a new idea from, or a new way of looking at things.

  • A memory.

 Artwork: Coming home

Artist: Terry Redlin
Terry Redlin’s artworks are almost all based around the idea of memory, or nostalgia. They have a sense of a time past which was good and quiet and had plenty.
I really like nostalgia type works, and I believe they tend to be quite popular because they are easy, they are warm, they’re detailed, and they just quietly sit to be taken in.
Often the lighting and colouring in these sorts of artworks is important, and tends to be pretty dramatic. They tend to be sweeping vistas, and include some life, often in some kind of sudden flourish (notice how a lot of Terry’s artworks have the ducks flying away? It’s a little humourous actually.) And often they have children, men, or dogs in them, and usually include a warm and inviting home (I guess the home represents the woman…)

  • A story.

 Artwork: The swing (The happy accidents of the swing)

Artist: Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Fragonard tells a story with this work, a pretty humourous story actually about a shepherd girl being pushed on a swing, perhaps by her betrothed, or someone else (a bishop). But as she is pushed she flies above her lover who is laying in the bushes, out of sight from the pusher, but well in sight to the girl on the swing, who looks at him, smiles and throws her foot high in the air, not only showing of her underwear (or lack of underwear as it would have been back in the day) but also throwing off her dainty shoe. You can’t help but complete this story, fill in the gaps of the love triangle, get to the conclusion of the story. There is so much action, the painting fells alive and moving through time and space despite being stationary as most paintings are, or were. You can’t help but imagine her lover sneaking to her side and delivering her shoe back to her with a stolen kiss and some sweet nothings whispered to her. You can’t help but imagine her sneaking to her lover and crying that she has to marry an older, uglier man who she does not love.
This is what Art can do. Who says you can only tell a story with words or multiple images?! Sure those things help, but with truely great art, stories will surely unfold in a single image.
Then again, you have art works that tell a story because they are cartoons or comics, or because they include words, or easy reference to stories you already know well. Story art is a huge category, but I find that real story art like this is hard to come by. Usually nowadays you will find art that tells a story only to make a point about something else. That said, most stories are told because there is a point to be made, so really, my point is moot.

  • An artists feeling about the location or person.

 Artwork: Make America Great again

Artist: Ashley “Illma” Gore
Most of us have, by now, seen this artwork. It’s pretty clear what is being said with it. And I probably don’t need to say anymore about it.

This is an example of someone portraying their feelings about a particular person. Usually they will relate the work to someone famous or in the spotlight somehow, but might also be someone portraying someone they love or are close to. Maybe trying to portray someone important to them in a light that will have people viewing the art in a way that remembers them fondly. It can also be a way of bullying towards someone else. And is opinion that is portrayed and not necessarily truth.

Most of the time, unless the image is to remember someone fondly, or to show how much someone means to someone else, the image will include some form of humour or irony. These artworks are often controversial, so humour is often needed to try lessen the blow.
This Donald Trump artwork, thought, is extremely blatant. (I secretly/ not so secretly anymore, love this artwork!!!)

  • The emotional response to a location, place or thing.

Artwork: Café terrace at night

Artist: Vincent Van Gogh
This painting by Van Gogh, and many others of his paintings show the emotional reaction of the artist to the location.
In this painting there are high contrasting tones of the warmth inside the buildings, and the terrace with the world in which Van Gogh stands to paint in the cold night completely alone and outside everyone else that is partaking in the scene. The painting is at once inviting and exciting and kind of like that scene in Santa Clause the movie, where the homeless kid is staring inside Macdonalds at happy people eating their burgers and slurping their drinks. Sort of like a yearning for what he can’t have. Completely alone and forgotten in his world.
One interesting side note about this, there undoubtedly would have been people passing close by him, and probably stopping to talk to him about what he was doing and painting. So this world that Van Gogh paints is actually a world of a own creation, and reflective of the state of mind, and position in society that he felt he occupied.

  • An expression of movement.

 Artwork: Nude descending a Staircase
Artist: Marcel Duchamp

This artwork is literally all about the physical act and beauty in the movement of how someone descends a staircase. At the time this was created and when Duchamp submitted the work for exhibition it was declined (or not declined, but declined if it was to stay the way it was). This painting with it’s depiction of motion, particularly because that was the only intention of the painting or at least the main reason for the painting, was considered to be too far outside the cubist method (which was the group that he submitted to at the time).
A lot of artworks will contain some type of motion in them, for example the swing, which we have already read about, or even statues such as David by Bernini (google it) or Apollo and Daphne by Bernini (google that while you are at it) both of these statues depict a motion, however the difference between Bernini’s statues (ironic as statue implies stillness, however Bernini creates statues that move, or seem to move) and Duchamp’s painting is that the interest for Bernini is the story. The movement only serves to reinforce the story, and the drama of the story unfolding. Whereas Duchamp’s work takes pleasure in the movement as opposed to anything else. the same could be said about Boccioni and the mobiles of Alexander Calder.

  • An expression of and interaction with space.

Artwork: Torqued Soirals (Open Left Closed Right)

Artist: Richard Serra
Serra’ artworks, among other interests, are interested in the relationship the artwork has with the space it is in, as well as the relationship the viewer has with the space, and to create an interaction, and greater awareness of the space the viewer views the work.
In this artwork the viewer themselves are crucial to the understanding of the work, in that if they do not actively participate in walking around, through, over, on, and maybe even sometimes under an artwork then there is no meaning to be gained from the work. But also the artwork itself relates to the space in which it is in. So if Serra were to decide he were to exhibit this work in a big open field the space would have a different impact to what it has in a white, expansive, but relatively small setting compared to the fairly large size of the work. So the question here is that of if a tree falls in a wood and no one hears it, did it make any noise… but here we are asking, if no one interacts or considers the artwork and the relationship it has with the space, does the artwork still have a relationship with the space it is in?

  • Life and or death.

 Artwork: Monument (Odessa)

Artist: Christian Boltanski

Boltanski’s installations, films and artworks talk about life and death, about memory, and about lives living on. There is a real sense in his works that what he is referring to is the Holocaust so his works do relate to collective memory, and collective loss.


His works seem to be very shrine-like, and the photos he uses are fuzzy, showing the sense that memories fade, and change Over time, but also suggesting that while memories fade, and change this is just a continuation of the story of person who has left us. Almost like they are living through the new life that we, when we remember them, impart onto them. So that one can never really know exactly what was true and what wasn’t.
I would also be inclined to suggest that his works force us to reflect on life. When we are faced with mortality, is natural for us to recognise our own mortality and to reflect on it, and on how short life is and suggest to us that we should live our lives while we have it.

  • Time.

 Artwork: one year piece 1980 – 1981 (time card piece)

Artist: Tehching   Hsieh

Hsieh’s work talks about a lot of things actually. But all of the pieces are completed as performance works over one year or longer periods and discuss subjects such as time, suffering, struggle, and marriage.
In this work Hsieh spent one year punching a time sheet every hour on the hour for an entire year, and taking his picture after ever hole that was punched. He had shaved his head prior to the start of the project, so the slow growth of his hair showed the passing of time. The video of the performance has been broken down into a 6 minute piece that you can view on YouTube.

  • The artist’s state of mind.

 Artwork: Without hope

Artist: Frida Kahlo
Obviously Frida had to be the place holder for this type of artwork. And most of us know her history, and about her art. But if not, Frida when she just a young girl experienced a horrifying bus accident in which she was impaled on the barrier of the bus.
Following the accident a lot of the images focused on her reality. A lot of people cite her as a surrealist artist, but she would deny this claim. Although her artwork does seem quite dream-like, the images she paints are more representative of her feelings, emotions, and pains, rather than some kind of a dream.
When trying to express the state of your own mind there are certain challenges in making people understand, that the artist faces. How do you truly make someone understand something that is so personal to you?And knowing that everyone experiences feelings, and situations differently it is virtually impossible to truly get across what you really mean. Frida’s artworks succeed because she is blatant, and fearless about what she chooses to include and leave out of the works. She uses story and metaphors like the pro she is. And her artwork is raw. Her style is clear, and overt, and yet there seems to be a roughness about it. The perspectives, and shapes, and colours are a little off. But this really does just add to the understanding of her mental state.
When an artist is portraying extremely personal stories, nothing can be unconsidered, and nothing can be left to chance. artists need to consider everything, from the colours, to what is included and left out of the work, how the work is displayed, and the painterly techniques that have been used.

  • The state of society.

 Artwork: Oblivion

Artist: Andrew Moon
Moon’s artwork does tend to be pretty overt, and it is taken from an old master, Caravaggio, who, himself, talked about some pretty heavy things, and painted in a highly dramatic style.
This work, and most of Moon’s work discusses, domestic life, and the world we now find ourselves in. The genius of Moon’s work is in the fact that it is easily relateable to our society as it is now, but also humourous, and makes you think for a moment “nah bro, that isn’t how it is”, that is, until you look again, and realise that you are so recognisable in these images, that at one time or another you have acted like this, behaved like that, that you actually are like this. So in their comic nature, they bear a truth that we can only agree to when it is put to us in a humourous way. The same way that comedians make their jokes work for us. We laugh at ourselves, because it is put in a way that we can recognise ourselves, but can deny, for at least a moment, that we do have some recognition in what is said, or portrayed. And it is the obsurdity of what we are made out to be coupled with the fact we have denied for a moment that is how we are, that makes these works so true and eye opening.

  • Comments on Art itself.

 Artwork: The treachery of images

Artist: René Magritte
Ceci n’est pas une pipe means “this is not a pipe”. You would be tempted to say yes it is a pipe. But no, this is merely a picture of a pipe.
This is the conundrum that Magritte puts to us in a lot of his works. He questions that which art can portray to us, and that which it never can show us, and then he paints the thing that is hidden from view, by the very nature of the art itself. He aims to make clear to us the limitations of Art or of sometng that represents sometng else, and sometimes he goes so far to talk about that which a person can never know.
The humourous and almost absurd comment, this is not a pipe, forces the viewer to look again, and question ok, what is it then that I am seeing? When you recognise that this is not a pipe because it is an image only, you are forced to appreciate that images are always going to be limiting. They are always going to be deceptive in some way, and they will always conceal something.

  • Comments on the medium that has been used.

 Artwork: After Party

Artist: Severija Inčirauskaité-kriaunevičiené

Most textile artists love the process of making art out of their chosen material, but not only do they love the process, but they love to challenge the ideas about that particular material and process.
Often textile art that is looking to comment on, and explore. Particular material or media will combine often surprising media to really challenge previously held notions of that material or medium.
Fabric art usually has the objective of challenging previously held notions because of the fact that embroidery, and fabrics have historically, and commonly been seen as being feminine, and a craft rather than Art. Textile and fabric artists are nowadays trying to challenge this notion and you will find them early playing with the medium of Fabrics and stitch. Combining them with surprising complimentary materials, such as Severija has done here with the dainty cross stitch of something not pleasant, with an old Tin Can.
But artists often explore the media they are using and what it can do, what it feels like, what can be combined with it to make it more interesting. so ts exploration of medium is not limited purely to textile art. All types of artist do, or should be considering the media they are choosing. And most, will be exploring the media, while they explore their chosen subject or idea.

  • Comments on a particular cause, or social issue.

Artwork: Do women still have to be naked to get into the Met. museum

Artist/s: The Guerrilla Girls
The Guerrilla Girls are a group of female artists that produce art on the subject of gender inequality.
Their art seems to be more along the lines of Marketing or Advertising techniques, and consists of billboards, stickers and things like that which raise awareness for their cause. They are considered activists more than anything else, but they are also artists in the way that their art challenges and confronts.
Art can be very challenging to people who view it, and so actually creating art to make a point for a cause is very effective. people will view art and they usually will expect to be thinking about the artwork and the message. So for the viewer to be in a frame of mind to consider something that they are seeing, when they see it, means that if you have a point to make, the viewer will already be trying to find it.

  • Comments on the process of creating.

 Artwork: Tirs

Artist: Niki De Saint Phalle

I would suggest with this one finding her video on YouTube because this particular artwork is actually about the process of creation. like Jackson Pollock De Saint Phalle explores the process of creating artworks. She has created a sculptural base which she has filled with areas of paint, she then invites people to join with her in shooting at the Artwork, both destroying the work, and completing it.
This act questions whether in the pursuit of capturing the idea into a viewable form, whether you actually destroy the idea itself, or whether you actually complete the idea by bringing it to the foreground. It also begs the question is it the artist that creates the artwork, or the person who comes to it, and adds their meaning to it. Or, in fact, does adding your own meaning to the artwork actually destroy the original idea, or add to it.
The main idea behind this work, though, is the creation of the piece of art itself. This is why it has been video-ed and why the physical artwork itself is less important than the recorded act of creation.

  • Comments on what art should do.

 Artwork: Trafalgar Square

Artist: Piet Mondrian

Mondrian worked to simplify objects down to their simplest forms using only lines, blocks of colour, non-colours and primary colours.

His idea was that people get caught up in the look and physicality of things, so he was trying to simplify the things down to their basic underlying spiritual selves. his intention with art, and then his encouragement for a whole new design style, was that on we start to see things in their most basic spiritual forms, we will no longer need art itself.
A lot of times I hear people talking about art such as this, saying things like “That’s not art.” “I could do that”. And they never really take a moment to think about what that piece of art is doing. It is totally ok to not know immediately, or even after a long time what the hell is going on (to be honest, I, for years, had no idea what this artists and loads of other art was about) but what is not as ok is stopping your curiosity. Stopping the will to find out. Once you get yourself past the “I don’t know, so I don’t care” thing. You can start to learn something. To open your mind to new thought processes. and new connections.

  • Record of a person.

 Artwork: HM The Queen

Artist: Jeff Stultiens

Most portraits are as records of people, as are most photographs. They are intended to give a sense of the sitter, but usually it is to preserve the sitter in all their glory.
This particular painting of the Queen, is designed to add life to her so that even when see dies (if she ever does, good job your highness) she will be remembered with life and in colour, notice how vibrant she looks in this painting. There is a glow about her, and she doesn’t look tired or weak at all. She appears like she could stand up and command her country back from democracy at any moment (not that she would, but just that she is strong and powerful, even though she is old, even when she is dead). The point being that her memory must live on, and it must be remembered in a certain way, that lives up to the way she lived.
This portrait, although it does all of that, it is also very carefully painted to be extremely accurate as to what she really looked like. Images like these, and of these sorts of important figures, particularly ones with lots of records of them, need to look basically the same. Important historical figures do not want there to be confusion around who they were or what they looked like, images must be consistent. Because do not think that they are important historical figures by chance. No way! They are historical figures by careful design, planning and execution. Even though they might be born into the role, like the Queen.

  • The essence of a person.

 Artwork: Paul Klee

Artist: Shannon Novak
Novak’ artworks are designed to capture, in an abstract way, the essence of a person, and their rhythm and what they are about.
Personally, I find these artworks very difficult, but I imagine that if I was someone like Polly Gillespie, who has synesthesia (when someone sees things as colour rather than shapes and their true form) then I imagine these artworks would make more sense to me.
Either way they are quite beautiful, and do seem to capture something, and do give a sense of rhythm or music, but for me they were quite difficult artworks to really understand. When I saw these displayed at the NZ Portrait Gallery on Wellington’s waterfront, I stood and stared at them for such a long time. I tilted my head, I stood on one foot (no, not really) but I just didn’t get it. That is until I read the blurb about the artworks, and then went back and had another look.
That’s when I got the theory, but not the person so much. I think I would need more time with the artworks to begin feeling the person portrayed. And perhaps listening to the music accompaniment would help.

  • And the list goes on…


As you can see, Art really does open up the opportunity to discuss anything. And as you can also see, it isn’t particularly clear exactly what is being talked about in all works. That is half the reason why there really is no one interpretation as to what the work is about, and why you should always engage with the work, express your thoughts and ideas. And why the Jargon is irrelevant.

Wellington Regional Arts Review


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I’ve been popping out and about in my “spare” time – which isn’t as spare as I might like to think – and checking out various art shows that have been on in the Wellington Region.


The other weekend though I took my family along to the Lego conference. Pretty cool. It was held at Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre in Upper Hutt.


After escaping the Lego show and wandering through the rest of the gallery I came across an Art Exhibition, the Wellington Regional Arts Review. To be honest it was a little under-inspiring. The art was sadly lack-lustre, and the lay out of the show felt like it hadn’t been considered at all. I felt like my daughter Grace could have done as good, or a better job of setting up the displays.


That said, I did want to talk about two pieces that I felt deserved sharing from the show.


The first:


Title: Hansel & Gretal lost in the woods

Artist: Rebecca Holden 


This was the first artwork that you saw when you walked into the gallery. Which, okay, is kinda good curating because with this one being Hansel and Gretal lost in the woods it pretty much is saying to you that by entering the gallery, you will also be lost in the woods.  And to be fair, the rest of the art in the gallery was designed in a way to throw you a little off kilter, and to be almost surreal.


I was actually really excited to have stumbled about this exhibition when I came in to the gallery and saw this as the first piece of work. Unfortunately, while wandering the rest of the gallery I was less and less blown away. But back to the artwork above.


At first glance you wouldn’t imagine this to be Hansel and Gretal, the story characters who are brother and sister, loving of sweets, and taking on a big bad witch, a pair who are left in the woods by an unloving father who gets led astray by the devious ways of the new step-mother (always the step mother….) but really why does the Dad allow her to convince him his kids aren’t as important as she is. Terrible. Anyway, as you will find out (if you don’t already have kids) children’s stories are not all skipping and happy endings….

At first glance this pair look like lovers reclining together, my first thought is after love making, however this can’t be right because the second character still has his shoes on, and the first character is looking to him in a way that looks a little uncomfortable. Perhaps they are sitting together because one has just told the other something hard to hear and the first is feeling awkward about it. Either way the relationship between the two is hard to pick. The only idea that you can gauge about them is that they are (supposedly) brother and sister because of the title. But then looking at the features of the first person that person looks like a male as well. Perhaps they are brothers…? But my thought (and I could be way off) is that they are actually homosexual lovers, and that this is following their first confession to loving each other, their first foray into “coming out”. That certainly would be an awkward conversation, and it is hard to pick whether they have admitted it to each other, or whether one has said to the other, and the first finds it awkward, and not at all what they had in mind.


The painting is set in such a way that it feels very intimate. It feels like these two know each other very well, and that at any other time they would be comfortable with one another, but right now, in whatever moment has just happened, they are uncomfortable, and, yes, lost in the woods of whatever the situation has become from whatever has just passed between them.


The haphazard way that this has been painted, and the darkness of the painting almost taunts the viewer saying ‘you will never know what has just passed between us, try all you like to work it out, but you will never truely know’. I love this so much. For me, art should be about leaving some mystery in the work. Trust in your audience and let them think about the work, otherwise if you tell someone everything in the work, then your audience will not engage with the work other than to say to them, ‘ah yes I get it, lets move on now’.


The colour combinations of the artwork are also surprising. The background looks dark, and dirty, the colour combination for the background creates a sense of unease to me, the colours do not work, but this is to perfection! I love the colour combination so much, because it does stir something in me, perhaps it is an upchuck reflex, but I feel that with the thoughts this work stirs in me, an upchuck reflex just completely adds to the meaning and the message of the work. And the couple’s facial colouring makes them look sickly too. Like they have done something they really should not be doing, something that is sickening, and maybe socially or morally wrong, I do think possibly about drug addicts, and I thought initially, maybe that is what is going on here; but I felt that it couldn’t be drugs as the only thing happening here, because there is too much intimacy between the pair.


And my last thought on this one, is in it’s unfinished style. Again, perfection! This artwork leaves the story open ended. This tale has not finished, something is still to unfold, something that, again, the viewer is never going to know because you are not truely invited into this moment. The pair are turned away from the viewer, they are blocking the viewer and shielding themselves from the viewer with their arms tightly held across their fronts, and their hands clenched. They are turned away, even while their feet stretch out towards you, both with the viewer, and separate from them.


God I love this artwork! I want it on my wall so bad!


The second work that I wanted to mention, but only briefly is this one:


Title: Untitled

Artist: Caitlin Devoy


My first thought with this work was how similar it felt to Méret Oppenheim’s surreal artwork Le Déjeuner en fourrure (or in english Fur Breakfast or Breakfast in Fur).


The idea with Oppenheim’s artwork is to present something that at once is lavish, fur being something that is seen as being a material to indicate wealth particularly when worn, but at the same time off putting in that the use of this object is to drink from, to put in your mouth. But because of the juxtaposition (the combination) of these two things (the teacup and the fur) neither is this desirable or useful.


In regards to Devoy’s artworks, I found them similar because the items are practical items in and of themselves, however what has been done with them, the disgusting finger in the lipstick, and the long soft hair for the toothbrush, and the skim coming out of the toothpaste, makes them off-putting, and no one in their right mind would want to use them. However the difference with this artwork compared to Oppenheim’s is that while you could still use Oppenheim’s  if you were game enough, you literally can not use Devoy’s items for their intended purpose.


No longer has she allowed these items to carry with them their intended purpose. But instead she has rendered them useless. They are now just objects with no purpose. And maybe that is her point. Maybe they never had any purpose, maybe beauty (because they are all originally beauty items) has no purpose. Maybe she is suggesting that there is something more important in this world that what we look like. But I would suggest that with two of the items being a toothbrush and Toothpaste I would suggest that these items (although only recently invented) are actually not so much beauty items, as they are health items, because if you don’t brush your teeth then they fall out and can make you – not only uncomfortable – but also unwell.


So then I would wonder, why has she chosen these items then? Is it because she is wanting to make reference to a mouth? Maybe these items are not designed to realise, maybe they are designed to seduce on some level? There is some strange sense of sex to these objects, in their human references, but they are also items that people use in a personal way, the toothbrush putting in and out of your mouth (LOL I am picturing teens doing that blow job gesture – that seems so wrong – but that is what this path is making me think) Maybe the tube is not actually toothpaste, maybe it is some other sort of cream, it really could be anything, haemorrhoid cream for all I know. Devon has conveniently made each object (other than the toothbrush – which is what is giving me my reference point) undefined, they really could be anything. Maybe the lipstick isn’t lipstick at all, maybe it is the bottom part of a bullet, and the finger is actually indicated to come a little closer to death, or something along those lines.


I dunno exactly what this artwork is for, maybe it is nothing. Maybe it is like Dada – all a bit of nonsense that is designed to make people think, but actually the work itself doesn’t have meaning at all. It could just be the starting point for a never ending train of thought and conversation. God, I hope that is the case, because wouldn’t that be an awesome awesome piece of controversial art, wouldn’t that be a fantastic new place to be taking art…


Let me know what you think about either artwork, or contact me to let me know what you’d like me to talk about or discuss next. Or if you have an artwork that you or someone you know has done that you think deserves being reviewed and talked about then send it through to me using the contact me part of my website: http://www.art-thunk.co.nz


Also make sure you keep checking back to my website and sending people through to the site. Lots of new ideas are in the pipelines, and I’m super excited! Keep checking things out.


When Size Matters

When creating art work it is important to consider the size of the work you are creating.


There are many considerations in this decision such as:

  • How big a surface do you reasonably have to paint on?

If you have only small canvases in your cupboard, or don’t have the money to buy another surface, maybe this is what is going to determine the size you are working on. Or maybe this is a commission and size is a part of that commission, in which case you should probably work to the requested dimensions. 

  • How much can you afford to spend creating this art work?

If you have no money you might not be able to afford a huge surface to work on, and so you might be limited to what you can afford. As artists, we would hope that we don’t have to be limited to money, and if we wanted to create something huge and had no money to work with, we would try to use a different surface material to work on that we could actually afford. Maybe you can’t afford to buy a huge canvas surface, but you could propose to paint the side of someone’s house, for example.

  • Where is the artwork going to be placed? Is there even enough room for it where it is going?

If you know that you are painting on commission for someone’s home, and they only have a small house you might be constrained by the space that the artwork will sit. Or if you are creating for a gallery you might only have one wall to be able to show on, you need to know the size of this space, and also consider the space around the artwork as well – do you really want to have the artwork stuck wall to wall floor to ceiling? or would you rather have breathing space around the artwork? These considerations need to be made because they really do affect the way people read and interpret an artwork, and also affect the way someone feels about the artwork, and even how long they are prepared to engage with the work. On the practical side of things if you have a space which is 3 meters high but you create a work 6 meters high, how is this even going to fit in the space? Maybe you want to have it bent and crammed in, but usually, this is not the ideal situation. 

  • What sort of interaction do you want your audience to have with your artwork?

The size of an artwork does determine the sort of interaction someone has with an artwork (I will demonstrate this a bit more below). You need to consider if you want people to just see an artwork as a normal artwork and move on, or do you want them to really have to work hard to see an artwork? Or do you want it to be almost an amusement situation? Or do you want them blown away by the artwork size? Do you want them to feel intimidation or fear? Do you want to surprise the viewer – make them assume before they see an artwork that it must be a different size than it is, and then surprise them by presenting something bigger or smaller than at first thought?

  • What do you want to say with your work?

The feelings that people get in relation to their first viewing of the work can impress upon them what the message of the work is. For example a king might chose to have a huge sculpture or painting of himself which is to be viewed from very far below the artwork so the viewer has to look up at it, thus presenting the king as more important, and mightier than the viewer. 

  • What medium are you working in?

The choice of medium might dictate the size of the work. For example if you are working with carving a broom, then you are limited to the size of the broom or smaller. Or maybe you are working with oils and you know that they can really provide texture to a work which you want to show to people, maybe this would encourage you not to do a tiny tiny artwork. Or perhaps you are working with small beads, maybe the small-size of an individual bead helps make you decide that it would be best to do something that isn’t the size of a rugby field, for example, or indeed maybe because of the unusual nature of working with something so tiny on so grand a scale, this might be exactly the message and the awe you want to instil in your viewers. 

  • How is that medium being worked on the surface?

If you are working in a gestural way you would almost certainly decide that the artwork needs to be larger in size so that you can reflect the gestures your body makes. Think of Jackson Pollock, there is no way he could have made his action art on the size of A4 paper. The very fact that his artwork needed to capture his movements meant that it needed to be big enough that he could actually move across the paper. 

  • What feeling do you want to create with your art work?

As above, do you want your audience to have fear struck into their hearts? Maybe this means that you need to create a huge artwork. Or maybe you want to create a feeling of stillness and solitude, so you need to create something tiny so that the person really has to work hard to see the artwork which brings them in really close to the work. 

  • What is the style of your workings on the canvas?

Are you going to go very very detailed? Are you capable of creating the level of detail you are after in something tiny? Or is going huge going to mean that there will be too much detail for what you are capable of showing? Are you going to work abstractedly, will  this lend itself to the size that you are working in? Or will it be lost in the huge space?


These are just some of the consideration you need to make when deciding which size to work in, and every artwork will be different, and each artist will feel a different way. Personally I love to work large, but not so large that I’m going to get lost amongst the canvas. I just love to create works that are a decent size so I can fit a lot onto the canvas, and so that I can use bigger gestures to create my works rather than tiny little scratchy movements.


Along with the above considerations about the dimensions of the actual surface of the work, there are also considerations to be made about the size of individual components in the picture. We will talk about scale in art in a later blog.


Here are some examples of size in art.


Willard Wigan – tiny art



Willard Wigan creates tiny sculptures all within the head of a needle. These artworks are so impossible that when you see them half of your interaction with them is going to be disbelief. So it would make sense that Willard would create within the eye of his needles images of things that are either beyond belief – such as major feats of mankind’s creations, or religious imagery, or as above, royalty that has been beyond belief, and also things that are made up completely, such as snow white and her seven dwarves.


When seeing these artworks your thought process would be amazement at the detail in something so small, wonder at how anything could be so small, and how did he even create them, and then an interpretation of the art. Which, by the way is interesting in the case of the royals on the eye of the needle or images of jesus on the eye of the needle. Imagine these people commissioning artworks, they would never consider having their work presented at such a minute size where they are almost created as unimportant, nothing more than the size of a bacteria. And maybe this is Wigan’s message. All of these things are unimportant. Or maybe he is trying to say that there is beauty, and a whole new world, in worlds that are unseen by the naked eye? Maybe this is just a gimmick – perhaps. Something so tiny takes a lot of skill to create but then you would only see it if you know it is there. Maybe it is saying slow down and really see everything that is around you. Be present in the world.


This is how you view the art works. Imagine going into a gallery and seeing all these microscopes set up and patiently waiting your turn. You are going to chat to the person next to you. You will look into the microscope then look up and comment to the person next to you about what you see, but ultimately the experience is yours alone. No other person is able to see what you are seeing, when you are seeing it. This means you are forced to slow down, to be with the artwork, and not with your surroundings. You are told to engage with the artwork, to see it and as a result to really think about the work. It is a moment to stop from the frantic hustle and bustle of the day, and pause to see something more.


War God Statue – Guan Yu by Han Meilin


Depicting an important General in Chinese history, this statue stands 58 meters in the air and is made from over 4000 strips of bronze. Even without knowing a huge amount about the General that this depicts you certainly get the immense importance of this person to the people who have commissioned the work and the people who will be forced to look at this statue almost every day. Something this large is not going to be missed from anywhere in the region. It is so big and so unlike any other natural, or man-made architecture shapes that you will not be able to miss seeing this sculpture from where ever you are. Perhaps you will think, gosh! What an eye sore. Perhaps you will think, Look! There is the General Guan Yu, remember what he did for our country? Perhaps you will look and marvel that man can create anything so huge. Whatever your thoughts about the work you will recognise the figure as one of importance, one of power, something rather god-like.  god-of-war-guan-yu-statue-jingzhou-china-81Then, when you get closer and are standing more or less under the sculpture you are going to see this huge sculpture literally looming over you, and staring down upon you. Perhaps when faced with the sculpture at so close a proximity you will even cower beneath it, and really feel the true force of this Deified General who brought the dynasty to the ground and helped establish the state of Shu Han.

Colin McCahon – Gate III

gate-iii-colin-mccahonThis artwork is 3 metres tall by 10 and a half metres long. Imagine coming up to this artwork and seeing that huge I AM Literally screaming at you. The work is so huge that you see it from far away, and it consumes the entire room around it. It dwarves the images next to it, it dwarfs you. You can not possibly take this artwork in at one time, not if you are really looking at the work and up close to it. The only way to see the work at one time would be to stand so far away from it that you miss half of what is written so small in other areas of the work. The writing is so huge that it works as a means almost of becoming the landscape, the A and M becoming the sharp peaks of mountains, and the I working as a divide between one side of the artwork and the other. When you get up close to the artwork you are able to see the texture of the work clearly, and almost feel the runs of paint, and feel like you could walk into the artwork to see what is behind each surface. The genius in the size of this artwork though is in its feeling of certainty. When you say I AM it is a very affirmative statement, there is no other option but to agree that really YOU ARE. The size of the artwork just really emphasises that certainty, and the importance and power of the statement and forces you to really consider “Am I?”


Lorraine Loots – Tiny drawings


Lorraine Loots specialises in tiny little drawings, no bigger than the size of a coin. Her drawings are highly detailed and really beg you to come up very close to look at them. It is interesting with this example that her artworks are so tiny, and yet there are so many of them, that as a collective they become something quite big.

When we are faced with something smaller and more intricate, our nature is to try to find fault in the thing we are viewing, to see if there are any mistakes. By creating something so tiny we are forced to really inspect the work, to really see what what there in the macro world, but that we never really saw until it was put into a micro world. This is the genius of an artwork that is so teeny tiny – but still so super detailed and precise.

As with Wigan’s artworks these require the viewer to really go up close to the works and really study them closely. You marvel at the intricacies of the works and how could so much detail be in something so tiny, and then you realise actually this person is meticulous, almost to the point of OCD. By looking so closely at the artworks, you are almost looking so closely at the artist herself. lorraine-loots-265-gallery

Lorraine Loots created one drawing every day for a year for the exhibition above, by presenting the works in the way of sorting them by month and day you really are told a story of her year. You are asked to look closely at her year and what has passed and to be one with her. These artworks are small so they do create a sense of isolation when you re looking, but because you can look at the works and your eye is able to move from one to another, and then back out to the gallery you are not in complete isolation like you are with Wigan’s work. You can still discuss the artworks with your friend standing next to you, but then when they want to have a look at what you see, they will have to go in alone to see what it is that you saw.


Seward Johnson – Forever Marilyn Monroe


This sculpture, which is 7.9 metres tall, depicts a larger than life iconic woman in a pose which is even more iconic for her. This is essentially the reason this sculpture would have been made so big, because it is a physical representation of how “big” Marilyn Monroe is in history and western culture.

The sculpture stands so tall that it becomes almost gaudy, and there have certainly been people concerned about the raciness of the sculpture, in much the same way that people reacted to her character in the seven year itch. People walk under her, look up her skirt, they pose next to her, and I’ve seen one image where she has actually been defaced with graffiti. A sculpture of this size not only shows a huge icon but it also shows the way people look upon her not only with admiration of her beauty but also lust and and envy.

Something this huge you also can’t really see much more of the sculpture than under her skirt and her legs. Her skirt acts as an umbrella stopping you from seeing her face even when you look. When you get further away from her, as her face is turned up at the sky you still can’t see her. This sculpture really is using size to show how close you can feel to this iconic person, but still be so far away from knowing her. She can be so much larger than life and indeed all over our culture, and yet you still can’t really see who she is.


Ron Mueck – Baby


This hyper-realistic sculpture of a baby in huge size makes you really see the grotesqueness of something that so many people see as such a beautiful thing, and indeed is such a beautiful thing, but that when you really look at the situation from a perspective of really looking, and looking without emotion at something you are suddenly hyper-aware of the full extent of the situation of a new-born baby. Blood, hair stuck to the head, and see-through skin.

This artwork’s size means that you can really see all the immense details. It would also be hugely confronting to be in front of something so huge and scary. I mean what a terrifying situation becoming a new parent is, and here is the end result of months of creating this baby and here it is sitting in front of you, not yet completely created (it still has to grow and be nurtured to full maturity), and for people to judge (and judge they will as any new parent knows), something that you are putting out into the world, for better or worse. Just like an artwork your baby is out there for the world to see, to criticise, to comment on, to interpret, to change, and to use. What a terrifying circumstance. And that feeling is made so real, and said to be so important by the artwork representing it being so huge.


Simone Decker – Chewing Gum in Venice


Imagine walking down a side street to get to where you are going, and finding a huge wad of chewing gum strung between two buildings, making it all but impossible (you could crawl under it) to go through. What do you do? Do you go around the long way? is there even a long way? Do you get down on your hands and knees and crawl under the chewing gum, risking the possibility to putting your hand on real chewing gum on the footpath you crawl on?

Artwork like this, that makes something so tiny and insignificant as chewing gum left where it shouldn’t be left, into something so important – well, I can’t get through there, what do I do know? – forces the viewer to reconsider the importance of their actions. Really, is throwing your gum on the sidewalk as bad as this? Perhaps it is. Is it really that gross to stick it under a desk in a library? Well, perhaps it is. Someone somewhere is going to be affected by what you do. So now do you consider your actions, not just around chewing gum, but also around all of your “small, insignificant actions”? Do you consider others, and the affect you have on them? Maybe you do….


And then there is the idea of something being presented through social media, books, posters, postcards and stories as larger than they are.


For example, I had always had the impression that the Mona Lisa would be something like 1.5 metres by 1 metre or so. Then I heard that it is a lot smaller than you might think it is, so I began thinking it was around the size of an A4 size of paper. But then then you see it hanging in the gallery with something showing the size relationship you realise that actually this artwork is just a normal sized artwork. Size probably was important in some ways to Da Vinci when he created the artwork, but really not all that important, apart from maybe to say this person is just a person, nothing more or less special than anyone else. And also making her easier to relate to, and actually less important than the viewer in some ways, because she is smaller than life sized. But then that slight difference in size between life sized and smaller means that you are forced to look at there with a little more care, sort of like how you would care for a child smaller than yourself.




And then my personal favourite disappointment. Starry night.

I have always always (until right this moment) thought that starry night was huge. The story that I had heard from my dad (who hasn’t seen the artwork – but who heard from his friend) was that this artwork is huge! That it is so big that it has to be kept in a stairwell and is easy to miss because it isn’t even in its own room. I had heard that the artwork was so massive because as you walked up this stairwell and you looked at the artwork it literally came out at you from layers upon layers of paint so thickly applied that it was the mountains upon the artwork.

I loved this idea of the work -and the immense size and significance of this work.

And then I google the size of the work next to people and find that it is not metres big, but rather only 74cm by 92cm.




So, as you can see size is important in creating an artwork for so many reasons. and even the illusion of size can be hugely important in creating meaning and also significance of the work itself.





John Walsh

John Walsh I can't stop loving you

I can’t stop loving you


More of John Walsh’s works can be found on his Artsy website

Last weekend I went to Pataka Art gallery and Museum where there is an exhibition of John Walsh’s work showing from the 19 June until 18 September.

I hadn’t intended to see his work, but had decided, while I was at the Library, to stop in and have a look at what was on show currently. Prior to this, I had never seen John Walsh’s art, not even in a book. I was impressed with the work, and I am hugely glad that the first time I saw his work was in person, because the pictures I have seen since this exhibition of his work, do not do it justice.

His work literally glows with vibrancy. There is a high contrast to the colours he uses. The dark blacks (none of this “black should never be used in an artwork” business for Walsh), and then the bright whites, but also the almost neon blues and purples through his work. His work literally glows with almost a throbbing light. Just like a colour film noir movie set in Las Vegas or Tokyo.

Highly realistic and detailed images combined with this unrealistic lighting and colouring. Even the characters in his works seem sickly with the use of yellow and green skin tones. Often the least sickly looking characters in his images are the spirits floating above the land.

His work talks about myths and legends of New Zealand but not any that I have heard. So for me his works are very difficult to understand the stories behind the images. I have since read some information about his work, and it says that he uses characters and icons of myths and legends but then uses them to create new myths and legends based around contemporary reality, often working from his own fears, thoughts, aspirations, and dreams. Though this is what has been said about his work, there is a feeling of a representation of a collective fear, insecurities, aspiration, and dreams. Like his works speaks for all from a deeply personal experience.

For me Walsh’s work, while enchanting, requires reading to really understand. It is the sort of work that is hard to relate to on an intellectual basis, unless you do some research; like it is a starting point  for further understanding. I did find that there was a certain feeling of connection with these artworks. But it was like the connection comes from some spiritual level. Not that I necessarily believe in the same god/s as Walsh, but more that because we are of the same earth, we have the same fears as each other and can therefore relate to each other, and relate to the land.

What is interesting about the works is that although the images of the land are not true representations of actual places, they do feel somehow familiar. I do wonder though how familiar they would feel to someone from say Egypt, where the land looks very different to in New Zealand.

Walsh’s works are striking and yet very difficult. Well worth a look for this man’s talent, and for the strange feeling that it gives you, I still haven’t quite put my finger on it. I feel Walsh’s art still needs some refining in terms of the messages, but then again clarity of meaning isn’t necessarily the objective of all artworks.


I can’t stop loving you to me reads as a feeling of loss of connection. To each other and to the land. The part humans part birds (Angels?) are only in the trees, and looking down on two islands, separate and isolated from one another, and ‘jailed’ by the trees that they are stuck in. The islands seem to each be burning at the heart of them, they remind me of images of war where there is burning from bombs or riots, and they certainly have a feeling of distress, and that unexplainable feeling of desperation and yearning when you are completely powerless. The female angel-like figures in the trees are calling out, singing to what seems to be the land. The way the front angel-girl is leaning forward and straining through her neck implies almost an outpouring of herself to the land. There is nothing flowing from her that we can see, but there is a feeling that something of her is being projected out from her. The boy next to them stands on the same branch (possibly symbolizing the joint desires of all the people on the branch despite their different ages, perspectives, and reactions) he peers down not to the islands, and not quite at the other person in the lower branches, he seems to be looking at something right below him, but not quite under him, like he has spied something that is coming and he looks worried and shocked, ‘we have done something to save ourselves and yet it still follows us’ Perhaps speaking about our abuse of the land and the way that now that we have realized the destruction we have caused and we are desperately trying to do what we can to save the land, and more importantly ourselves, the damage we have already done is going to continue and eventually will get to us. The third man, the wizened old ancestor (?) stands looking at the destruction coming and yet turning away from it, almost like ‘I told you so, you got yourself into this mess, now you sort it yourself’. The strip of red flowing from his ears almost seems to be him being called away, the red comes from the ear in the direction the he appears to be turning. And then, curiously, the old ‘ancestor’ is wearing the contemporary clothing, where the other characters wear clothes that appear to be from an earlier time. Could this be the artist placing blame on the older groups for the devastation they have caused when they had the run of the land? The destruction they have left for the younger groups to clean up and deal with? Perhaps the bird flying from the ancestor (who clearly doesn’t really care to help out with the tragedy the younger groups are faced with) is his soul, the true him flying out as an apology, ‘I’m sorry. I want to help but there is nothing you can do. You are alone.’


John Walsh Act1 Scene 2

Act 2, Scene 2, There are visitors at the Head and they don’t look friendly. Come. Let your demon go, you can catch him again later.

I’m not going to comment fully on this artwork. But I wanted to put it here to show you, because it captured me at the gallery. I couldn’t look away.


I had no idea what this meant at all, and this one has a HUGE title! This one really has stumped me. I really can only find meaning in its title and can only assume that the title relates to meaning of the work. So from the title I would assume that meaning is talking about the connection of lands through people. With the advent of international trade, international travel, and immigrations, emigrations we are getting multi-cultural communities, but we are also getting more threats from other people, and terrorist events. The title says to me that although people come and they might not be friendly we shouldn’t meet them with hate, we should meet them with love, and they should meet us with love too. Let your demon go – come to our land, be with us, but be at peace while you are here. You can catch him again later – It might have worked in your country to be on edge, to be tough and harsh, but while you are here, be at peace, and be that tough person again if/ when you leave.

Please do comment, and let me know your thoughts on this one. It really has stumped me, but also captured me.


John Walsh $37 Million

$37 Million


The title clearly relates to Walsh’s feeling of waste following the flag referendum recently. What a waste he says. You have done this hugely expensive thing, with no outcome, trying to portray our country in a new way – but our country is still just the same. A flag is not going to make our country look any different that it already is, and that money has been wasted. But then you look under the flag and you see what is a green but barren wasteland… You want to portray us a clean, green unspoiled – but we have been spoilt, we are not what we were and there should be no faking what we are now.


John Walsh State House Flag

State Housing Flag


And then another one. Relating to the same subject of the wasted money on the flag referendum. With the same meaning, but this time showing what they could have used that money for, but instead it was wasted. Then curiously the flag is not your usual rectangle shape, but a triangle, perhaps symbolizing something like a play button a moving forward, an opportunity that has been missed.