2021 Assignment 1- Artwork Q & A
What do you do? What sort of things do you make? Or capture? Or select?
Nga Rangatira Series 2020
He Minita- a Minister
1680mm x 1370mm x 30mm
Oil on canvas
In my current practice I create large scale, representational oil paintings on canvas or linen. My works are composed from my interest and exploration of bloodlines in our cultural history, within my family, and also in the local and global community.
I approach the act of painting using references resourced through my own connections as well as through my own research. I will often look into family history, cultural hybridity, colonisation, bloodlines, migration, even social movements to explore my ideas. With digital ubiquity revolutionising the information world I find this has transformed my ability to access resources from an incredibly diverse range of areas, from local libraries to academic podcasts, the media, even international streamers to find valuable information.
I develop my ideas by collating image references and researched ideas to compose the layers of each study, I create stylised examples of my deep interest in bloodlines, revealing the outcomes that I have found through this exploration.
I work mostly with a traditional painting technique to resolve my works. By investigating colours and textures, I usually favour a combination of transparent hues to create my deep tonal values with a complex and interesting nature. While bringing assorted elements together, I love to push and pull the colours and watch the familiar signs of life appear on my canvas.
My practice is intuitive and influenced by my lived experience of growing up in New Zealand. My intention has always been to communicate these themes of strong personal interest and connection making it mostly autobiographical.Each series of paintings I have
completed has a strong reference to my own life. Memories, journeys, human interaction, families, who are they? What’s in their skin and in their eyes?
This is the essence of my work.
What is it you’ve been trying to do to make the work relevant in relation to ideas, cultural circumstances or contemporary issues?
My subject matter is purely inspired by my personal experience with bloodlines. This has subsequently through direct association led me to really interesting and relevant content in relation to cultural circumstances. Very relevant but from a self-critical view not necessarily appropriate, as I have discovered on this journey.
My own research of this content, but more specifically the position in which I am sitting while I research this content, is a very fragile one. Because of this I have portrayed some very challenging ideas, in the political sense. Composing my works so that they communicate by what’s in their skin and in their eyes, they tell us a story, they talk about a life. I felt this deeply fulfilled a calling I had, coming from a position I am allied to. But I have since discovered that essentially, I have touched on sacred ground that needs to be protected, and more importantly respected. Due to issues around cross-cultural appropriation, I need to find a different way to develop my work which better supports my intentions.
My contextual motivation has been driven as a direct result of my own personal journey of the cultural integration, it is not intended in a political context through eyes of colonialism.
Albeit I still feel I am entitled to explore and fulfil my own personal interest and connection with my cultural circumstance, I have now realised the position I come from makes it culturally inappropriate to discuss it through my art.
Alongside this study of cultural circumstance, I have also made work touching on other contemporary issues associated with more social topics of the 21st Century that relate directly to me. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, forced proselytism, underhanded legitimacy- all very confrontational social issues. To do this I have used characters as vehicles through which I can communicate my experience in an anonymous form. It is crucial to me that I remain removed from the message while at the same time share a conversation about my journey in an attempt to reach out and bond with associated empathy and understanding to my audience through these ideas of connection.
How do you make decisions during the making of your work? How and why do you select the materials, techniques, themes that you do?
I make my decisions based on a visual that appears in my mind, regardless of what information is in front of me. This visual in my mind is what will develop my work to the finished product. The visual in my mind is usually a hyperbolic substrate of the information I am referencing. Therefore, I compose my subject into a magnified version on large scale medium. This is my individual way of understanding the visual that appears to me. Subsequently this becomes the development of my own personal style as an artist.
During my practice I find myself constantly standing back to view my progress. While I am on top of my work, I can feel my way around the canvas, but when I stand back, I can think about what is evolving. I ask myself, is my intention clear?
I make my decisions based on the collaboration of elements that make up a portrait painting. Essentially based on achieving a perception of anatomical sense but much more importantly their countenance, which is what will ultimately deliver my intention.
I choose my processes out of a love for traditional paintings. Coming from The Netherlands I have a strong inherent connection with The Old Masters, Rembrandt being one of my favorites. Analysing the gaze of his subjects, the deep tonal values of the white space contributing to the sobering but inviting moody atmosphere that he has the ability to create in his work.
“Rembrandt goes so deep into the mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language. It is with justice that they call Rembrandt ‘magician’ that’s no easy occupation.”
VINCENT VAN GOGH
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn Leiden,
self-portrait, aged 51
Now in the collection of the NATIONAL GALLERY OF SCOTLAND
I subconsciously work using dramatic use of light and shadow to create a finished piece that adds discourse to this feeling of communication.
What are you trying to say in the work? What are you valuing in the work?
Because my practice is primarily autobiographical, I mostly reflect my own personal experience and journeys through the eyes of my portraiture…. I see painting as a way to unlock my own limitations of communication. I struggle to voice my pain and my experience. Therefore, I articulate my personal journey and ongoing exploration through my creative conversation.
Growing up in New Zealand, as an immigrant from The Netherlands, being exposed to the infinite beauty of our physical country, along with the intricacies of a life of blending into a multi-cultural society has been a major part of my conversation. As well as being a mother of four in 2021, this has exposed me to many different social issues of the 21st century discussing race, gender, war, privacy, spirituality and even mental health. My practice reflects the highs and lows of my journey and attempts to bring some of these issues to the surface to share and discuss.
A key part of my practice is to be authentic about my intention. Primarily my content has to directly communicate my message with powerful emotive claim. I feel that I can most effectively achieve this by unspoken words conveyed through the gaze in the eyes of my subjects. Moving forward, I want to engage my audience in such a way as to hold their attention a little longer. I would like to explore ways to achieve this with more conviction.
I want my audience to reach deeper into the subject matter. I want them to have to think more about the intention that I want to portray.
1370mm x 1110mm x 30mm
Oil on Canvas
How do the materials, techniques and themes relate to one another?
My recent practice has been especially influenced by Rembrandt (as well as Goldie). Both Old Masters with painting styles that are essentially viewed today as academic and conservative. Studies from life with a strong emphasis on photographic detail. But I think they both sought to find ways to heighten their paintings beyond simple realism.
I really connect with a quote from one of Goldies tutors William Bouguereau.
“Reality is charming when it borrows a gleam of poetry from the imagination”
Using oil paint, on canvas or linen, with a traditional painting style to paint portraiture do relate to one another in the context that it is considered by many a conservative style that is archaic and outdated. These techniques relate to the ideas of elevating people and acknowledging their influence or position, based on the historical conventions of portraiture. I still remain compelled to discover a way to continue my practice in the current style, because I believe this is my style, but I am really open to exploring my avenues around my own individual way of understanding what is in front of me.
How does your current work relate to your previous work?
My current practice has essentially developed out of my previous practice. I painted landscape for almost 10 years. My landscape practice was also autobiographical, almost reflecting a blueprint of my surroundings growing up in New Zealand as a child. A common theme of my landscape paintings became the New Zealand toe toe.
My first painting stemmed directly from a childhood memory of returning from the beach, a West Coast beach, having picked toe toe’s from the dunes and sticking them in every orifice of the car so we could watch them blow in the wind for the journey home….this memory has always stayed with me.
I started out painting a hyperbolic version of the Toe toe, bold and mesmerising, but over time refined it to a much more typical scenic landscape ( in retrospect I like the early bold works much better). Then by no deliberate decision I slowly started introducing children into the composition. First as figures, playing with the Toe toe’s, then slowly they became less refined and more pronounced.
Until finally, today, I have subconsciously left out
the landscape entirely and focused on the figure, which has now refined to become almost a hyperbolic face, because of their scale and proximity.
One of my early landscape works:
Toe Toe Warmth
1200mm x 900mm x 30mm
Oil on Belgian linen
Remuera Gallery 2007
One of my early figurative landscape pieces:
Portia at Muriwai
1000mm x 1100mm x 30mm
Oil on Belgian linen
ZeaYou Gallery 2008
A very recent commission landscape:
Ká Papa Toetoe - Treble Cone
Oil on canvas
1400mm x 1000mm x 30mm
Private commission 2020
A recent (hyperbolic) face/ portraiture:
Nga Rangtira Series
He Minita- a Minister
1680mmx 1370mm x 35mm
Oil on canvas
Auckland Grammar Art House Tour 2020
What are your sources of images or forms used?
In my practice, I heavily research and explore different avenues for my subjects and composition. I use books, magazines, digital references, old photos, snap shots I take off the TV, just whenever I feel inspired by what is in front of me, I will attempt to capture it in some way so I can keep it my library of references.
Ideally the image I use as my reference is one, I have created, but I am not a particularly patient or competent photographer. Also, I am very particular about the emotion I want to portray, which is often very difficult to capture. I often find myself obsessively hunting for something I can’t even describe until I see it. I know in my head what I am trying to say and when I find an image that describes my intention, I will then start to work with that image to see how I can use it. I often blow it up, crop it, delete things, add things, change the composition, play with the subject matter. I change the light source and the colours, until I can start to see and am happy with the look that will unfold. Then it begins to become something I can work with.
How does this work fit into a larger body of work or overarching project of ideas (if it does)?
I am presently attempting to unwind all the work I have created so far, to try and help me understand more clearly the direction that I want to go moving forward.
I am unashamedly aware that I cannot ever make work or will not ever make work that doesn’t interest me, or that doesn’t rock my boat. I am also aware that my past works have come from the heart and from somewhere deep in my subconscious.
I do know that I don’t want that to change.
But at the same time, I want to be self-critical, I want to search and discover my values, and question the quality of those values. I am open to moving towards something that is unknown. I am open to making new discoveries, in attempt to continue to develop as an artist.
How did your ideas change (if they did) to this point? Or how are your ideas changing (if they are)?
I think mostly my ideas are beginning to change now, or to be more precise, I am ready to try and make developed changes now.
My ideas certainly have evolved over the years while I have been painting, from my first landscape to my most recent large portrait (and everything in between that). I was constantly questioning everything I was doing and always testing different directions I could take.
What I am already realizing now, in these early days of supervisor lead study in my studio, is that the things I am trying, I had already tried long ago……many times, and they didn’t work for a reason, so I ended up where I am, for a reason.
So, what I do know so far, is that changing my ideas moving forward, is not going to be easy.
Has anyone else done this kind of work in the past? What histories are you contributing to?
Obviously, my work has been done a lot in the past. I am not really contributing to any history. Infact, that is probably precisely the problem. There are very few portrait artists around these days that paint in representational style in traditional painting style technique, maybe because it is considered a big yawn.
But at the same time, I still see value in beautiful portraits with strong messages. And hopefully I can deepen my contextual research further to develop a contemporary position on traditional portraiture painting techniques.
Does anyone else do it now? Who are the artists that occupy this terrain?
Locally, there is Zarahn Southon. He is an incredible portrait painter. Described by an art critic as New Zealand’s own Lucian Freud. Zarahn studied in Italy, in France and also with Ted Seth Jacobs at BACAA in the USA. (Ted Seth Jacobs was taught by Frank Vincent Dumond, who studied at L’Academie Julian, the same time as Goldie). I have attended a number of classes with Zarahn, he has also given me a number of private lessons in my studio at home. He is passionate about the work of the Old Masters, and Dutch genre painting. He is unbelievably talented.
Oil on linen
35mm x 30mm
Odd Nerdrum is a Norwegian figurative painter, born in Sweden. Considered to be one of the greatest living figurative painters. His influences are by the painters Rembrandt and Caravaggio. His works incorporate the techniques of the Old Masters which portray incredible narrative, romanticism and emotionally charged imagery.
Obviously, I don’t consider myself occupying the same terrain as these two guys, but they are certainly present-day portrait painters that are also influenced by the Old Masters, and I am hugely inspired by their work. A similarity would be the use my simple composition, a focus on one character, and particularly with Nerdrums work, the emotively charged characterisation of that character. This is a quality I endeavour to achieve. Another distinctive quality is the vitality of his brushwork. I think this is a very evident point of difference to my work, and something I would like to achieve in time.
Self- Portrait with Eyes Closed
I am also potentially interested in looking further into the work of Michael Borremans, a Belgian painter. His figurative paintings have curious narratives that are distinctly contemporary, I love the palette he uses, and often with a raw linen ground.
The Cheese Sandwich, 2019
80.0 x 60.0
Liz Maw is another artist I want to research more. The content of her work fascinates me, I particularly like the symbolism and the religious iconography cleverly playing with contemporary issues. She also references European old masters.
This painting was in a public exhibition at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery in Wellington called Portraits of Power/Portraits as Power along with my piece Te Aroha mo te Iwi-The love for the People
Liz Maw, Elizabeth, 1999,
Oil on board,
Who are the writers on these subjects? What specifically have they said, which motivates you own thinking for your work potentially?
I have a great appreciation for Odd Nerdrum’s contextual contributions to classical painting.He describes his work as kitsch rather that art as such. He has written a book called Kitsch More Than Art. This philosophy has spawned The Kitsch Movement among his students and followers, including a lot of young artists. This movement places his work in direct conflict with the abstraction and conceptual art that is considered perhaps more acceptable in the contemporary art world. Albeit Nerdrum states this is not an expressed intention. Kitsch painters embrace this as a positive term. I think this is kind of funny as he is an interesting character to observe.
Painting People, Charlotte Mullins illustrates the work of over 85 figurative painters discussing a new generation of artists that relish in the solitary, slow, subtle processes involved in painting people. But more specifically it also discusses how its methods of representation and transformation are enriched by the media, not diminished.
The Love of Painting, Isabelle Graw discusses in depth media-aesthetic insight and questions the way it used in relation to painting and how this has affected the return of Illusionism.
Foundation of Cultural Studies, Stuart Hall writes about cultural identities and how they constantly undergo transformation, and are subject to the continuous play of history, culture and power.
 Molcard, Eva Sarah. “21 Facts About Rembrandt.” Sothebys.com. Sotheby's, February 1, 2019. https://www.sothebys.com/en/articles/21-facts-about-rembrandt.
 Clarke, Written by Jacquie, Jacquie Clarke, and Mark Bathurst. “C.F. Goldie: the Old Master Revisited.” New Zealand Geographic. Accessed March 4, 2021. https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/c-f-goldie-the-old-master-revisited/.