Louise Menzies: In an orange my mother was eating (16 February – 30 March 2019)

Monday, April 1st, 2019 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post researched and written by Nick Austin, a General Assistant at the Hocken. He was the 2012 Frances Hodgkins Fellow and presented the exhibition The Liquid Dossier (16 February – 13 April 2013) at the Hocken Gallery.

Sitting and reading. These verbs take on a vocational significance at the Hocken; users of our material are called ‘readers’, after all. Louise Menzies’ exhibition at the Hocken gallery, called In an orange my mother was eating turned aspects of her research activity, as the 2018 Frances Hodgkins Fellow, into a ‘family’ of related artworks. Some of these works are paper-based, and most have text in them. Every one, though, is a kind of ‘material meditation’ variously on artists and their legacies – and other items of ephemera – some of which she encountered over the twelve months she lived in Dunedin and read at the Hocken.

In the main gallery, a sky-blue shelf ran the full length of the longest wall. On its ledge,  24 individual sheets of paper, hand-made by Menzies. Adhered to each of these sheets is a risographed facsimile of one of two intimately related texts. One of these is a colouring-in book called The Lone Goose by the artist Joanna Margaret Paul (1945 – 2003). Published in 1979 by Dunedin-based McIndoe Press, it is an elliptical sort of story about the imagined friends of a goose waddling around our city’s Southern Cemetery. Paul complements her text with suitably – and wonderfully – provisional line drawings.

Louise Menzies, The Lone Goose (detail) 2019 Inkjet and risograph prints set in handmade paper Book pages: The Lone Goose by Joanna Margaret Paul, (Dunedin: McIndoe, 1979). With thanks to the Joanna Margaret Paul estate; Correspondence relating to The Lone Goose: MS-3187/058, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Louise Menzies, The Lone Goose (installation view) 2019, Inkjet and risograph prints set in handmade paper

While researching Hocken’s holdings of Paul material (we have quite a lot[i]), Menzies mistakenly requested a manuscript from our archives stack. Serendipitously, it contained correspondence between various players on the subject of The Lone Goose’s distribution. This cache of letters is the second text in Menzies’ work. On one hand, representatives from McIndoe’s distributors, Reed, just do not ‘get’ Paul’s book: “I fear the reps are going to be laughed out of the shops if they try and sell it.” But in response, Brian Turner (yes, the poet) in his capacity as Paul’s editor, is clearly peeved: “… I guess we [at McIndoe] do not move in the real world, as your reps do, and can hide our embarrassment at being ‘arty’.” While the letters present a bleakly familiar story of an artwork’s failure to lift-off in the marketplace (that the book is not exactly an artwork, does not really matter here), Menzies’ work is not depressing – it represents a significant new generation of Paul admirers.

Louise Menzies, The Lone Goose (detail) 2019 Inkjet and risograph prints set in handmade paper

It is easy to sense Paul’s importance to Menzies. (The title of the exhibition is a line from a Paul poem.) Both artists use language as a material to give form to thought. The way Paul’s work – her drawing, painting, film-making, writing – absorbs and reflects the places, people, things around her, is of high interest to Menzies. Paul was a Frances Hodgkins Fellow in 1983 so there is a kind of genealogical thread that connects them, too.

Frances Hodgkins. Given the reflexivity of this exhibition, it was sort of a no-brainer for Menzies to use Hodgkins (1869 – 1947) as a subject. It is surprising, though, how she did it. In one of the gallery’s side rooms sat three chairs: one a type you would see in halls and meeting rooms, dating from possibly the 1980s; one, a three-legged stool from about the 1960s; the other a contemporary type of adjustable office chair, with the brand name Studio on the rear of its back. This furniture shares the same provenance – all three were relocated from the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship studio, which is just across the road from the Hocken – and Menzies re-upholstered them in identical fabric.

Louise Menzies, Untitled (textile design no. II), 1925 (installation view) 2018 Digital print on textile

Louise Menzies, Untitled (textile design no. II), 1925 (detail) 2018 Digital print on textile

In the 1920s, Hodgkins was actively considering her return to NZ when, after years of struggle, she was offered a financial reprieve: a job in Manchester as a textile designer. While there are few extant examples of actual Hodgkins textiles (a silk handkerchief is held at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery), several of her gouache sketches are held at Te Papa. Menzies has printed the chairs’ fabric with one of these (digitally adapted) designs. Her work is named after its source, Untitled (textile design no. II), 1925. While the chairs serve as a memorial to the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship’s titular artist, they’re also a reminder of the stationary fact that every artist needs to make a buck somehow.[ii]

One thing that is different for an artist’s viability in the 21stCentury is the sheer number of residencies available to them. While the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship at the University of Otago remains one of the most generous offered in NZ (12 months on a Lecturer’s salary; free studio), this country’s artists frequently travel the world to participate in residency programs. In 2014, Menzies was invited to do a residency and exhibition at the University of Connecticut Art Gallery. During her six-week visit, she worked with the Alternative Press Collection (one of the largest collections of its type in the USA) within the Thomas J. Dodd’s Research Center. Over a much longer period, a resultant publication gestated. In fact, Menzies used the first part of her Hodgkins Fellowship to complete it.

Image: (publication cover) design by Narrow Gauge, images courtesy of Allan Smith, George Watson, Alternative Press Collection, Archives & Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library.

Time to think like a mountain, the finished book, was a segue into a publication-project that marked Menzies’ time as the Hodgkins Fellow. Coinciding with her Hocken exhibition and the end of her residency, Menzies and designer Matthew Galloway produced a calendar with source material from the Hocken’s Ephemera Collection. Each of Menzies’ calendar’s pages features an image of a calendar page from a past year whose dates fell on the same days as the present month’s. In yet another reflexive nod, Menzies’ calendar runs from February 2019 to January 2020 (the chronology of months over which the Fellowship takes place)… but the elegance of the idea is better explained with images:

Louise Menzies 2019 (detail) 2018 12-page calendar

Louise Menzies 2019 (detail) 2018 12-page calendar

Louise Menzies 2019 (detail) 2018 12-page calendar

It is fascinating how Menzies rematerialised different sources from the Hocken Collections as art; how she used her Fellowship as a subject; how she shows that time is not linear.

A video work that shares its title with the exhibition’s the video has many, intriguingly related, parts: an image of Paul’s son, Pascal, sitting for the camera; a soundtrack of the Ornette Colman song, The Empty Foxhole, featuring his then-10-year old son on drums; intertitles that contain a transcript of the complete Paul poem from which the exhibition took its name; an anecdote involving Menzies’ daughter…

Louise Menzies In an orange my mother was eating (installation view) 2019 Digital video, 3 min 21 sec

All photography unless otherwise credited: Iain Frengley

[i] We have nearly five hundred Paul items, including her paintings, drawings and sketchbooks.

[ii] Or, as another expatriate NZ artist has put it, “The artist has to live like everybody else.”

 

Picture/Poem – The Hocken Gallery 18 April – 25 July 2015

Monday, April 20th, 2015 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post prepared by Natalie Poland, Curator of Pictorial Collections

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Joanna Margaret Paul, Untitled [self-portrait], ink drawing, 299 x 229mm, acc.: L278. On deposit from the Estate of Joanna Margaret Paul. Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

The exhibition Picture/Poem: the imagery of Cilla McQueen and Joanna Margaret Paul that has just opened in the Hocken Library’s gallery brings together the creative works of award-winning poet Cilla McQueen and respected painter Joanna Margaret Paul. The pair met in Dunedin in the late 1970s and during the following decade their lives continued to intersect.

Both artists have strong ties with the University being past University of Otago Arts Fellows. Paul was a recipient of the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 1983 and McQueen was Burns Fellow 1985 and 1986. McQueen’s first poetry collection Homing In (John McIndoe Ltd: 1982), included a poem Paul titled “Joanna”. She penned a second poem dedicated to her friend after Paul’s untimely death in 2003. McQueen credits Paul, who was also an accomplished poet, with showing her that McQueen herself was a visual artist.

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Cilla McQueen, Self Portrait, 1991, ink drawing, acc 92/1462, pen & ink on paper, 298 x 210mm. Gifted by Cilla McQueen, Dunedin, 1992. Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

The Hocken is home to hundreds of artworks by both Paul and McQueen, many of which have been gifted by them or in the case of Paul, her estate, who generously donated nearly 200 of her sketchbooks in 2008.

The exhibition focuses on works from the 1970s and 1980s, created while these artists were living in Dunedin. It includes twenty-eight artworks (predominantly works on paper), published work, musical scores, artist’s books and ephemera relating to the life and work of these two creative women.

Many of Paul’s works in this show have not been exhibited before. Most of the works are drawn from the Hocken’s extensive art collection but a small group of works have been borrowed from her Estate.

A double portrait by Paul (c.1970) recently gifted to the Hocken came from the collection of the late Michael Hitchings. The painting features Michael and his former wife, Maureen Hitchings. This couple, like Paul and McQueen, contributed to the shaping of Dunedin’s cultural outlook during this period. Michael was Hocken Librarian from 1965 to 1984 and Maureen ran the Dawsons Gallery where Paul exhibited in the 1970s.

The Hocken has a wealth of other material relating to both Paul and McQueen. The archives collection houses the literary papers of Cilla McQueen and the business records of Dunedin’s John McIndoe Ltd, the publisher of McQueen’s early poetry collections. There are letters from Joanna Paul to Deidre Airey, Ruth Dallas, Charles Brasch, Hone Tuwhare, Heather Murray and others, including to Cilla McQueen.

Despite working predominantly in different artistic fields their approaches have common features including an interest in juxtaposing pictures and poems and the visual arrangement of words on the page. In the 1980s it was not as common as it is now to create interdisciplinary work. In correspondence with the exhibition’s curator Natalie Poland, McQueen writes: “The works on display date primarily from the 1980s and show that both women were informed by experimental approaches that blurred the conventional boundaries between art, literature and music. Their pictures and poems celebrate the richness of the everyday experience and the local environment. The freshness of their drawings, use of collage and surprising combinations of images and text enliven ordinary language and convey a sense of living intensely in the present moment.” [Source: Unpublished memoirs, email to Natalie Poland May 2011, now in Hocken’s artist’s files.]

An artwork by McQueen called Sequestered (2009) was purchased by the Hocken in 2010. McQueen made it by scratching text onto a series of six outmoded computer floppy discs that contained a late twentieth century manuscript by McQueen. The texts, etched into the surface of the black circles, are partly occluded with red seal wax, an evocation of other modes of communication that are facing obsolescence – the tradition of handwritten letters.

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Joanna Margaret Paul, Untitled [The Stillness of the Rose] (detail), 1974, watercolour and pencil on paper, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago. Dunedin

One series by Paul makes its debut in Picture/Poem – Untitled (The Stillness of the Rose . . .), 1974-1980, comprises seven water-colour and pencil works conceived to be viewed as a single creative work. Curiously each separate piece of this work was created on the same day over a period of seven years. Each part contains a fragment from the poem ‘The Rose’ by American writer William Carlos Williams. This work was purchased by the Hocken just this year.

The Liquid Dossier. Nick Austin 16 February – 13 April 2013

Monday, February 18th, 2013 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Bringing together a disparate collection of paintings and sculptures and combinations thereof, The Liquid Dossier showcases works that Nick Austin created during his 12 months as the recipient of the 2012 Frances Hodgkins Fellowship at the University of Otago.

Previous works by Austin referenced socks, fish aquariums and spider-webs and were inspired by formal structures derived from concrete poetry, ideograms, puns and crosswords. In The Liquid Dossier Austin adds the concept of the McGuffin, an object of desire that drives a narrative plot but which is ultimately unimportant to its resolution, to his art making tool box. The McGuffin in this exhibition is both the dossier of the exhibition’s title and something ineffable in each of the show’s works.

Bearing a keen interest in the tactility of language and the often-strange relationship between material and object, The Liquid Dossier also dwells on the Hocken’s function as a repository of papers and pictures. In the past year Austin’s inquiry has broadened to encompass the institutional structures of the library, archive and gallery.

Simultaneously concrete and elusive, Austin’s work is always open-ended and inconclusive. As with the contents of a dossier, the works in this exhibition are loosely bound to each other in a manner that draws our attention to overlooked or absent items. As a result his works trigger fluid, accidental associations and digressive meanings rather than convey any fixed or predetermined ideas. The disjunctive space between the titles of Austin’s individual works and what is visible in them delays the inference of meaning and creates a distance that enables poetic qualities to develop.  Austin likens his work to a poetry collection that dramatises the mysteries of the creative process.

Nick Austin, Homesick, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 1450 x 1850mm. Image reproduced courtesy of the artist and Hopkinson Cundy, Auckland.

Blog post prepared by Natalie Poland, Curator of Pictorial Collections

The Hocken will take the Kushana Bush exhibition on a national tour

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Kushana Bush, Pieta (detail), 2011, gouache and pencil on paper


In an unprecedented move, the University of Otago’s Hocken Library will take works by 2012 Frances Hodgkins Fellow Kushana Bush on a national tour that will include the Pah Homestead TSB Wallace Arts Centre in Auckland. The Exhibition,All Things to All Men: Kushana Bush continues at the Hocken Gallery until 14 April before opening at the Pah Homestead TSB Wallace Arts Centre, Auckland, on 23 April.

The exhibition, Bush’s first solo (single-artist) exhibition at a public gallery, comprises thirty-one delicate gouaches, all created last year during her tenure as the 2011 Frances Hodgkins Fellow at the University of Otago. This is an amazing feat considering the very time consuming method of applying gouache requires a high degree of precision.

Drawing on the passage in the Bible – To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some (1 Corinthians 9:22) –  the title of the exhibition puts forward a utopian notion that art can service the needs of everyone who views it. Often captured in deliberately awkward or sexually intimate poses, her ordinary folk reveal a wealth of human sensibilities and spiritualties. These intricate gouaches suggest proximity between everyday life and the spiritual realm, a feature she shares with the British artist Stanley Spencer, whose work she admires. The everyday activities that Bush’s figures perform invariably take on a ritual-like aspect.

Inhabited by a multi-cultural cast of actors, Bush’s cosmopolitan images are rich mosaics of cultural difference that unsettle Eurocentric art histories. Her satirical and often disarmingly intimate gouaches bring together constituent elements from all over the world. Many portray domestic scenes or characters engaged in daily activities including bathing, gardening and worshiping.

Bush paints exclusively with gouache (pronounced ‘gwash’), a medium first used in the 13th century in illuminated manuscripts and Persian miniature art. It is a water-based paint which has either an extremely high level of pigmentation or a chalk-like substance suspended in it. Gouache has an opaque character and, depending on the colour used, can appear very vibrant.

Visit Channel 9 online and get a virtual tour of the exhibition: http://www.ch9.co.nz/node/16967

Read the ODT feature by Charmian Smith online:
http://www.odt.co.nz/entertainment/arts/198702/artists-world-inspiration

Blog post prepared by Natalie Poland, Curator of Pictorical Collections

‘Homing in’ on Poet Laureate Cilla McQueen’s literary archive

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

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Cilla McQueen is one of New Zealand’s major and much lauded poets. Her first volume of poetry, ‘Homing In’, was published in 1982 and since this time she has published eleven volumes of poetry, several of them award winners. Themes including landscape, loss, homeland, displacement and colonisation infuse her evocative writing.

In 2009 she was appointed Poet Laureate for 2009-2011 and in 2010 her most recent volume of poetry ‘The Radio Room’ was published.
McQueen has held the University of Otago’s Burns Fellowship for 1985 and 1986, a Fulbright Visiting Writers’ Fellowship to Stanford University in 1985 and a Goethe Institut Scholarship to Berlin, in 1991 she was awarded the QEII Arts Council Scholarship in Letters. She has also won the New Zealand Book Award three times. McQueen received an honorary doctorate in literature from the University of Otago in 2009. In 2012 she received a Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (Poetry).
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McQueen is also an accomplished and popular performer of her poetry.
MS-2400/058, MS-3247/220, MS-3247/275

McQueen’s archives, held at the Hocken Collections, contain a rich variety of papers including manuscript poetry and plays, correspondence, sound recordings and photographs

Blog post prepared by Debbie Gale, Arrangement and Description Archivist

The Frances Hodgkins Fellowship

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

The 2010 recipient of the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship is Joanna Langford, who moved to Dunedin from Wellington last month to start the year-long Fellowship.


If you are a visual artist interested in applying for the 2011 Frances Hodgkins Fellowship you can download an application form or find further information on the University of Otago website. Just put ‘Frances Hodgkins Fellowship’ in the search bar. Applications close 1 June 2010.

Eddie Clemens: Delusional Architecture exhibition at Hocken Gallery

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Have you seen our current exhibition yet?


Eddie Clemens: Delusional Architecture is on display until 24 April at the Hocken Gallery. Eddie Clemens was the 2009 University of Otago Frances Hodgkins Fellow. His choice of title for this exhibition, a phrase taken from the science-fiction movie Terminator II (1991), hints at his recent examination of how physical surroundings affect human behavior. This concern rests alongside his long-held fascination in the vagaries of consumerism. His witty sculptures flirt with the science fiction genre and technology by employing electronic circuits, LEDs, cool fluorescent tubes and hidden miniature fans. Applied to sculpture, these special effects are fun to look at while they also draw our attention to our increasing use of screen-based entertainment, and, our increasing desire for daily escapism. Clemens’s art points to a commonality between architectural structures, shopping and computer technology – they all have the ability to hold us emotionally captive. One of my favourite works is the two brooms with bristles made from fibre optic threads that glow in a changing rainbow assortment of colours.
 
Come and see the show and let us know what you think.

Welcome to the 2010 University of Otago Fellows

Friday, March 12th, 2010 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Last night (11 March 2010) about 80 members of the wider University community welcomed the five 2010 fellows in the Hocken foyer. The fellows are Michele Powles (Robert Burns Fellow), Chris Adams (Mozart Fellow), Joanna Langford (Frances Hodgkins Fellow), Suzanne Cowan (Caroline Plummer Fellow in Community Dance) and Karen Trebilcock (University of Otago College of Education Writer in Residence).

After short speeches visitors were invited to view our current exhibition Eddie Clemens : Delusional Architecture. Eddie was the 2009 Frances Hodgkins Fellow.