Friday 30 June 2017

Art and nature

It's a brain thing. You know, when you're pregnant suddenly other pregnant women are everywhere; or if you've just bought a new car, that make and model are the only vehicles on the road. There's a name for it, but don't ask me what it is - despite just having read about the phenomenon this week, I can't remember. That's another kind of brain thing.
Anyway, this is a circuitous introduction to the fact that, as I continue my efforts to educate myself in modern art by visiting Auckland galleries, what's actually happening is that my prejudices are being confirmed. That's thanks to art guides guilelessly making admissions like, "Oh, yes, we often don't understand those wall texts either. There's one curator, no-one has any idea what she's on about." And similar comments. To be fair, they also do their best to explain to me why, for example, Colin McCahon painted so many ugly dark works centring on '1' and 'I' - but, though I nod and think I understand, moments later it's all evaporated and all I can remember is the comfort of hearing that I'm not alone in my bamboozlement.
It was also briefly encouraging to hear Alice say, about McCahon, that "the entire population of New Zealand hated his work". We were at the time standing in the simple bach where he lived for ten years in the bush outside Titirangi, that's open to the public and full of little cupboards with information, video and audio about his life and work there. One of them actually has clippings of reviews from papers of the time, using such words as 'crude',' ugly', 'grotesque' and 'controversial'. Not wanting, on reflection, to align myself with opinions from the 1950s, I am still trying to recognise the merits of his later works - though, today, my strongest reaction to visiting his house was recoiling from the wooden bunks his young daughters slept in under the house, in a 3-walled shelter open to the elements - and mozzies, and possums. I am relentlessly practical, it seems. But I do too appreciate the good things nature has to offer.
I also went to Te Uru Gallery in Titirangi itself - more confronting photography, more bright but meaningless splodges; but all displayed in a striking building with a beautiful staircase. 
And the little town is cute ("beguiling", according to the gift shop lady) and surely has more coffee-houses per head of population than any other place in the country. Even the florist is arty.

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