Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rita Angus: Life & Vision

Now for something different in the middle of Film Festival. Anne and I went to the Rita Angus exhibition at Te Papa. Being a philistine, I knew nothing about Rita Angus and Anne found it difficult to describe her paintings which made it difficult for her to convince me to go with her.

The exhibition was laid out chronologically but, accidentally, we viewed it backwards (the first room was more crowded than the last room). So we started with pictures of Wellington (especially Thorndon), then moving onto her experimental / abstract works from the 1960s. Then her goddess pictures and portraits of herself and friends from the 1940s and 1950s, often with pacifist symbolism. Finishing with her early works of the 1930s. The way the exhibition was laid out showed how her painting styles changed through 40 years. Being a NZ painter (and having lived in Christchurch) there are lots of landscapes with mountains and clouds in the background throughout her career. In addition to her painting there were also pages from her sketch books (some of which had been framed!).

Some things I noticed about her paintings are that:

  • She does wonderfully accurate flowers (which I would have thought would be much more difficult than landscapes or buildings).

  • Her sketches are very good -- may be she should have made drawing more of a focus of her work?

  • She emphasises eyes in portraits, giving people a slightly manic look.

  • Anne noticed that she uses odd skin colours.

  • In may of her water colours it looks like she has drawn the picture in ink and then painted the spaces in between like a kid colouring in book except done in water colour!

  • In many of her landscapes the distance is painted in more detail than the forground.

  • She drew and painted a lot of self portraits, presumably because it is cheaper than hiring a model. Though looking at her nudes she must have had a beautiful body (at age 34). But I think her best (least manic) self portrait was her first from 1929.

The painting I liked best and perhaps the only one I would give wall space to was one of her experimental works. A little bigger than A4, it had 3 blocks of colour (blue, yellow and pink) painted over detailed but more monochrome paintings of mushrooms and other fungi. I found this an interesting mix of representational and abstract art. Or maybe it was just because it was so different to most of the rest of the exhibition!

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