Gordon Crook: A Life of Art

Film, 2010 (Excerpts)

Wellington artist Gordon Crook was known for his bold, colourful prints and tapestries. In this documentary, director Clare O’Leary mixes Crook’s biography (from UK foster care to London Central School of Art lecturer, then decades in Wellington) and interviews with Crook, dealers, students and mates. In this excerpt Crook discusses his work, and collaborating with weaver Lesley Nicholls; and friend Edith Ryan recalls first seeing Crook’s massive Michael Fowler Centre banners. The documentary premiered at the 2010 NZ Film Festival. Crook died in August 2011, aged 89.

New Country - New People

Short Film, 1978 (Full Length)

This 1978 National Film Unit documentary provides a potted history of settler groups that came to New Zealand from Europe. Archive material and narration covers the colonials. Then visits are paid to the German-descended Eggers, tobacco growers from Moutere, and newly arrived French bakers and Dutch dairy farmers. Aptly for a film directed by actor and future winemaker Sam Neill, the film drops in on an Italian play and the Babich family of Dalmatian winemakers. Neill worked at the NFU in his 20s, around the time of his breakout acting role in Sleeping Dogs (1977). 

Kaleidoscope - Attitudes Towards Landscape

Television, 1987 (Full Length)

This short documentary series looked at New Zealand's landscape art from the arrival of Pākehā up until the 1980s. The four episodes moved from the development of a local version of the European tradition (through artists such as John Gully and Petrus van der Velden) through to the homegrown modernism emerging in the 20th Century: the distinct hard-edged styles of Binney, White and Smither, the spiritual abstracts of McCahon and Woollaston, to the later impact of Māori artists like Hotere, Whiting and Kahukiwa.

Kaleidoscope - Toss Woollaston

Television, 1987 (Full Length)

TVNZ’s flagship 80s arts show looks at Sir Toss Woollaston — a pioneer of modern art in New Zealand. Topics include his development as an artist and the “struggle of painting” (contra convention), difficult years trying to support a family, the influence of his wife, and the liberation he felt in his mid-50s when he could finally earn a living from painting. Woollaston is blunt but generous with his time and opinions. There are precious riffs off his famous description of wanting to paint the sunlight in a landscape, “after it had been absorbed by the earth”.

Profiles - Richard Killeen

Television, 1983 (Full Length Episode)

Auckland artist Richard Killeen is profiled in this 1983 episode of a series about notable painters and sculptors made for TVNZ. Killeen moved from realism in his early paintings to working with more abstract shapes. By the late 70s, he had abandoned canvas and frame altogether — cutting shapes out of aluminium and grouping them in works somewhere between painting and sculpture. Killeen talks about the evolution of his work, his process and inspirations, and the importance of his environment in suburban Epsom.

Kaleidoscope - Frances Hodgkins

Television, 1989 (Full Length)

By the time she died in 1947 aged 78, expat Frances Hodgkins was recognised as a key figure in British art. Subtitled 'A Painter of Genius', this 1989 Kaleidoscope portrait mixes archival material with recreations of Hodgkins working in England in the 1940s, and being interviewed by Vogue. Her "gypsy" life ranges from a Dunedin upbringing, leaving New Zealand in 1901, to painting and teaching in Europe, and struggles with poverty and health. After embracing modernism in the 1920s, her art combined still life and landscape in original ways. TV veteran (and artist) Peter Coates directs.

The Big Art Trip - Series Two, Episode 10

Television, 2001 (Full Length Episode)

Episode 10 of season two of The Big Art Trip kicks off in Timaru, birthplace of artist Colin McCahon, where hosts Fiona and Douglas check out a collection of his paintings. Next it’s Dunedin to meet designer Vita Cochran, who makes handbags and other objects, and they visit the studio of Jeffrey Harris who talks about his evolving painting style. Dancer and choreographer Shona Dunlop MacTavish describes her career and life as a young woman in 1930s Europe and artist Grahame Sydney discusses landscapes, nudes, surrealism and his love for the Otago countryside.

Spot On - First Episode

Television, 1974 (Full Length Episode)

This first episode of this much-loved kids series explores all things to do with lighthouses. It begins with a visit to Nugget Point; then things get eclectic. Earnest informational TV is interspersed with psychedelic graphics, cartoons, a sea shanty ("I want to marry a lighthouse keeper"), and funky lighthouse-themed songs. We meet Don (a lighthouse stamp collector); uncover the mysteries of how a ship fits into a bottle; and the three young presenters deconstruct their attempts at painting lighthouses, including a fine abstract effort from co-presenter Ray Millard. Classic.

Allie Eagle and Me

Film, 2004 (Trailer)

In the 1970s, New Zealand artist Allie Eagle identified herself as a lesbian separatist and radical feminist. Her often uncompromising work included pro-abortion painting This Woman Died I Care, which was inspired by a photograph of a woman who died from an illegal abortion. In the 1980s, Eagle became a christian. Made in 2004, Briar March's first, feature-length documentary sees Eagle reflecting on her past with a more moderate outlook — she now has mixed feelings about her earlier stance on abortion.

The Gravy - Series Four, Episode 11 (Prisons)

Television, 2009 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of The Gravy takes an in-depth look at art in prisons. Host Warren Maxwell interviews inmates who have embraced painting or carving while serving time in Mt Eden, Paremoremo and Rimutaka prisons. At Rimutaka, art tutor Paul Bradley points out that art is a vehicle for change both for prisoners and the art audience, and former prisoners talk about how art has changed their lives for the better. Outside the walls, Warren visits at a caged exhibit of musical instruments at Artspace in Auckland and plays a few bars on the flute.