For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
This NFU portrait of 19th Century artist Gottfried Lindauer traces his wide-ranging life, from his Bohemian origins and arrival in New Zealand in 1873, aged 35, to his death in Woodville in 1926. Lindauer’s portraits, especially of Māori in formal dress, became an iconic record of colonial era New Zealand people. A market developed for Lindauer’s work, established by his patron Henry Partridge. Lindauer’s commissions (held at Auckland Art Gallery) are respectfully filmed here; and his process is detailed, including his most famous image, Ana Rupene and Child.
In the mid-1990s one of Peter Peryer's photographs caused a diplomatic stir. 'Dead Steer' depicted the bloated carcass of a cow on a lonely New Zealand roadside, and the then Agriculture Minister protested its inclusion in a German exhibition of Peryer's work. This documentary from prolific arts director Shirley Horrocks examines the life and career of this important New Zealand artist. Peryer was awarded an ONZM for his contribution to photography and in 2000 became one of five inaugural laureates of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand. He died in November 2018.
Painter Grahame Sydney has been pigeonholed by some as a landscape artist, but this doumentary contends that his evocative depictions of his Central Otago surroundings are much more than just exercises in realism. Fellow locals, poet Brian Turner and actor Sam Neill discuss the emotional and artistic resonance his work holds for them. Sydney's portraits and figure studies are also examined. The production of one of his lithographs is followed from inception — as a sketch on a slab of Bavarian limestone brought to NZ over 200 years ago — to fully fledged print.
Bliss is a portrait of the artist as a young woman. The award-winning telemovie follows Katherine Mansfield from boredom in Edwardian Wellington to liberation and love affairs in London, where she dares to dream of being a writer. Kate Elliott plays Mansfield as a spirited 19-year-old, hungry for experience. Bliss screened to acclaim in TV One's Sunday Theatre slot in August 2011. Listener reviewer Fiona Rae praised director Fiona Samuel's "excellent" script, and for allowing "her Mansfield to be witty, passionate and outspoken without belabouring the status of women in 1908".
Jane Sherning Warren’s satirical portrait of the artist as a young woman was one of a series of short films exploring life on the colourful K Road strip. Jaded Arlette (Morgan Albrecht) endures a barrage of art-speak as her posse saunters from her Artspace exhibition opening to Verona Cafe. When the ridiculous art theory of her partner leaves truth far behind, she challenges his cred, and a chase ensues. A drag queen with a pool cue comes to her rescue, and she (and the audience) get an unexpected lesson in how people's identity is a performance.
This documentary is a portrait of Wellington art-dealer Peter McLeavey, who spent over 40 years running his influential Cuba Street gallery. In the Leon Narbey-shot film, McLeavey talks about his life: a roving North Island railway childhood, an early love of art, discovering his New Zealand identity while living in London, and returning home to run over 500 plus exhibitions, initially from his flat — including key showcases of artists such as Toss Woollaston, Gordon Walters, and Colin McCahon.
Kete Aronui is a documentary series that features leading contemporary Māori artists. Screening on Māori Television, produced by KIWA Media, and funded through Te Māngai Pāho, its title translates as "basket of knowledge." Each episode provides a portrait: surveying the lives and practices of the artists, often with a focus on how they interact with their whanāu and community. The series surveys artists working in a diverse range of mediums, including dance, photography, theatre, film, poetry, music, tā moko, weaving, and sculpture.
This edition of the 60s magazine show is a portrait of Peter McIntyre. McIntyre was New Zealand’s official war artist, and his paintings became icons of the NZ war effort. This piece focuses on his later landscapes — then at the height of their popularity. Shots of McIntyre working in his studio and around Kākahi — where the “happy escapist” retreats from the hurly burly of Wellington — bolster the romantic image. He muses on ‘scenic decay’, trout fishing, the zen of the bush and pop art: “If they’re surrounded by cans of beans let them paint cans of beans!”.
This documentary on legendary Kiwi playwright Bruce Mason premiered soon after his death. The result is a portrait of a man who become an artist despite, as much as because of, his fellow Kiwis. There are shots of Mason performing solo classic The End of the Golden Weather on his beloved Takapuna Beach, and insights from a cast of Kiwi theatrical heavyweights. In an extended interview with The Listener's Helen Paske, Mason ranges from his works looking at Māori-Pākehā relations, to over the top reaction to controversial tele-play The Evening Paper.