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."
Brian Brake is regarded as New Zealand's most successful international photographer. But before heading overseas to work for photo agency Magnum and snapping iconic shots of Picasso and the Monsoon series for Life magazine, he was also an accomplished composer of moving images. He shot or directed many classic films for the NFU, including NZ's first Oscar-nominated film.
The Lambeth Walk was a popular 'swing jazz' dance in London in 1939. It included a hand gesture with the Yiddish "Oi!". New Zealand-born filmmaker Len Lye edited together different versions of the music (including Django Reinhardt on guitar and Stephane Grapelli on violin), and combined them with a variety of abstract images painted and scratched directly onto film, without using a camera. The colourful, dynamic animation was made with public money — for the Ministry of Information in the United Kingdom — scandalising some government bureaucrats.
The feverish complexity of Flicker is captured in this video collaboration between Fetus Productions' Jed Town and director Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City, promos for INXS, Crowded House, Mike Oldfield). The pair deliver a terrifically haunting clip, skillfully creating an intensely serpentine work full of dark frames and layered, unnerving images. Yikes.
In this performance-based High Dependency Unit (HDU) music video, directed by Dunedin musician and visual artist Nigel Bunn, a roving fisheye camera lens provides a suitably edgy vibe. The jittery black and white visuals evoke paranoia films like Repulsion, Eraserhead, and local classic Kitchen Sink. The clip builds up a broiling intensity, through judicious use of sped-up motion, original povs, and flash cuts that match the sonic boom tempo of HDU's trademark wall of sound.
Winning Best Overall Video at the 2006 Radio Active Handle the Jandal Music Video Awards, Charlie ASH certainly made a splash with their debut video by director Sally Tran. The delightfully ramshackle clip for the raunchy number channels the DIY fantasy spirit of Michel Gondry as Rosie Riggir and the band inhabit a CASH-in-wonderland world of cardboard and cellophane sets, animation and colour. Caution: contains fondling of oversized instruments.
Bold lighting and caterwauling guitars push this largely black and white performance clip above others of the era. Silhouette and strobing make for a mesmerising video that deserves a consumer health warning for those affected by flashing lights. After line-up changes and much remembered live gigs, the Christchurch noise-meisters ultimately morphed into Bailterspace.
Little Bushman muso Warren Maxwell goes west in this edition of The Gravy, to meet a trio of artists creating work in the shadow of Mt Taranaki. Waru Wharehoka, an autistic painter, makes abstract works, is obsessed with weapons and zombies, and takes Maxwell on a paddle beneath New Plymouth. Assemblage artist Dale Copeland scavenges plane wrecks on the mountain and dead friend's teeth for her art. And photographer Fiona Clark discusses why she used colour film to snap her controversial 1975 drag queen images, and using a photo to help save the Waitara River.
From the late 1980s, Gretchen Albrecht's richly-coloured large abstract paintings made her reputation in New Zealand. This documentary (made for TV One's Artsville series) traces the development of Albrecht's work from her art school years, through to a developing interest in sculpture. Interspersed with commentary from family, collectors, writers, and art historians, Albretcht discusses her life, and the ideas and influences that inform her work. In the studio, her working methods are revealed as she is capturing creating new work.
The Sun was perhaps the most daring and experimental video yet for directors Joel Kefali and Campbell Hooper. Collaborating once more with electropop band The Naked and Famous, they scored their second award for Best Music Video with another track taken from breakthrough album Passive Me, Aggressive You (2010). The widescreen video is built around a series of split second shots of a man and a woman getting intimate. As the video continues, the images fracture, multiply, and become increasingly kaleidoscopic. Warning — this video is not suitable for younger viewers.