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."
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.
Douglas Lloyd Jenkins and Fiona McDonald hit the Auckland area for this leg of their Big Art Trip. They meet up with Black Grace artistic director Neil Ieremia, who is running a mentoring programme for young dancers; sculptor/painter Roger Mortimer, who is transforming bland modern day business letters into replicas of beautiful old documents; sculptor Warren Viscoe, who is busy at a wood symposium, fashion designer Kate Sylvester, at her High Street boutique; and abstract painter Judy Millar, at work in her studio.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A homage to Dusky Maiden images as well as a playful take on the low art of velvet painting, Sima Urale’s Velvet Dreams provides a tongue-in-cheek exploration of Pacific Island stereotypes. Part detective story, part documentary, an unseen narrator goes in search of a painting of a Polynesian princess that he has fallen in love with. Along the way he meets artists, fans and critics of the kitsch art genre, as well as the mysterious Gauguin-like figure of Charlie McPhee. Made for TVNZ's Work of Art series, Velvet Dreams played in multiple international film festivals.
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.
Globetrotting New Zealander Len Lye was a gifted innovator in many areas of the arts — film, painting, sculpture, photography, and writing. Inventing ways to make films without a camera, he became one of the pioneers of the genre later known as the music video. Later he moved to New York's Greenwich Village and became a leading figure in the kinetic art movements of the 1950s and 60s.