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."
NZ On Screen’s Dunedin Collection offers up the sights and sounds of a city edged by ocean, and famed for its music. Dunedin is a bracing mixture of old and new: of Victorian buildings and waves of fresh-faced students, many of them carrying guitars. As Dave Cull reflects in his introduction, it is a city where distance is no barrier to creativity and innovation.
New Brighton beach in Christchurch: Peter Donnelly is busy creating art, art with a lifespan that can be measured in hours. Using a rake and a piece of wood, Donnelly draws elaborate artworks in the sand - more than 700 of them to date. "I bring something to life, and then its life is over, and at the end of the four hours it wants to go, it's worn out ... it just wants to be gifted, and it goes to the sea." Beautifully shot by director Peter Young, this Artsville documentary captures Donnelly both in action, and musing on the beauty of impermanence.
Featuring artwork by Grammy-nominated Kiwi Sarah Larnach — whose art has been a key feature on Ladyhawke's albums — the music video for My Delirium weaves between reality and a dreamscape where cats dominate the Mount Rushmore sculpture, and Ladyhawke soars through space in a car. The video opens with the singer in a dreary roadside motel, before animated artwork on the wall comes to life, featuring a cartoon Ladyhawke walking out of the motel and hitting the road in a classic convertible. The musician won six Tuis at the 2009 NZ Music Awards.
In this intimate documentary painter Michael Smither lays bare his life — from a stern Catholic childhood in New Plymouth to the inspiration of Central Otago to his senior years in Otama Beach, collaborating on natural artworks. Smither is best known for his unflinching portraits of family life, works like 'Sarah with Baked Beans' which capture the untamed energy of small children. Smither acknowledges the hardship behind these famous paintings, and the toll it took on his first marriage. Ex-partners (including novelist Rachel McAlpine) open up about their time with Smither.
The lyrics detail the intensity of thwarted love, and the accompanying video is a DIY delight — mixing an origami fortune teller concept with back-projected Animalia-style shadow puppets. From the 2008 EP This Machine, this video marked the first collaboration between design studio Special Problems (Campbell Hooper and Joel Kefali) and the band. The fertile partnership would go on to yield multiple music videos (including the breakout promo for ‘Young Blood’), plus the artwork on a number of their releases.
Backch@t was an award-winning magazine-style arts and culture show that appealed, right from the opening acid-jazz theme tune, to a literate late-90s arts audience. Fronted by media personality Bill Ralston, these excerpts from the first episode come out guns blazing with a debate by panellists about Tania Kovats's controversial artwork 'Virgin in a Condom', the sculpture that caused national upset when it was exhibited at Te Papa in 1998. Managing to keep a panel discussion convivial rather than confrontational, Ralston handles the catholic debate with aplomb.
Early standard bearers for the Flying Nun label, The Clean ended their first incarnation with this abrasive, rollicking, darkly-humoured take on the aging process (featuring backing vocals from Chris Knox and some Robert Scott trumpet). Ronnie van Hout, who designed much of the label's early artwork, turned his hand at directing for this clip. Without a budget, he utilised the Christchurch service lanes and aging inner city buildings which housed so many of the local music industry's bars, clubs and rehearsal rooms (and a succession of early Flying Nun offices).
The format for New Artland was to film a leading Kiwi artist devising an artwork, in collaboration with a community that they have some kind of bond with. In this episode host Chris Knox meets Karl Maughan, known for his vibrant paintings of garden flowers. Maughan returns to Palmerston North's Freyberg High School (where he was encouraged to enrol at Elam School of Art) and enlists 20 students over a week to make a 30 metre long mural. He explains why rhododendrons are his main subject, and gets permission from the principal to help the kids graffiti the art block.
This short documentary from the Loading Docs series is a profile of artist John Radford, and his alter ego Ron Jadford. Both are concerned with real estate. Director Ursula Grace Williams captures Radford creating Graft, an artwork consisting of 256 miniature replicas of 1900s suburban villas. Spray-tanned Jadford, with tinted sunnies, moustache and mobile phone, is the real estate agent selling the houses, and he won’t take no for an answer. The short documentary explores art as performance, the creative process, and the line between art and business.