This series from the early 1980s profiles prominent painters and sculptors (including Neil Dawson, Greer Twiss, Jeffrey Harris and Richard Killeen). It was made for TVNZ (in association with the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council) by Bruce Morrison and used art critic and historian Hamish Keith as a technical advisor. Morrison’s camera captures the artists at work and reviewing their careers and notable works, and he allows them to tell their stories entirely in their own words without the presence of onscreen interviewer or voiceover commentary.
Sculptor (and Arts Foundation Icon) Greer Twiss is profiled in this episode of the early 80s series about notable artists, made for TVNZ. Twiss talks about his career and significant works, including the much loved Karangahape Rocks: an early, large scale bronze made at the limits of his ability at the time which twice caused him serious injury. His fascination with rendering functional everyday items — tools, wineglasses and rulers — as decorative sculptures is explored, along with his preference for working at home in the midst of his family life.
Dunedin-based painter Jeffrey Harris is profiled in this episode from an early 80s arts series made for TVNZ. Harris talks about his quest for intensity and impact; and how violence both attracts and repulses him. He also discusses two of his influences at the time — the surrounding landscape (particularly the wilds of Otago Peninsula and Seacliffe, and the older parts of Dunedin) and the photographs, ranging from family portraits to newspaper pictures, that provided the figures that populated his expressionistic works.
Sculptor Neil Dawson — who later created major public art works including The Chalice in Cathedral Square and Ferns in Wellington’s Civic Square — is profiled in this episode from an arts series made for TVNZ. Dawson is just as enthusiastic and engaged building a tree house for his son as he is preparing an exhibition of his work. These pieces are small and deceptively simple as they explore texture and optical illusion, but his larger ambitions are also roused by a space on Auckland’s Victoria Street.
Working away in a paint-encrusted studio with Hendrix cranked up to 10, often going days without sleep, Philip Clairmont was the archetypal tortured expressionist. This 1981 TVNZ profile explores his chaotic bohemian abode in Mount Eden, a house populated by the found objects and abandoned furniture that would inspire his dense, hallucinatory images. At one point the camera fixes on a single lino print that reads "art is my life". One would eventually consume the other — three years after this was filmed, Clairmont committed suicide at the age of 34.
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.
Tony Fomison, one of NZ’s leading painters, is profiled in this 1981 episode of a series about notable artists, made for TVNZ. Interviewed by Hamish Keith, Fomison is an engaging but diffident subject — describing his often dark, brooding works as “illustrations of dreams”, but also ascribing human emotions to them. His powerful attraction to Pacific cultures is explored; it culminated in this Pākehā son of a working-class Christchurch family getting a pe’a (the traditional Samoan body tattoo). Tony Fomison died in 1990.