A Private Collection of Contemporary Art

By November 14, 2017News

It’s a social set, this collection of work; imagine it as a glorious dinner party. Chatty, witty yet sophisticated, the conversation is able to turn from the serious to the tender to the irreverent.

Marco Fusinato, ‘Photograph #10 6/6/02’, C -Type print, series 1, ed. of 5, A/P, 2002, 
1090mm x 1590mm, Estimate $10,000 – $12,000

The collection reflects a love and close appreciation of what contemporary artists bring to the table. Dominating is an antipodean postmodern generation, which emerged in the 1990s. Its members reject grand narratives, universals and absolutes – such notions have decayed or become corrupt. Instead, art provides a more intimate, gregarious space, within which to make new connections through the blending of ideas.

Relished is the freedom to adopt ideas and materials, bringing the everyday together with a multiplicity of art and design motifs from the past. Irony abounds. Humour – as Tony de Lautour’s gun indicates – can be a smart, convention-melding weapon. Gone from art is some self-importance; this work is more open and playful.

The legacy of punk culture is very evident: to use what is at hand; to not be afraid to appropriate; and to find beauty in doing what you’re told not to do. For example, you could stare at the sun, as Marco Fusinato does, with a blinding visual low hum, in Photograph #10 6/6/02.

If you frequented the Wellington art scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you’ll recognise many of these artists from the exhibitions of dealer Hamish McKay. This is something of a snapshot of that time.

Hamish McKay Gallery opened in 1993, introducing many of the finest of this generation of artists and providing the company of a few older artists who shared some like-minded approaches. What elegance, humour and poignancy photographer Peter Peryer makes of a dropped ice cream, or sculptor Don Driver of a broom and a sack! Always, there is both darkness and light.

Notable in McKay’s early stable was a clutch of exceptional Cantabrians, who came out of the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts in the early 1990s. Seraphine Pick’s Things to Know is an outstanding example of her early dreamscapes. In its scratchy drawn ghosting into white paint, it softly visualises the veils of erotic half-thoughts that dance in the body and head, creating a shared space between her stories and ours. De Lautour is best known as a painter but among his works here are four ceramic pieces. Fusing the trashed and the treasured, the nobility of national heraldry, the cartoon and the roughly drawn gang tattoo, the ornament and the icon are made human and bastard beautiful.

Hamish McKay Gallery was also distinctive in introducing New Zealand to a swag of exciting Australian artists. Featured are Mikala Dwyer, Marco Fusinato, Diena Georgetti, Rose Nolan and Kathy Temin. International connections were quick to come, McKay and his artists reflecting the growth of a global art scene. There are works in this collection with interesting connections. Sam Basu, for instance, was part of a gang of artists, including New Zealander Francis Upritchard, who ran the gallery Bart Wells Institute in a London squat between 2001 and 2004. The bewitching Untitled comes from Basu’s residency in a derelict French house; he employed wallpaper and charcoal from the house itself to make a pretty, dark, yet tender, drawing.

Diena Georgetti, ‘Golden Lifestyle Plant’, 
acrylic on canvas, 2001, 345mm x 270mm, 
Estimate $5,000 – $7,000

In terms of making global connections, there are a number of critical New Zealand figures here. Two of the late Julian Dashper’s smart multiples are represented. Dashper tested the relationship between the singular object and its copies, turning antipodean isolation on its head. Art became a sophisticated travelling act for sharing ideas. He brought to New Zealand the smart Dutch abstractionist Jan van der Ploeg, whose painting Grip speaks back from Europe to the geometric abstraction of Gordon Walters.

Like Dashper, Giovanni Intra was a conceptual artist and painter with whom the aesthetics of post-punk music and modern art blended. In the magnetic minimalist painting Tylenol, branded medicine has become a replacement for religion. Influential as artist and dealer in his too-short life, Intra co-founded the seminal Los Angeles gallery China Art Objects, in 1998, where Canadian Jon Pylypchuk, featured here also, showed his work.

Of note is a suite of paintings by Diena Georgetti, which provides a fresh, vital approach to abstraction. Georgetti’s work was the subject of an Australian touring survey exhibition, The Humanity of Abstract Painting, and, in that title, is something of the strength of these painstakingly made paintings. Eclectic bowerbird-nest-like puzzles of many fragments of art and design styles from across history, they are never one known thing or another. Instead, the fragments work together collectively, like a complex device, to open up space for the viewer. They suggest a world that can be confusing and complicated but within which we can find sweet spots of solace in the spaces in between.


By Mark Amery