Sunday, August 16, 2009

Impressive new book offers insight into New Zealand’s contemporary art world
Fifteen of New Zealand’s leading artists talk about their lives, their work and what inspires them in the latest book published by Canterbury University Press.

Inner Landscapes: 15 New Zealand Artists with Canterbury Connections is a compilation of verbal self portraits by artists who share a connection with the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts.
In a unique approach, each artist speaks directly to the reader through interviews with Sally Blundell. Each entry is accompanied by full-page colour reproductions of the artist’s work and striking photographic portraits of the artists in their studios by award-winning photographer Diederik van Heyningen.

An essay by Justin Paton, senior curator at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, places the artists and their work in a wider context of art and place.
The book and an accompanying exhibition of the same name are the result of a project undertaken by the Canterbury Arts and Heritage Trust.

Inner Landscapes Project Director and Chair of the trust, Lorraine North, (pic right), said the project stemmed from a desire to raise awareness of the number of acclaimed New Zealand artists who are connected with the Ilam School of Fine Arts.
Here is the text of Lorraine North's Preface to the book which describes the project and the book very well:

The Canterbury Arts and Heritage Trust’s Inner Landscapes project, comprising book and exhibition, arose from a wish to raise awareness of New Zealand’s many nationally and internationally acclaimed living artists who have strong links to Canterbury, mainly through the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts.

The project did not aim to identify a definitive or complete group, but simply to select a cross-section of artists working in a variety of media over a period spanning three generations, in order to provide an overview of contemporary art practice associated with the School of Fine Arts. It is hoped that the glimpses and fragments revealed in this book and the original works in the exhibition will generate increased interest in the work of not only the selected artists, but also the many other artists of excellence who share the same association.

To a large extent the shape of the project was determined by the artists, and a main point of difference between this and other art books is that most of the text consists of the artists speaking in their own voice. Alongside the striking photographic portraits and splendid examples of the artists’ work, these verbal self-portraits provide an insight into contemporary art practice that is direct and personal. All involved feel a sense of privilege that the artists participated with such a high degree of openness and honesty. It is almost a decade since an art publication has grouped artists associated with the Canterbury region, and such books have typically related the artworks in some way to the geography of the area.

However, as the title suggests, in this book the focus is on the artists and their inner worlds; on their ideas and reflections, rather than their relationships with an external environment. In the words of Ronnie van Hout: ‘At high school … I thought modern art was unfathomable and a complete mystery. Then there was this one moment when it all made sense, when I understood that art wasn’t about realism, but about ideas.’
This book is testimony to the richness and diversity of these ideas expressed through a wide range of styles and content. The reader can delight in the finished artwork, but also in discovering more about the processes behind it, as the artists share their views about art and how these affect the ways in which they approach their own work.
Lorraine North,
Project Director Chair,
Canterbury Arts and Heritage Trust, May 2009

The wonderful photographic images thoughout mainly by Diederik van Heyningen are a feature of the book. Pic left shows Seraphine Pick in her studio.

Inner Landscapes: 15 New Zealand Artists with Canterbury Connections, a project of the Canterbury Arts and Heritage Trust, interviews by Sally Blundell, photographs by Diederik van Heyningen, published by Canterbury University Press, August 2009, RRP NZ $59.95, Hardback, 120pp, ISBN 978-1-877257-85-8.

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