MY CHOICE: Andrew Clifford / April 2023
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MY CHOICE: Andrew Clifford / April 2023

April 2023: Andrew Clifford

Each month a member of our community is invited to browse our online collection and select six of their favourite artworks. Each My Choice selection, together with personal responses to the works, will be available to view on the Sarjeant Gallery website for one month at a time. The March 2023 My Choice has been selected by Gallery Director Andrew Clifford and is available to view until 30 April, 2023.

Andrew Clifford is a writer and curator, and is the new Director of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. He was the Director of Te Uru in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland from 2013-2023. His research interests follow the worlds of contemporary art, performance, new media, sound and music, particularly where their orbits overlap and collide, notably with his 2018 touring exhibition, From Scratch: 546 Moons.

Andrew has produced music programmes for Radio New Zealand and 95bFM, and has contributed articles and essays to books and publications throughout the Asia-Pacific region. He is a trustee of the Len Lye Foundation and the Edith Collier Trust, has been a board member for the Audio Foundation and CIRCUIT, and holds an MFA from the University of Auckland.

See Andrew’s selections on our Explore the Collection ‘My Choice Exhibition Series’ highlight here and below:

Andrew’s Choices:

Johann Kander Meissen, Schneeballen Snowball Vase, Circa 1770 (1961/1/3)

“One of the features of the Sarjeant Gallery collection that makes it unique in Aotearoa is that it extends back, not just to the 19th century but even further, and that includes historic international works. Early 19th and 20th century photography is an important focus, and there are also older European paintings, prints and decorative objects, including furniture and ceramics.
This fabulous piece of Meissen ware from Germany is a great example of the eclectic nature of the collection and is an interesting contrast to the Sarjeant’s large holdings of more recent glass and studio ceramics that reflect the dynamics of the local scene, including many works by potter Rick Rudd, who runs the nearby Quartz Museum. Te Uru in Titirangi, where I’ve most recently worked, also has a strong focus on ceramics, including hosting the annual Portage Ceramic Awards, so I’m pleased to have moved to another gallery that has a keen interest in a wide range of practices including craft.”

Gordon Brown, Hotel Edison, New York, Sept 1974, Sept 1974 (2021/11/4)

“In 1974, Gordon H. Brown became the Sarjeant’s first professional director. He introduced a more contemporary and strategic approach to collecting and exhibition programming, similar to the shift to professionalisation that was taking place at other galleries around the country. Brown was a close associate of painter Colin McCahon and is one of the few people of whom McCahon painted a portrait, which is in the Sarjeant’s collection.
Brown is also an artist himself. In 2007, my first year working at the Gus Fisher Gallery, we held an exhibition of photographs from Brown’s Hotel North America series. These were taken during a 1974 trip to study museum practice and display techniques. At the end of each day, back in his hotel room, he would take his camera out and finish off the roll of film, resulting in an alternative travelogue documenting each location, but replacing classic touristic vistas with cheap hotel furniture, mirrors and dim lighting.  This may seem banal and offhand, like a viral social media game where everyone posts a random photo from their phone. But it is also reminiscent of the conceptual photographic practices emerging at the time, like American photographer Ed Ruscha’s deadpan documentation of every building on the Sunset Strip, an example of which is also in the Sarjeant collection. And we can’t deny how glamorous Brown makes these downbeat settings look, framed and lit like a noir film, or the museum displays he had been observing during the day.”

Paratene Matchitt, Untitled, Circa 1970 (1976/1/1)

“Although this is an online selection and most participants select their works remotely, in preparing this selection during my first week working at the Sarjeant, I’ve had the advantage of being able to physically sight some of the works. Although my initial shortlisting was done entirely online in the week before starting in Whanganui. In walking through the collection storage areas, it’s hard to miss this striking sculpture by Paratene Matchitt, one of the first generation of Māori artists to adopt a western modernist approach to art making. He is probably best known for the large sculptural bridge that connects Wellington’s civic precinct to the waterfront. Matchitt was part of the Ngā Puna Waihanga group of Māori artists and writers, who formed in 1973 and often exhibited at the Sarjeant in the 1980s, resulting in works entering the Sarjeant collection. Other artists in the original 1973 group include Hone Tuwhare, Rangimarie Hetet, Ralph Hotere, Selwyn Muru, Kura Rewiri, Witi Ihimaera, Haare Williams and Hirini Melbourne.
Although there are a number of early depictions of Māori in the Sarjeant collection, this is one of the first acquisitions of a work by a Māori artist and was purchased during Gordon H. Brown’s tenure as director. Earlier purchases include works by Cliff Whiting, and many were made in subsequent years, especially when Rangihiroa Panoho was the Sarjeant Gallery’s Curator from 1988-91 – Aotearoa’s first Māori curator of art. Incidentally, Panoho’s MA thesis focused on Matchitt.”

Anne Noble, The Old Te Maire Bridge, 1982 (1982/47/14)

“Anne Noble is one of New Zealand’s most important senior photographers and is one of the artists best represented in the Sarjeant collection, no doubt in part because she was born in Whanganui and because many of her works respond to this region. In 1980 Noble had her first major exhibition at the Sarjeant and, in 1989, she was amongst the first artists in residence at Tylee Cottage, returning again for another residency in 2020. One of her best-known bodies of work is a large series, including this image, that explores the Whanganui River from its source to its arrival at the sea.
I love noticing old bridges, especially if I’m in the former Rodney Council area north of Auckland. This is where my grandfather was based and was partner in a concrete company that built many of the bridges (and other structures like water reservoirs) in the area. Aside from a distinctive few, including the bridge opposite the Puhoi pub, it’s hard to know which ones are his so I’m always wondering.”

Mervyn Williams, Chromatic Variations VII, 1969 (1996/24/1)

“Mervyn Williams is another of the earliest Tylee Cottage residents, arriving third in 1988, following Laurence Aberhart and Andrew Drummond in 1986 and 1987 respectively. Williams’ approach to abstraction is more formal and geometric than some of the more expressionistic painters of the time, and much of his work focuses on optical and illusionistic effects, following the Op art style that had been popular at the time. His works can be technically impressive too, especially the high level of detail in this early series of prints, which are inspired by musical structures. They resemble the early experiments by filmmakers, including Len Lye, to create visual representations of or responses to music through movement, shape and colour. Much in the way that Cecelia Kumeroa and Dr. Billy van Uitregt’s Dawn Chorus, currently on display in the gallery, visualises bird song in Bushy Park Tarapuruhi. Visual music and art-music-sound overlaps are a favourite subject of mine and is part of the reason that I also have a role as a trustee of the Len Lye Foundation.
Marti Friedlander took a number of photos of Williams outside his house on the west coast of Auckland, and his son Marcus appears in several. Marcus, who was the chair of the Te Uru board when I first started there, is also an artist and was the recipient of a Tylee Cottage residency in 2000-01 with his artist partner, Susan Jowsey. They often collaborate, also involving their children, as the F4 collective.”

Joanna Langford, Maquette for “Down from the Nightlands”, 2009 (2009/5/1)

“The Tylee Cottage residency programme is the source of many of the contemporary works in the Sarjeant collection. This work by Joanna Langford, who did the residency in 2007, is a model for a larger installation she presented that year in the Sarjeant Gallery’s distinctive dome gallery using recycled and ephemeral materials to create a dreamy cloud city of floating and precariously cobbled together structures.
For many years, it was the Sarjeant’s popular replica sculpture, ‘The Wrestlers’, that primarily occupied pride of place in the centre of the building under the dome. Although there had been previous projects in this space, in 1979 artist Billy Apple presented a project in the dome gallery that, amongst other requests, asked that The Wresters be permanently moved to a less prominent spot. Having then made the space available, a byproduct of Apple’s critique of the Sarjeant’s displays was the inauguration of a new series of dome gallery installations by contemporary artists. Essentially enabled by Apple, Langford’s project was the 31st official dome installation in this series, which concluded in 2013 when the gallery closed for earthquake strengthening, the last being Sarah Maxey’s ‘Comeback’.”

Past Exhibitions 2023