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01. Solstice

2013, Oil on canvas, 170 x 212.5cm

Turi Park

Recent paintings Turi Park & Jane Kellahan, NZ Portrait Gallery 26-29 September 2013

Artist portraits by Dean Zillwood, August 2013

A Trickster at Work in the Arcadian library Essay by Dr. Charles Dawson

There have always been two kinds of arcadia: shaggy and smooth, dark and light; a place of bucolic pleasure and a place of primitive panic. Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory, 517

The studio is awash: with light, with movement, with brushes being lifted, replaced, rinsed, re-daubed, canvases being framed up, stretched. Turi Park glances through the cool afternoon sunlight, (so plentiful this autumn) over to a canvas. He plucks a brush from the laden jar, strides over and makes a tiny highlight around a frock coat, a feather, or, beggorah, the wheel of a velocipede perched amidst a re-imagining of a stump-scarred Muldoon’s Corner on the Rimutaka’s in “Happiness is Sharing Our Heritage (Horseshoe)”. Here’s the artist at work, and imagination and memory coalescing to remind us of our past, and play with that. Notions of irruption, disruption and delight surface again and again in these works. Time is porous, memory is malleable, and all are acknowledged in the flow of colour and light, the ancient and powerful act of applying paint to a surface, bringing a story to life, placing highlights amidst the night’s forests, touching up the creek in spate. The process brings to mind anthropologist Tim Ingold’s call for a revisioned relationship between people and place: “the first step ... is to think of humans, and indeed of creatures of all kinds, not as discrete and pre-formed entities but as trajectories of movement and growth – that is, not as beings but as becomings.” In his creative attentiveness to mythos, animus and topography, Park honours empowering trajectories of becoming.

Or as Park approaches the canvas, he might equally be striding towards that canvas and simply disappearing, slipping deep into what place and painting call up in him, gone deep into the reverie of creative flow, and deep into the notion of refuge, haven and inner space. Respite, refuge, and haven: the notion of withdrawing into a space for study, refection and contemplation endures. To attend to genealogies of light and colour demands and evokes powerful contemplative inscapes. The longing for respite drives us to create sanctuaries or retreat spaces, or evoke an Arcadia that calls to us in the clamour of modern life. In “The After Hours (Modern Love)” the frolicking couple at the lake edge spring from and hark back to the classical myth of Rinaldo and Amida, as another soldier looks on. Arguably, both kinds of arcadia, the idyllic as well as the wild, are landscapes of the urban imagination, though clearly answering to different needs. It’s tempting to see the two arcades perennially defined against each other, from the idea

of the park (wilderness or pastoral) to the philosophy of the front lawn (industrially kept or drifted with buttercups and clover); civility and harmony or integrity and unruliness? ... But as contentious as the battle often seems, and as irreconcilable as they two ideas of arcadia appear to be, their long history suggests that they are, in fact, mutually sustaining. (Schama 525)

These paintings inhabit and invoke sites of connection, juxtaposition, disjunction. Cultural memory (high and low) seeps into the frame; the vaguely familiar rears up in unlikely new places. Sly inter-texts gesture across the canvas or evoke art history’s rich layers of imagery and symbol, or the muted, muddy, grounded intaglios of our colonial past. Memory and evocation refuse constraint: these paintings are alive to ongoing conversations, open to the incursion of personal and collective inspiration. In “Commons (Green Room #3)” the epitome of elegant retreat, the drawing room-study set up with the grace of the golden mean, appears subject to some absinthe-hued dissolution. If Arcadia has an urban idyll in the form of the well-stocked library, its inverse might be the traffic in opium, or the extortion of indigenous labour, that might fund such elegance. Drawn into the drawing room, seeking the elusive respite the work of empire both demands and elides, this recast version of Prince Albert’s study suggests empire under the influence. Similarly other works recast The White House’s green meeting room, Robert Louis Stevenson’s study at Villa Vailima: fading markers of empire, subverted by the brush.

These paintings refuse to let the past stay in a box: the memories and inheritances of the past are given breathing space and recast, from the cheeky Pan-like lusts of the Victorian postcard nude to the (re)placement of figures from classical myth, the layers continue to echo. Park slakes his curiosity with the quotidian mythologies that endure today. Like the couple gamboling at the lake edge in “The After Hours (Modern Love)”, he too delights in a welter of inherited tradition and symbol: There is a train track in the history of art that goes way back to Mesopotamia. It skips the whole Orient, The Mayas, And American Indians. Duchamp is on it. Cezanne is on it. Picasso and the Cubists are on it; Giacometti, Piet Mondrian, and so many... I have some feeling about all these people – millions of them – on this enormous track, a way into history. Willem De Kooning. Trans/formations.

In his treatment of the New Zealand landscape, it must be said Park tends not to skip the indigenous; his own Celtic naturalist remains alive to place, the notions and facts of erasure and silence, even as he celebrates the ‘outrageous chaos’ (Banks) of the things every one of us enjoys.

In Park’s 2005 show, I was compelled by the ways a diffused light caught the viewer unawares, or channeled a squint into a new way of seeing our landscape. In this latest outing Park relishes the ways light bring forth shadow and sparkle, from the glint in “Water House”as the girl floats in absorbed reverie in a shallow creek, or the brooding aura around a kahikatea remnant, or the lambent glow of a vaguely familiar Tarawera in Mighty River. That idyllic scene is soon cut off: around the bend is another ghost of lost forest, while other kinds of loss (the evaporation of karakia, or of song, for example) can accrue when water is treated both as free and as a commodity.

The studio is awash: awash with books, texts flooding across tables, an inky tide: Alexander Pope: The Poet and the Landscape, and beside it a tome on Victorian style, essays by Malcolm Bull and or another book of New Zealand history: all these ideas are fuel for Park’s delight in the technique and inheritance of painting. Watching the joy and curiosity he brings to his practice unfold in these latest works has been a real privilege.

A painting should drift. Its features are transient, subject to adjustment. Begin one way, end another way. A painting needs to go its way, with its incidental qualities developing toward significance. To maintain aspects of finding within a process of making to affect the conceptual and technical orders that guide their practice. A fruitful balance ... between purpose and discovery ... enabling artists to find more than they believe they seek ...requires some play in the system, a tolerance, an acceptance of drift. Richard Shiff, “Drift” 301

Park’s latest work takes its fascination with the layers of meaning in place and memory, be that local environmental or global art history. Solstice evokes both the massed trees and dusky light of Munch’s Towards the Forest II (1915) and the lowering grey skied cinematography (by Graeme Cowley) in Utu Redux. The pale church beside a paddock, a fringe of bush in the distance: this triumvirate works its loaded magic across our contested landscapes, where only the baleful moon seems in the ascendant. The horse in the distance has just seen [..heard] us and the watcher in front. The margins abrade together, shaping new spaces of wary observation. This white wooden church on the prairie is a powerful motif in Canadian or Midwest art; in New Zealand that church’s proximity draws us back to notions of civilising missions (the ‘boat of belief’ anchored in the new wilderness), to the church or wharenui as a haven from the woes of the world. Sometimes the secular site of campsite or a treasured park or bach may hold an appeal that aligns the senses too, a force in the land some have called mauri, others ley lines. Park seems adept at diving the power of a place, tapping the genealogies of light and story in new amalgams, what Denys Trussell called “an elaborate choreography of energy” (32). Something of that appreciation of a site’s power can draw cultures together, as long as we’re prepared to to take on the responsibility of keeping that energy positive. Park traces the evocative and reflective spaces opened up by a moonlit drive north in his shadowed glances at the landscape, or his almost unsettling portraits of bathing women, at leisure in the gloaming: sirens and naiads both, enveloped in a darkness our cultural memories trope as negative, even as Park works on the possibilities inherent in sepia. Painting down the dark tones of bush, body or land, or recalibrating the palette (of paint, but also of cultural reference) to bring new dimensions for “The Poetís Blueprint.”

The path up to the studio winds its way beneath a bluegum that has soared in this wet city with a kind of torqued glee. Follow that light back through time and the decades evaporate. Two men heft a hardwood beam onto their shoulders and walk up the driveway: it is Peter McIntyre and my grandfather Jim Dawson, carrying beams for the studio roof: the same roof that Turi Park now paints under. Continuities, connections, glimmers of story washed out on to the light, generations of artists striving to capture the dance of sunlight on water, on the burnished tree trunk, on the skin of lovers as they bound towards the waves.

In his essay on the contradictions, tensions and opportunities Arcadia offers, Malcolm Bull suggests it might be the place that is presupposed when we try to get a vantage point on the world from outside it. Ö Reacting to the turbulent politics of the mid-seventeenth century, Poussin wrote that it was a pleasure to live through such events, ‘provided one can take shelter in some little corner and watch the play in comfort’. But even that little corner can never be entirely insulated from history. (96-7)

In Turi Park’s case, the engagement with history energises both the artist and his work; he is in great company of course; the richness of that conversation creates an intoxicating mix. As Robert Grudin puts it, “much material for innovation resides in the treasury of things past. The inexorable operation of change paradoxically bestows newness on the past” (242). Going again to the restoring wellspring of creativity, Park finds the river running swift, full of tales that unfurl under the moonlight and recast themselves before his mind’s eye. Playing with light, with dark, with the subterranean stories that compose us, these works invite us to dance with the past and its many gifts.

Works Cited Iain M. Banks, “An Interview With Iain M. Banks on the 25th Anniversary of the Culture.” Malcolm Bull, “Green Cabinet, White Cube” New Left Review, Mar-Apr 2010, 84-97. (& quoting Ch. Jouanny, ed. Correspondance de Nicolas Poussin. Paris, 1911, p 395) Willem De Kooning. Trans/formations. Lecture at Studio 35, 1950 Robert Grudin, The Grace of Great Things. Creativity and Innovation. New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1990. p 242 Michael Ingold. “To Human Is A Verb” Lecture Abstract, University of Cologne, November 8, 2013. Drawing on “Prospect”, Biosocial Becomings: Integrating Social and Biological Anthropology. Edited by Tim Ingold and Gisli Palsson, Cambridge UP, 2012. p 6 Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory. New York: Vintage, 1996 Richard Shiff, “Drift.” in Peter Doig, by Richard Shiff and Catherine Lampert. New York: Rizzoli, 2011, pp 301-311 Denys Trussell, “The Expressive Forest.” The Expressive Forest: Essays on the arts and ecology in Oceania. Auckland/Palm Springs CA: Brick Row, 2008.

Dr. Charles Dawson is Assistant NZ Programme Director for a US based experiential education network focused on sustainability and culture. He has worked as a facilitator for the Waitangi Tribunal, most recently on the Wai 262 (flora, fauna & Maori cultural and intellectual property) claim. He is co-founder and vice-president of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment – Australia New Zealand

Turi Park

Recent paintings $+

Figure is given on auction works as a realistic price indication. Auction lot 17

Catalogue 01.01 Solstice



2013, Oil on canvas, 170 x 212.5cm

Auction reserve $5,000

Price $10,000+

Happiness is Sharing Our Heritage (Horseshoe)

2013, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 152.5 x 228.5cm





The After Hours (Modern Love)

2013, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 127 x 205cm





Pan (Head Lights)

2013, Oil on canvas, 90 x 180cm





Mighty River

2013, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 132 x 244cm




Water House

2013, Oil on canvas, 122.5 x 163cm



Flash Light (#1)

2013, Oil on board, 94.5 x 91.5cm



Flash Light (#2)

2013, Oil on board, 94.5 x 91.5cm



Flash Light (#3)

2013, Oil on board, 94.5 x 91.5cm



Flash Light (#4)

2013, Oil on board, 94.5 x 91.5cm



Flicker (Selfie #1)

2013, Oil on linen, 91 x 50.5cm


The Long Tail (Selfie #3)

2013, Oil on linen, 91 x 50.5cm


Love Me Again (Selfie #2)

2013, Oil on linen, 50.5 x 91cm



2013, Oil on and acrylic on canvas, 97.5 x 117.5cm


Field Days (Mystery Creek) after Delacroix

2013, Oil on canvas, 170 x 212.5cm


All Inclusive (Green Room #1)

2013, Oil on and acrylic on canvas, 97.5 x 117.5cm



Hedge (Green Room #2)

2013, Oil and acrylic on board, 100 x 117.5cm



Hedge (Green Room #2)

2013, Oil and acrylic on board, 100 x 117.5cm



Tusitala (Green Room #3)

2013, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 81.5 x 122cm



The Poet’s Blueprint (Green Room #4)

2013, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 81.5 x 122cm



The Dream

2010, Oil on canvas, 172.5 x 244cm


The Charmer

2010, Oil on canvas, 148.5 x 210cm



The Folk Songs of Our Land (Freehouse)

2010, Oil on canvas, 148.5 x 105cm


Landscape With Merchants (Theatre Country)

2006, Oil and inkjet print on canvas, 113.5 x 145cm


Theatre Country

2006, Oil and inkjet print on canvas, 145 x 113.5cm







01.25 Art Enterprise is an artist led exhibition and events organisation

Copyright © 2013 Turi Park + Art Enterprise


$3,000+ $2,950


$3,000+ $3,600







ARTe.01 Turi Park exhibition essay by Dr. Charles Dawson