June 01, 2013

Ron Brownson on Pat Hanly and "The Joy of Art" at AWRF 2013

I was very happy to discover upon arriving at the Auckland Art Gallery that this session was a sell-out, landing Ron Brownson and Pat Hanly up there with the rock star and the war stories, but as more and more people disappeared through the door to the auditorium I became a little apprehensive that I would be that one fan who wouldn't make it in.

As it turned out I was found a place among those circumstantial seats in the very front row, practically under the podium, and there was Ron Brownson himself, a few seats over, waiting to go on. When he spied me, he popped conspiratorially into the seat next to mine and anticipated to me that there was a good line about Auckland Libraries coming up.

The line was "I was recently outed by Auckland Libraries. Someone said, 'That took a long time!'"

I count on that being a reference to his having taken part in "Review Revue", the event I ran during this year's Pride Festival highlighting the world of gay fiction, which made me very proud. On that occasion, Ron read a very funny story he'd written about his experiences as a boy going to the library to look for books about sex, rather unsuccessfully, unless you count the Kinsey report a good read. But he loves Auckland Libraries, where I first met him ten years ago over books ... not about sex, but about Persian carpets. ("That's Ron Brownson. He knows everything about Persian carpets." a librarian had whispered to me as he approached.)

At the Art Gallery, Ron was there to talk about the great New Zealand artist Pat Hanly, about whom he also knows a lot, both as a personal friend and as an art curator (Senior curator for NZ and Pacific Art, to be exact).

He confided that when he chose the title of his talk, people didn't like it. But he insisted that it was right for Pat's art.  "It's for joy. It adores living."

He went on to recall the state of New Zealand art in the 1950s, when Pat Hanly left for Europe, as many artists were doing. It's easy not to realise that there were probably not 50 people in New Zealand working full time as visual artists. "There was not a community of artists here," Ron said dryly, adding that the Art Gallery did not show contemporary artwork until the 1960s.

Then, luckily for New Zealand art, in 1962, after he'd been sucking at the "European teat" (to borrow the term Hamish Keith used to him) for five years, being influenced by Chagall, Francis Bacon and Pop Art, Pat Hanly decided that he preferred the "blue antipodean freedom of New Zealand or Australia" and came back.

At that point, Rita Angus was a full-time artist, but Peter McIntyre was having to do family portraits to get by as an artist; neither were Toss Woollaston or Colin McCahon full-time artists. All did become full time artists after Pat's return and for Ron,  "I am convinced it was Pat who made that happen."

One of the changes Ron pointed out was how Pat's beach paintings from the 1960s were urban paintings: "These are not farmers we see."

Ron talked about the clear light, the bright colours. "I'll tell you the reason some people don't like his paintings. It's because they are about joy and happiness".

Pat's self-portrait: "It's seeing oneself as part of a very large world. The word for this is cosmic".

And then Ron read us Robert Sullivan's wonderful poem "Arohanui":

Big love, that's what it means.
Aroha Nunui means huge love.
Aroha Nunui Rawa means very huge love.
Aroha Nunui Rawa Ake means bigger very huge love.
Aroha Nunui Rawa Ake Tonu
          means bigger enduring very huge love.
Aroha Nunui Rawa Ake Tonu Atu
          means biggest enduring hugest love,
which are some of the lengths and times of our longing.

And closed by saying

"I'd like you all to think about Pat Hanly, how much he's meant for our city and for our cohorts."

A wonderful hour, graced by the presence of photographer Gil Hanly, Pat's wife, taking photos, reminiscing with Ron, appearing with Pat in old photos Ron showed, such as Marti Friedlander's famous portrait from 1969, now in the collection of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.


The Auckland Art Gallery holds 92 works by Pat Hanly which you can browse here,

Ron also showed us the beautiful new book Hanly from Ron Sang Publications, with an essay by Gregory O'Brien, plus contributions from John Coley, Quentin McFarlane, Barry Lett and Dick Ross, and Gil Hanly as photographic editor.

Ditulis Oleh : Karen Craig // 16:00


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