|Art - New Zealand|
|Realisation Price||32,000.00 NZD|
Webb's / Works of Art - 07/08/2019 / Art / Lot 35
(12AD) PETER SIDDELL Foundation for the Blind Building n\1988 oil on canvas signed and dated in brushpoint lower left 600mm x 900mm PROVENANCE Michael Dunn has described how the 1930s and 40s saw a “widening acceptance” of modernist approaches to painting in New Zealand, as awareness of new movements percolated through from Europe. However, at this stage local understanding of these new ‘–isms’ produced little in the way of radical developments. Instead, New Zealand painting was dominated by a local version of American regionalism, as understood through reproductions of work by such artists as Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton. In response, New Zealanders Rita Angus (1908- 1970), William Sutton (1917-2000) and Russell Clark (1905-1966) produced realist depictions of scenes typical of small-town and rural life. By the mid-1950s the impetus behind this activity had become exhausted, but the following decade saw a revival of interest in regionalism. This was due to the emergence of a new generation of realist painters, in particular Don Binney (1940- 2012), Michael Smither (b. 1939), Robin White (b. 1946) and, later, Peter Siddell (1935-2011), Glenda Randerson (b. 1949) and Graham Sydney (b. 1948).1 Peter Siddell grew up in Auckland’s inner suburb of Grey Lynn, and left school to become an electrician, later switching to primary school teaching. He became a full-time artist following the commercial success of his first solo exhibition in 1973, at Moller’s Gallery on Auckland’s Karangahape Road. He quickly established a reputation for his highly individual and carefully crafted urban landscapes, inspired by Auckland’s harbour, landforms, and colonial and Edwardian architecture. In particular, his metropolitan views were characterised by suburbs of wooden villas, with their typically white-painted weatherboards and red corrugated-iron roofs. Siddell suggested he might be classified as an “imaginary realist”. His was a uniquely personal view; while his subject was obviously and identifiably Auckland, it was in fact nowhere in particular, and owed as much to memory and imagination as it did to observation. As defined by Roger Blackley, closer inspection reveals Siddell’s “immaculate representation” to be a “scrambled simulacrum”.2 Appearing to be frozen in time, these were serenely becalmed visions of a city also strangely devoid of people, traffic and telegraph poles. While there was popular support for this new regional realism, its emergence in this country coincided with the now growing acceptance of more modernist approaches, a belated response to such European movements as post-impressionism, cubism and expressionism. This alternative development was exemplified by the work of Colin McCahon (1919-1987), whose highly personal and generally landscape-based images drew from a wide range of influences, among them American abstractionism and Japanese scroll painting. By comparison, the type of realism championed by Siddell and others can be seen as moving in a more conservative direction. It offered a local equivalent to the popular style most famously associated with American Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), admired for his meticulous rendering of quiet subjects and apparent ability to evoke the personality and life of inanimate objects. In his imagined cityscapes, Siddell avoided any suggestion of narrative. While there may appear to be nothing going on here, the viewer’s eye is encouraged to wander, past white picket fences and through windows for a sense of the lives within these ubiquitous villas. If such paintings had a precedent in this country, a likely candidate is the c.1939 watercolour by Russell Clark (1905-1966), a (busy) street scene in a typical New Zealand town. These urban views might also be seen as part of the tradition that included American Edward Hopper (1882-1967), although his concern was not human activity – or the lack of it – but rather the loneliness and vacuity of the big city. Accentuated by their stillness, Siddell’s uninhabited cityscapes evoke a sense of nostalgia, perhaps a longing for a less complicated – and traffic-free – past. They are also likely to reflect the artist’s own memories of early-morning Auckland as a delivery boy. This looking back was a feature of the British neo-romantic painters of the 1930s, although their concern was for a nation’s heritage threatened by war. Siddell may not have considered Auckland to be at risk, although his inclusion of long shadows could suggest an arcadian twilight. However, this was a tumultuous time for the Queen City’s architectural fabric, and Siddell also rose to the challenge of acknowledging the expansive mirror-glazed façades that began dominating corporate Auckland in the 1980s. In his 1988 painting , Siddell places the 1909 red-brick Gothic Revival landmark in Parnell in the right foreground. The other half of the canvas is dominated by one of Auckland’s many volcanic cones, pristine apart from its pre-European terracing and the villas which now cling to its desirable northern slopes. Beyond the confines of the metropolis, (1996) also depicts a well-known building, while a cluster of kauri frames a view across the Titirangi ridge and Waitakere Ranges towards another area of personal interest to the artist, Auckland’s west coast. Four years earlier his series of five magnificent sweeping panels of the Karekare cliffs were included in the Auckland Art Gallery’s 1992 exhibition, 1841-1991. In his youth Siddell had been a keen tramper and mountaineer, and in 2000, after a family trip to the south and west coasts of the South Island, he reworked those parts of the country in his studio. As well as his own versions of some of this country’s most recognisable landscapes, such as Milford Sound and Lake Wakatipu, he dealt to the less well-known Gillespies Beach, west of Fox Glacier. This was the likely location of his (2002), a panorama capturing the many changing landforms extending from sea-level to the snow- capped peak of the nation’s highest mountain. Further, it may have been the same breathtaking sight Abel Tasman had beheld almost exactly 360 years earlier, on 13 December 1642, when he described this as a “land uplifted high”. In 2008, in recognition of his services to art, Peter Siddell became a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. The following year that order was redesignated and he became only the second New Zealand artist to be knighted – after Sir Toss Woollaston in 1979.