14 May 2024

From Here on the Ground, opening on Saturday 18 May, brings together works by twentieth-century New Zealand artists exploring urban, suburban and industrial landscapes.

From factories, railway stops and quake-damaged buildings to small town settlements, sprawling neighbourhoods and pensive night-time cityscapes, the paintings featuring in the latest exhibition to open at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū highlight many fascinating aspects of our art and social history, says curator Ken Hall.

From Here on the Ground includes works spanning sixty years from 1909 – a period that included two World Wars, the 1931 Napier earthquake and the early 1930s Great Depression.

“Among the most influential, Christopher Perkins’ Taranaki is a standout icon, which showed other artists new ways to respond to industrial forms and familiar landscape,” Mr Hall says.

“Gasworks sites – seemingly unlikely subject-matter – are portrayed in three works, one by Rita Angus and two by Doris Lusk, revealing the artists’ ability to create memorable works from initially unpromising material.”

There are also ‘interior landscapes’ focused on productivity and technological advancement, including Industry (1936) by John Weeks, Addington Workshops (c. 1940) by Louise Henderson and Oil and Grease (1952) by Ivy Fife, featuring a car mechanic’s workshop.

“Meanwhile, the realities of industrialisation loom large in a smoking factory chimney behind the old wooden houses in Juliet Peter’s Poorer Christchurch (c. 1938).

“Artists were sparking off what other artists were doing throughout this period,” Mr Hall says, “and the focus on human-modified spaces became a strong vein in New Zealand painting, which has been generally overlooked in the acknowledged history.”

From Here on the Ground is the first comprehensive investigation of this aspect of New Zealand art and features 70 works, both from the Gallery’s collection and loans from private and public lenders around Aotearoa.

“It is both fascinating and moving to see this history from the perspective of the artists who lived through a period of extraodinary change and were motivated put it down in paint with such honesty and invention. This is an exhibition with great appeal across the generations. We would encourage everyone to come along,” Mr Hall says.  

Opening at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū on Saturday 18 May with a curator talk, From Here on the Ground runs until 17 November 2024.