Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Weston Frizzell ask "Who are the real terrorists?"

When news of the arrest of Tuhoe activist Tame Iti under NZ's anti-terrorism laws reached Auckland pop art studio Weston Frizzell they were "really shocked, as were most people who knew Tame". There has been a long and artistically productive collaboration between the veteran Maori activist and the two artists who collaborate as Weston Frizzell, Mike Weston and Otis Frizzell.

With a series of four prints Weston and Frizzell are asking "Who are the real terrorists?". Weston says "The government were looking for a chance to flex their new draconian laws that had been created in response to US foreign policy bullying and Tame copped the full force of it."

Yeah Right by Otis Frizzell & Mike Weston

“Yeah Right” is a satirical adaptation of the popular Tui Beer advertising campaign that uses sarcasm in a humorous social commentary. In this artwork Mike Weston and Otis Frizzell present their version of Tui’s iconic ad, substituting an AK47 assault rifle for the usual perch branch. In Yeah Right, Tutu replaces both the Tui Beer branding, and also the social statement that is usually featured in the Tui beer billboard.

Dr Tutu is the name Tame Iti adopted when DJing on his various alternative radio slots. It features in the title of works Tututables, and Tututime 2004, and the logo featured on the painted canvas works exhibited. In Maori, (and most if not all Polynesian languages also) Tutu has a multiplicity of meanings such as ‘revolution’, ‘to meddle’, ‘arson’ and ‘sedition’. Tutu and the glyphic logo formed by the inverted numerals 22 (see below) have been recurring motifs in Weston Frizzell’s work since 2004. The message it conveys relates directly to the arrest of Tame Iti and other Tuhoe members under the terrorism suppression act. If it were spelled out it might read: “A terrorist revolution? Yeah, right.” Yeah Right is a fine art archival inkjet print on Hahnemule 100% cotton rag paper, edition of 180.


Pakehake by Mike Weston & Otis Frizzell

“I fully support the redesign of the flag,” Otis Frizzell told Wellington's Capital Times after Iti desecrated the NZ flag with a shotgun blast before the Waitangi Tribunal in 2005. “Whether it was right or wrong [Iti] was redesigning it in his own special way. The bullet holes in this work represent what Tame did to the flag." Edition of 180 prints, handprinted then signed and numbered.

The term Pakehake contains two possible meanings. In Maori the addition of the suffix ke transforms Pakeha into an expletive, a curse , an insult. Additionally Pake means flag and Hake means torn, thus the title ‘Torn Flag’. Pa Ke Ha Ke is Weston Frizzell's new version of the New Zealand ensign complete with bullet holes.

Dr Tutu Feat. Tame Iti Print by Weston Frizzell

The print "Dr Tutu featuring Tame Iti" is a combined image of four paintings from the 2004 exhibition at Mike Weston's "The Area" gallery. From left to right Whenua, Aotearoa Not for Sale, Horimoni and Tututime. Weston and Frizzell conceived an imaginary contemporary scenario where no colonisation had occurred and devised a number of graphic motifs and symbols such as you might find on road markings or signs or perhaps corporate branding responding to this notion.

Mike takes up the story "I was approached by an American couple who wanted to record a spoken word project with Tame. I made four pieces for an art / CD package. I figured it wasn’t going to be a big seller but had some potential to go the distance if it was leaned more in an art direction so I started jamming ideas for a special package CD which ultimately ended up being an art exhibition concept, with a CD attached to each artwork." Mike continues "I had an idea of illustrating Tame’s face in the style of the 4 square man, in a nod to Dick Frizzell's Grocer with Moko, so I called my good mate Otis Frizzell, who I’d been managing on and off for a few years, to do the illustration of that and he nailed it so well that I asked Otis to collaborate on the art side of it 50:50 with me. We found ourselves enthusiastically throwing paint around all over the place, jamming a lot of ideas, running them past Tame to make sure he was alright with it, and mostly he was and we made four series of canvasses each in editions of 22, presenting visual representations of each of the musical works [also available for download at Amplifier] on the CD."

The first time Otis had met the Tuhoe Maori activist was back in the 1990s. Frizzell had become friends with a group of hip hop artists, including DLT and Che-Fu during the time Frizzell was performing as half of hip hop duo MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave. DLT and Che-Fu would take international artists to a Marae on Tuhoe land, in the eastern North Island for what Otis describes as “a taste of true Maoriness - we’d give them a dose of old school Maori – it is pretty awesome to be a European and be invited in there.”

The translation of the Dr Tutu persona into visual forms such as the inverted "22" came about as Weston was using the "I Ching regularly as a kind of metaphysical guide and mirror during this time". Weston repeatedly found himself at "the 22nd hexagram passage, Pi (or Grace). The sentiment expressed in the Wilhelm translation “things should not unite abruptly or ruthlessly” seemed to fit the bicultural nature of the musical collaboration very well, and the coincident 22, resonated with the Dr Tutu name of the project. Of course there’s the additional Catch 22 reference. It stuck." Weston also says, "I noticed that the number 22 revolved 180 degrees created a glyphic logo that evoked a double Manaia, a Maori influenced Hindu Arabic form that in an abstract sense embodied many of the ideas of bicultural collaboration we were working with."

Frizzell and Weston started putting that symbol on artworks that spoke of those issues - beginning with the 88 canvasses in the Dr Tutu show. The inverted 22 also appears on prints outside of the series of works discussed in this article, such as Behave and Four Seasons Winter. Says Weston "I figured it would stick in peoples' minds because they would be wondering why it was upside down".

Urewera Print by Mike Weston & Otis Frizzell

The full line up of the "We are" letter paintings were prepared to show at Auckland's "Original Art Show" in 2010 when Weston Frizzell were the featured artist guests. In "Give it Back" the letters are arranged to spell the word "Urewera". This print is available in a tiny edition of just, you guessed it, 22 - the message regarding Tuhoe's land in the Urewera is to "Give it Back".

It is significant that Otis Frizzell's collaboration on the Dr Tutu project with Mike Weston established the new working relationship that evolved into the now high profile Weston Frizzell pop art brand.

Art doesn't happen in a socio-political vacuum, our visual culture is shaped by and responds to current events. We hope the art buying public will show their support for artists such as Weston and Frizzell who are responding thoughtfully and creatively to current events in Aotearoa/New Zealand by purchasing prints from the Weston Frizzell series of contemporary editions.

Friday, 17 February 2012

New series of vintage NZ posters released

More vintage posters from famous NZ graphic designers have been released for sale today by New Zealand Fine Prints.

Artistic flair, clever typography, arresting images and print-making skill was all demonstrated by graphic artists such as Marcus King and Leonard Mitchell, early 20th century graphic designers (or commercial artists as they would have been called at the time) designing posters for clients such as the NZ Tourist and Publicity Department. (I have previously written a brief history of how vintage posters in New Zealand fit in to the global story of poster art design and modern day collecting.)

The work of these designers is now recognised as classic imagery of the period by contemporary graphic artists. However with original vintage posters now scarce, expensive and sometimes in poor condition New Zealand Fine Prints has been working hard to compile a collection of re-issued vintage posters from New Zealand. We started with vintage ski-ing posters such as "Winter Sports at Tongariro National Park" and "Coronet Peak, Queenstown, New Zealand", then vintage travel and tourism posters for specific travel destinations such as "Mitre Peak, Milford Sound" or New Zealand generally, for example "NZ - for your next holiday". We are pleased to announce today you can now buy posters that advertise new destinations like Timaru along with a non ski-ing Mount Cook advertisement, the delightful "Mt Cook: For Summer Joys", that accompanies this article. Also check out new vintage botanical posters published by the Reuben Price Gallery such as the New Zealand Tree Fern (almost certainly the work of Marcus King) and the stunning Mountain Daisy by a (so far) unknown designer - let us know if you think you know whose work it is please in the comments below.

NZ Fine Prints' latest vintage series also focuses on transport and vintage advertisements for NZ companies, we loved the aviation poster "Go by Tasman Road" (advertising TEAL - Tasman Empire Airways Limited) re-published in 2011 by Capper Press and now have new shipping posters in stock today such as "The New Zealand Shipping Co Ltd - to SOUTHAMPTON and LONDON via PANAMA" which features a picture of the "Rangitata" (but also mentions the other ships on the line, the Rangitiki and Rangitane). Since the 1970s we have stocked prints of early New Zealand immigrant ships (for instance the majestic Lancashire Witch ship's portrait by marine artist Thomas Dutton) that are popular with genealogists researching their family history and we are sure that people whose families first came out on the NZ Shipping Company's "Royal Mail Line" "modern motor vessels" will enjoy owning a vintage poster featuring the boat their ancestors who emigrated to NZ came out on.

This vintage series also begins the project of re-printing classic advertisements from 20th century NZ that we think are the best examples of well known brands combined with superb graphic design. We think "New Zealand Apples: The Empire's Star Turn" (design based on a painting by Edward Cole) which features a young woman (possibly Zealandia from the Coat of Arms) wrapped in the New Zealand flag is the perfect retro decoration for the kitchen or dining room. Greggs "Club Coffee" poster from Dunedin that is "Packed in Fancy Canisters" is a genuine piece of NZ retro design should be popular with cafe owners too.

We'll see how sales of this latest series of vintage posters goes, hopefully there will continue to be a growing demand for a wider range of vintage New Zealand posters. Then we can begin work on the next vintage series as we have some exciting vintage themes and subjects that are as yet unexplored! Please let us know about your favourite vintage posters too so we can make sure that there aren't any examples of classic NZ design that we have missed in our series of poster re-prints over the past few years.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Introduction to Early Prints of New Zealand by D.G. and E.M. Ellis

One of the first books from the back catalogue of our publishing company, Capper Press, a publisher of NZ histories, early travel and exploration books (as well as prints) to be converted into digital format is the standard reference work on early NZ prints by the founders of Avon Fine Prints, Don & Enid Ellis. We have not yet decided on the best way to make this classic introduction to collecting antique NZ prints available again (it has been out of print for 20 years), but while we sort through the myriad of ebook formats it's been a pleasure re-reading the author's introduction to Early Prints, first published in 1978.

Introduction

Purpose
A print for the purposes of this work is defined as a commercially produced pictorial plate having no text on the verso, and no text other than title and imprint on the face. Illustrations as such are not included.

Date Limit
The date limit is 1875, except where the print concludes a series begun before 1875, or is thought of sufficient importance to warrant inclusion — a purely personal choice.

Index
The Index is the key to the whole work. Entry is made from all information on the face of the print, and items may be traced under artist, title, engraver, publisher, etc. Subject entries are nominal.

Portraits
Portraits, except as part of a series (e.g. the atlases to voyages) have generally been excluded, as they are already covered in Nan Kivell's Portraits ... (see Bibliography )

Natural History Plates
Natural history plates have been included in the form of a preliminary checklist only.

Artist's Prints
"Artist's Prints" are not included. Original etchings, engravings and litho-graphs produced by the artist himself in limited editions have been regarded as non-commercial.


Because photo-lithography, a purely mechanical reproduction process, had become common by the 1870's, the upper date limit was arbitrarily set at 1875. Some later prints have, however, been included: 1875, strictly enforced, would have omitted among others Barraud and Gully, which are the first names to come to many minds when New Zealand prints are mentioned.

Arrangement is basically chronological, except where adherence would break a series of related works: for example, Buller's History of the Birds of New Zealand is described in one section, though publication dates range from 1873 to 1905. It may be helpful to indicate the method of approach used to compile this checklist. Hocken's Bibliography of New Zealand Literature was consulted to identify all books mentioned as including illustrations, and these books were then examined. This meant that books in which illustrations were not specified could have been missed. Next, by courtesy of the Librarians, permission was obtained to examine both the picture and book collections of the Hocken and Alexander Turnbull Libraries. Finally, prints and books in a number of private collections and smaller institutions were examined. Most gaps were filled by this method, though there must still be omissions.

Purist cataloguing enters a print first under the final executor, i.e. an engraver is regarded as the interpreter and of- more importance than the artist. Nevertheless, it was decided to record the separately-issued print first under the artist's name where known, with additional entries for the engraver, etc. Prints in books are fully described in the entry under author and title of the book. In all cases the index is the quick reference key.

The entries show as closely as possible the wording which appears on the print: typographical limitations have precluded the use of dipthongs and superior letters. Oblique lines indicate line endings. Emendations have been kept to a minimum, and are indicated by the use of square brackets. Sizes in centimetres give height before width.

The word print is used as a generic term, and is to be understood as meaning the particular item under discussion at any time. Because of the difficulty of finding a single word to describe the craftsmen producing blocks or plates by various methods, the word engraver applies, regardless of whether the person concerned was engraver, woodcutter, lithographer, aquatinter, or etcher. Notes on artists, engravers, etc. have been included where possible, and this additional information is indicated in the index by the use of bold type for the reference number. Additional notes have been included for the author, as distinct from the artist, for several books: insight into the reason for the use of particular views may depend on knowledge of who wrote the book and why it was written.

It is often impossible to assign a print to a particular artist or engraver: during the nineteenth century it was usual for such firms as Day & Haghe, Smith Elder, and Hullmandel, to employ numerous engravers, several men frequently working on a set of plates for one book. The section at the end of the book is to be regarded as a preliminary checklist only for the natural history plates of New Zealand interest. The decision to include scientific plates at all was made reluctantly in view of the authors' lack of competence in these fields. Yet a dividing line was difficult to draw when such items as Buller's Birds, and Featon, Hetley and Harris' books on New Zealand flowers had clearly to be included. It is to be hoped that someone with the necessary training to identify New Zealand flora and fauna will take up the task at this point.

No compilation of this nature is the work of one person alone, and thanks are due to many. Whilst it must necessarily be an invidious act to single some persons out, special thanks are due to the Librarian and Staff of the Alexander Turnbull Library; Mr M. G. Hitchings of the Hocken Library, University of Otago, and his Staff; Miss P. French, Auckland Public Library; Miss Suzanne Mourot, Mitchell Library, Sydney; Sir Alister and Lady Mcintosh, and, above all, to Mr A. A. St. C. M. Murray-Oliver, who, in addition to locating rare material and giving advice over a long period, checked the final manuscript and made many valuable suggestions incorporated in the final text. The painstaking care and skill of the compositor and printer deserve specific mention. Without the help, information, and constant encouragement of these people, this book could never have been written.

D. G. and E. M. Ellis Christchurch

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Lester Hall prints now in stock


Lester HallLester Hall is one of NZ's most politically aware artists. Hall first systematically investigated the themes of Maori/Pakeha relations and history in his early 2000s "Hoaries and Whities" series but it is his development of these ideas into his "Aoteroaland" series that has seen him become one of the highest profile contemporary printmakers in NZ.

In Aotearoaland, Lester says, "a "third space" is created, outside the dogmatic stupidity and hypocrisy of exclusively Maori or Euro frameworks and a blended outcome is searched for. Not sameness but unity and identity. I believe the idea of separate development is outrageous controlling of outcome for individuals who otherwise would make fine lives for themselves in a culturally hybrid frame of reference." Hall thinks that we have been slack in mining our own countries rich historical past for heros and and legends, chiefs such as Hongi Hika who was a "master strategist, a highly intelligent man, a brilliant commander, a desperado…it's exciting real Boys Own adventure stuff. But were we told stories about him? No, we were told stories about Geronimo and General Custer" (interview with the Northern Advocate Feb 2010).

Miss Kiwiana by Lester HallHe has been accurately described by Northland's Stingray magazine as an "artist provocateur", they quoted Hall saying "The old myths of popular New Zealand history need to be aired and flung out as silly and not realistic". He says "The artworks are my map into my subconscious and back out through the historical narrative that lies just beneath the veneer of our daily life."

Lester Hall's prints have caused controversy over the use of Maori images (similar to the debate about Goldie paintings being reproduced as prints - see our previous article on the ongoing Goldie prints controversy) and exhibitions have attracted letters of complaint and accusations of being offensive. However Hall's art is not always shocking or provocative, as he says he "sometimes paints tough ideas in pretty colours in an attempt to bring more and more Pakeha Kiwis especially, to the scary conversation of who we all are." Hall's kiwiana prints like the popular "Miss Kiwiana" are much lighter in tone than some of his more radical artworks.

Hall paints and makes prints from his house/studio in the Far North, a large corrugated iron shed with an apartment like interior that has featured in interior design magazines.