Kauri trees

Kauri trees, 1954, oil on canvas, 775 x 883 mm. Collection of Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago, courtesy McCahon Research and Publication Trust. 

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Kauri, 1953, oil on cardboard, 516 x 646 mm. Collection of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, courtesy McCahon Research and Publication Trust.

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Séraphine Pick, Tethered, 2018, oil on canvas, 2000 x 1600mm. Courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett, Auckland

Nicola Farquhar

Artist, McCahon House Alumni 2018

Looking back at me like two big compound eyes, I remember these paintings hung side by side in the Freedom and Structure exhibition at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. 
 
The McCahon archive has many Kauri paintings and drawings from the same period, with these circle-within-circle forms. In these works there is a strange oval head with little circles running around the top like bubbles, rocks, or curls. There are women too; sleepy with big circle breasts and stomachs. This makes me think of Huxley’s Brave New World, in which the character called Lenina questions if she is pneumatic. I had to look pneumatic up in the dictionary. How can a woman be pneumatic? I puzzled over this a lot and felt that there was something I should understand here, being a woman myself.  
 
I have my own feelings for circles, they hold so many enigmatic references: eyes, celestial bodies, portals, ovaries, cells…   
 
Abbi Curtis writes that nineteenth century astronomer Percival Lowell thought he saw cultivated canals on Mars (Life on Mars!). But actually he was looking at the pattern of blood vessels at the back of his own eye. His mistake is not without meaning; viewed microscopically our bodies are bewitchingly cosmic. 
 
Pictured here also is a work by Séraphine Pick from 2018. In this painting, Séraphine’s lemon-coloured woman is dancing nude by herself in a no-space with goggles on, wires connecting her to somewhere or something. I love her exuberant sketchy freshness. She is a suggestion for our future-selves: dancing, naked, luminescent - tuned in to a secret space outside her frame. 

CONNECTING CULTURAL LEGACY WITH CONTEMPORARY PRACTICE

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