Recently we have had reason to be grateful for the energy of public art galleries in organising touring exhibitions of New Zealand art. Articles on Rudolf Gopas and Gordon Walters in the last issue of Art New Zealand were occasioned by shows mounted by the Govett-Brewster and Auckland City Art Galleries. Since that issue appeared, we have learnt of the death of Gopas. In retrospect, Michael Dunn's comment that the artist's later work revealed 'a social conscience and moral philosophy rare in New Zealand art' appears as a fitting testimonial to one of the most influential figures in contemporary New Zealand painting.
In the present issue Wystan Curnow's Seven Painters / The Eighties - The Politics of Abstraction takes as pretext a touring exhibition organised by the Sarjeant Gallery. The artists are loosely linked in their stylistic aims, under the aegis of expatriate Max Gimblett, and are seen with him on the cover.
Of the seven, Richard Killeen, Mervyn Williams and Ian Scott are represented also in the second of the Auckland City Art Gallery's Aspects of New Zealand Art exhibition - The Grid. Chris Parr, in his article on this exhibition, explains how the various artists have created 'ingenious and subtle variations' stemming from the innate tension that this form presents.
Falling, if you like, into Curnow's category of 'expressive realism', the involved and. personal iconography of Nigel Brown is analysed by Warwick Brown in a piece that borrows its title from that of Nigel Brown's show Gains and Losses.
Sheridan Keith, talking to Don Binney, brings out aspects of this painter's work over the last two decades, ranging from some technical considerations to Binney's inseparable involvement with the environmental issue.
May Smith is mainly known for her 1941 painting, Characterisation in Colour. Peter Shaw looks at other works in tracing the career of this neglected artist from her beginnings at Elam in the nineteen-twenties through the European years to her final establishment in Coromandel.
May Smith returned to New Zealand in 1938: Patrick Hayman arrived in this country in 1937 and spent over a decade here. Anne Kirker traces the Antipodean connections of an artist who manages to mould verbal and visual imagery into an eloquent and personal style.
To many, the artists of the Seven Painters and Grid exhibitions may represent the outer limits of the 'avant-garde' in New Zealand terms. Francis Pound, in his essay on J.M. Nairn, gives us a glimpse of 'revolutionary' stirrings in the otherwise cosy colonial world of the eighteen-nineties.
Finally, there appears a group of articles closer to the reality of the contemporary working artist: Ian McMillan sketches in a short background to the Department of Labour's Artwork scheme; Brett Riley offers a short piece on Christchurch's major dealer gallery, the Brooke/Gifford; and John Hurrell writes on performance art at the recent Anzart conference in Hobart.