JOHN BLACKBURN + MARIAN FOUNTAIN
JOHN BLACKBURN + MARIAN FOUNTAIN
11 - 23 February 2020
The Paris based New Zealand artist Marian Fountain who recently created a memorial to the Wellington Quarry Museum at Arras has opened a new exhibition at Artis Gallery.
The work in the exhibition all relate to notions of the beginnings of life and ideas. She sees and explores connections between the beginnings of human life, plant life and the birth of ideas.
Also showing at the gallery is John Blackburn whose works show the artist grappling with approaches to juxtaposing texture, colour, forms and surface. The paintings which merge architecture, landscape and atmosphere, create works which hint at subtle narratives and environments.
They range from the almost ethereal “White Solitude” ($3500) to the boisterous “Sunset Harmony” ($26,000) Blackburn employs a limited number of shapes or forms some of which are variations on the basic shapes of triangle, circle and square, but mainly he use a simple curved shape which can be read as a cup, a hill or even some animal shell or skin.
Returning from London for his 11th exhibition at ARTIS Gallery, it is both apposite and convenient to suggest that John Blackburn’s career has spanned parallel paths both in New Zealand & Britain over the last six decades.
John Blackburn’s extraordinary career began in Auckland in the summer of 1959-60 when he was included in an exhibition, curated by Colin McCahon, at the Auckland City Art Gallery. McCahon had been impressed by what at the time were Blackburn’s boldly avant-garde works – the flamed paint surfaces of his ‘Encaustic Series’. This series was later revisited by Blackburn in 2018/19 and two works from this series is included in this exhibition.
Blackburn returned to England in 1961 and exhibited his work at Woodstock Gallery, London. Blackburn’s lyrical abstract paintings of simple, reduced forms in limited pure, unmixed colours, could easily be appreciated in the context of the British art scene at that time.
Blackburn took a hiatus from the artworld during the 1970s & 80s to focus on family life and the launch of a successful business in 1979. It was the chance discovery of some of Blackburn’s works acquired in the 1960s by the renowned collector, Jim Ede for his house, Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, that led to renewed interest in the artist.
Blackburn was re-launched back into the art world with a full-scale retrospective exhibition at Folkstone Metropole Galleries in 2006, followed by an exhibition at the prestigious Mayfair gallery of Osbourne Samuel in London. A major exhibition in New Zealand followed at ARTIS Gallery, Auckland, in 2009.
Blackburn’s work reveals a remarkably consistent vision and approach. The paintings in this exhibition are unified, both individually and collectively, by the artist’s repertoire of signature forms and finishes. His investigation of the seemingly limitless possibilities of painterly effects, add a sense of lightness and deftness to the works.
Returning from Paris to New Zealand for her exhibition at ARTIS in February, ‘Parallel’ is an appropriate word to express Marian Fountain’s life and expression. This is perhaps not surprising, having lived in Europe since 1984 and in Paris since 1991.
Fountain melds the rich diversity of European art, history and culture with her New Zealand roots and the cultures of the Pacific, to create works that are compelling and original. Exploring her own ideas of conflict, change and growth, her works demonstrate an environmental awareness and concern for the future of humankind.
Born in New Zealand in 1960, Fountain studied bronze casting while studying at Elam School of Fine Arts (1979 – 1983). In 1984 she received a major travel grant from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council and travelled initially to Morocco and France to observe foundry practice, then to London where she was an assistant at the Royal College of Art. She then moved to Italy and studied at the Scuola della Mediglia (Rome Mint).
In 2017 Fountain was commissioned to create a memorial at the Wellington Quarry Museum in Arras, France to recognise the work of over a 1000 New Zealand tunnelers in the Arras quarries during the First World War.
Fountain has exhibited at the British Museum, The National Gallery of Scotland, the Museo Archeologico of Milan, York Museum and the French Mint. Her work has been displayed at the New Zealand Embassy in Paris and in London and are held in the British Museum and Smithsonian Museum collections. She exhibits regularly in Europe, and has kept a continuous presence in the New Zealand art world.
Many of Marian’s sculptures instill duality as though there are two sculptures in one – turn them around and you might find a surprise, a complementary form to deepen the contemplation of what it is to be alive.