In My Life

Art to me is everything. The art of cooking, the art of music, the art of writing, the art of speech and of listening, the art of the moving picture. All art has meaning. All art matters.


Human beings making art is the salt and pepper to our lives and some of the most moving art, the best seasoning I’ve ever tasted has been the art of the New Zealand painter and their paintings. I feel lucky to have been born when I was. And that’s not just because of The Beatles ( well, not quite ). From the middle of the 20th century the artists of this country have done us proud. They are the Paint Blacks.


My father Jerry had a natural eye. He always bought an image, never just a name. He was blessed that way and I was blessed to have been brought up in his house. A house of many colours. I was also blessed with having been brought up on my mother’s cooking. Doubly blessed.


Toss Woollaston Moana, 1964 Oil on board 66 x 90cm
Estimate $25,000 – 35,000

My first memory of pictures in our family home were classic ‘cover versions’. Van Gogh’s Cafe Terrace At Night by the front door, his Almond Blossom in the hallway. Michelangelo’s Madonna with Child above the green telephone by the kitchen door and, of course a heavy gold framed mirror hanging over the fireplace. A young boy notices these things.


But soon enough along came the burnt orange motorway landscapes of Robert Ellis (from the air he had been an RAF pilot), the vigorously slurped paint of Toss Woollaston as he splashed the rivers and mountains onto the canvases to capture the Wild West Coast of Jerry’s upbringing.


Dear Von was no slouch either. It was her eye that caught Dick Frizzell’s Fabricant Société Anonyme Énigme and pinned it up onto the glossy white painted brickwork of the kitchen wall. Pre-vogue. International. Stunning!


Jacqueline Fahey Luncheon on the Grass Oil on canvas 122 x 166cm Estimate $35,000 – 45,000


Of all the works that hung around the family’s eyes and ears over the years Jacqueline Fahey’s Luncheon on the Grass got the lion’s share of the visitors’ comments. That and Michael Illingworth’s A Calvary for Jim. Mind you an awful lot of those visitors were teenage boys and girls so no surprise there.


I will never forget one afternoon in 1972, sitting among these wonderful pictures in the gallery like living room of the middle terrace house at the top Parnell Road as my brother Michael, with four friends, tried out their new band on me. Split Enz was born. I was the one single audient to their very first performance. Just those paintings and me. As Black Adder might have said, I’ve still got the preliminary sketch right here in my head. There amongst all the beautiful paintings in my life.


Words: Geoffrey Chunn
Featured image: 
Michael Illingworth A Calvary for Jim, 1970 Oil on canvas 41 x 31cm Estimate $50,000 – 75,000

Catalogue and viewing times fineartauction.co.nz
Auction on view daily at International Art Centre
From 7 August | 202 Parnell Rd, Auckland | 09 379 4010