New life breathed into ideas of visionary Kiwi artist

November 11, 2016

New life breathed into ideas of visionary Kiwi artist

Janie van Woerden and Doris de Pont at the Gus Fisher Gallery. Photo: John-Michael Swannix

From the moment you walk into the Gus Fisher Gallery your senses are stimulated.

The colours and tones strike the eye, a medieval perfume wafts throughout and a constant hum of human breathing can be heard – creating an intimate atmosphere.

It’s all part of the multi-sensory experience offered by The Intellectual Fashion Show, which is based on the work of the late artist June Black, from a 1959 exhibition of the same name.

Ms Black was a highly original painter and ceramicist. She exhibited mainly during the '50s and '60s, and her work was highly influenced by French philosophy, conceptualism, and theatre of the absurd.

In her 1959 show, Ms Black explored ideas around how people use fashion to identify and build narratives about themselves. Throughout her life she produced paintings, ceramic wall hangings and writing to that end.

Fashion historian Doris de Pont said the current exhibition was about bringing that artwork to life.

“This exhibition is based on metaphorical costumes that have never been realised as real objects, they have never been physical until now.”

Ms de Pont is the founder of the New Zealand Fashion Museum. She is co-curating the exhibition with antiques dealer and artist Sheridan Keith Ms Black’s daughter – and Janie van Woerden, whose master’s thesis included a study of Ms Black’s work.

Ms van Woerden said the exhibition explores Ms Black’s idea of how clothes, perfume and make-up can transform the way a person sees themselves and is viewed by others.

“[Ms Black] framed fashion as an armour to protect the self from the rigours of daily life, social hypocrisy and cultural expectations,” she said.

The exhibition is a collaboration of works from more than 50 artists and designers. They include established names such as Liz Findlay of Zambesi, WORLD, Otago Polytechnic fashion academic Margo Barton, jeweller Fran Allison, artists Peter Madden and Louise Rive, as well as photographer and stylist Karen Inderbitzen-Waller.

“We invited a whole lot of creatives: photographers, poets, fashion designers, sculptors, to interpret imagined costumes and to make them manifest, make them real,” said Ms van Woerden.

The Intellectual Fashion Show is being held at the Gus Fisher Gallery on Auckland’s Shortland Street from now until November 5. Entry is free.

Co-curators Doris de Pont and Janie van Woerden gave
Te Waha Nui reporter John-Michael Swannix a tour of the different experiences on offer. Video: John-Michael Swannix

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