Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book learning

One person who intruded on just about every conversation you had with the artist Toss Woollaston was another artist, Paul Cezanne. To the day he made his last painting, Woollaston continued with the experiments Cezanne started back at the end of the nineteenth century. You could see as you drove with him in the landscape around Riwaka that Woollaston was seeing it through the eyes of the French artist in much the same way as some of us find it almost impossible not to see the hills of Otago ordered up by Colin McCahon. It’s still a surprise though when you are in front of one of Cezanne’s landscapes to see how capably Woollaston followed Cezanne’s structural reshaping of the landscape form (along with a good slap of South Seas rough and tough rawness) and to recall that for a good part of his painting career all this was done through photographs in books and magazines. It was quite a feat.

Images: top, Paul  Cezanne’s The Bay of Marseilles, seen from L’Estaque 1885 in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago and bottom, M T Woollaston’s 1986 painting, Tasman Bay