Friday, August 29, 2014

Watching paint dry

Anyone who was at art school in the sixties will remember the miracle of acrylic paint. Rather than waiting hours or even weeks for the layers of your masterpiece in oil to dry, you could barge on and get the thing done in a day. There were a few ways of doing this - by mixing raw pigment with ‘medium’ (a sort of watered down PVA glue) or, if you had cash, by buying very pricey tubes of a paint (obviously named in a rush of sixties marketing genius) called Liquitex. You also had the option of the enamel based house paints like Solpah, which were cheap and still dried a lot faster than artist’s oil paint. House paint as an art material has a noble lineage. One such product known as Ripolin was used by Picasso back in 1931 for The red armchair and in the next decade Sidney Nolan painted his Ned Kelly series in this material.

OK, kinda specialist but if you want to follow up on how NZ painters came to these new materials you need to get to the Auckland Art Gallery. In another of the small focused exhibitions that seem to be becoming a specialty, Sarah Hillary presents a fascinating perspective on post war painting through a conservator’s eye. Included are great art production icons like Ralph Hotere’s spray gun as well as paint cans, tubes and charts, but also more personal artifacts including a small paint brush used by Don Peebles with an equally discreet cloth for wiping off mistakes or brush cleaning. There is also a pocket notebook of Colin McCahon with notes and diagrams to decipher. We love this sort of stuff although it's has been out of fashion in art museums for quite a while now. Nice to see you back on board, ephemera. Missed you.

Images: left, Don Peebles brush and a tin of Solpah paint. Right a 1949 Australian advert for one of McCahon's favourite house paints Solpah