Wednesday, February 28, 2007

House and garden

The Colin McCahon house in French Bay is worth a visit. The house is tiny and shows starkly the primitive living conditions of an isolated bach of the 1950s. OK for a Summer holiday but life there in winter must have been tough. Tin can toilet and, downstairs crammed into a small three-walled basement area that opened straight onto the bush, Stalag 17 bunk beds for the kids. You can feel a commitment to Spartan simplicity and good health through fresh-air. It’s interesting to remember that at the time the McChons lived in this hardy style, Health Camp fever was at its height in a New Zealand that believed that children should be indoors as little as possible. No one had to tell the McCahon kids to get out of their bedroom to go outside and play, they were already there. As a side bar: maybe we should try and persuade Te Papa to lay the Northland panels out on the deck again (or platform terrace as Charles Brasch grandly called it), just for an afternoon. What a sight that would be!

Looming over the McCahon ‘bach’ is a large, architect-designed house that’s straight from the pages of Urbis magazine. High quality materials, artful views and bush bridges. It’s a purpose-built studio and accommodation for an artist in residence.

The idea of what an artist needs for work and shelter has sure come a long, long way.

The first resident was Judy Millar who will be followed in March by Andrew McLeod for three months. CNZ will no doubt be shocked to hear the selectors for the next resident are happy to be known and are listed on the McCahon House web site. They are Erika Congreve, John Daly-Peoples, Dick Frizzell, Michael Dunn and James Wallace.
Images: Top left, McCahon house. Right, children’s bedroom. Bottom: McCahon Arts residency