Friday, November 13, 2015

Takes two to tango

It’s not too often that you walk into a public art museum and experience a bout of hyperkulturemia #stendhalsyndrome. Yet in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery last week we saw two very familiar paintings in an unexpected juxtaposition of great personal meaning. One was Julian Dashper’s large painting Rural Sheraton. As we'd lent this painting to the Gallery ourselves there were no surprises there (although we were pleased to see it hanging again) but it was the company it was keeping that caused the reaction. The last time we saw Colin McCahon’s Series D (Ahipara) it was hanging on the far wall of the smaller room at Peter McLeavey’s Gallery in Wellington. That was over 40 years ago. Back then we had placed a hopeful second option on it, but it was never going to happen. As far as we know it went overseas with its new owner who many years later put it on loan to Dunedin. 

To see these two works together showed just what public art museums can do that is so particular to them: putting great things together to create new ways of seeing and thinking. The chances that Julian’s painting would ever sit next to this great McCahon were never high and if it were to happen it could only ever be via a public collection. In a couple of weeks at Wellington's City Gallery there's going to be another pairing of McCahon and Dashper in another public institution, Wellington's City Gallery. This one will be something that Julian always hoped would happen: his Here I was given alongside Colin McCahon’s Here I give thanks to Mondrian. Now that is going to be something to see.

Images: Left  Colin McCahon’s Series D (Ahipara) and right Julian Dashper's Rural Sheraton at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery