Well, Tom has asked for an article on ‘Creativity in the Bay’. Let’s be straight up here – I’m no authority on anything and I barely ever leave my shed – so I’m only going to write about who and what I know first-hand … my personal, perverted perspective, on what appears to be happening in and about the fringes of my strange, introverted world … A few words about a mere handful of my clever friends … Does that interest you? Read on, McDuff …

Jo Blogg

(It’s not your perfect legs, or your collection of collections)

The most creative person I know is the amazing artist Jo Blogg. On Friday 18 October, her third solo show Pins & Needles opened to a large and enthusiastic crowd at the Hastings City Art Gallery (HCAG).

I have had the pleasure of watching this artist create this remarkable body of work, over an intense nine month gestation and find it very interesting how she develops a concept both intuitively and intellectually, quite aside from her painstakingly obsessive, physical practice.

The creative process for her, usually begins years before the seed idea is ever germinated. Jo Blogg is a natural born collector. For this show, she has op-shopped and hoarded every coloured plastic knitting needle in the province, made a lucky bid on 100 glass rolling pins she stumbled on at the local auction, wheedled a set of battered, past their use-by, ten-pin bowling skittles, and haggled a huge collection of second hand tapestries, and thousands of steel pins into her studio. I am frankly always bewildered as to how she will eventually hone a ‘pile of old tat’ into a beautiful enigmatic artwork, but am no longer surprised when she does.

The tiniest embryo of an idea takes hold somewhere in her constant, unstoppable mind-blender, and is turned inside-out day and night until it begins to grow into a concept she feels compelled to develop. The mental gymnastics continue constantly while she fills her immaculate work books with drawings, quotes, poems, articles and photographs; anything that somehow relates, however tangentially, to the ethos of the idea she has drawn with her private bucket from the cosmic well. Once the concept gels, there is a widened search for a particular ‘found object’ she has realised to be crucial to the plot. For this she employs ‘The Thing’.

‘The Thing’ is her term for what is surely a cosmic principle of manifestation. She applies it without prejudice to find anything she needs. A tartan coat or a lime green pair of stilettos, tools or utensils to achieve a specific task, some exotic ingredient for a West Indian curry, objects of any denomination to complement and complete her artistic vision. She will look up from a magazine she is skimming or a song lyric she is ignoring and say “That’s what I need – bakerlite swizzle sticks with pineapple knobs on!… green ones!…..a hundred of them!”, and lo and behold, sometime in the next month on TradeMe or at some obscure garage sale, there they will be – exactly what she has envisioned. It is uncanny to the point of mystical and a constant reminder of the plasticity of the universal fabric which will eventually fill any matrix imagined by a strong unwavering mind, with the real thing.

Jo Blogg is physically and mentally incapable of any version of stillness. After a full days work painting a few thousand dots, she relaxes at night watching telly or a movie. This seems to slow her mind down a bit – still cruising, only in the left lane, but her hands are still at work. She is a constant knitter and crocheter, endlessly producing garments, blankets and tapestries in her downtime. She demolishes daily, the facetious crack by ‘Art Bitch’ Douglas Loyd Jenkins about local artists being too preoccupied with the weather and our cushy local lifestyle, to produce work of any consequence. To be fair to Douglas he probably knows this and commissioned Jo to decorate the glass partitions, dividing the offices of the new MTG. As you can imagine, this cut viciously into her sunbathing schedule but somehow she found the time to make the work – I suspect she employed ‘The Thing’.

Pins & Needles

One day she showed me an old Chinese proverb she had come across on the internet.

“An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time or circumstance. The thread may strech or tangle but will never break.”

This was the catalyst for the show – following this thread, she eventually discovered exactly how all the instinctively gathered ‘pins & needles’ related material, was bound together.

She turned her ten retired bowling-pins into Knitting Nancies, a set of huge French knitting dolls each with its own ten-metres of red French knitting (the red thread). She painted the hundred glass rolling pins (seven layers of paint each) with patronising, irritating or abusive terms for women and titled it In Your Opinion. The research for this left her both staggered and amused at the seemingly endless lexicon for females, while the bloke’s equivalent petered out in the 20s.

Using smoke and mirrors, she formed the 5,000 plastic knitting needles into a huge 20,000 piece ‘iris like’ mandala, and mustered the hundred found tapestries into a beautiful naive cloud titled A Stitch In Time. Adding to these large pieces with Pin Tins, a small set of ten classic pale blue pin-tins, each adorned with exquisite relief sculptures, constructed with hundreds of stainless steel pins, she had a stunning and provocative set of works.

The whole thing has come together in a cohesive unit designed in her mind to fit the actual space at the HCAG and accompanied by a gorgeous catalogue with a wonderful insightful, no-art-speak-bullshit essay by international art writer Dr Bille Lythberg who totally ‘gets it’! Don’t miss this show – Hawkes Bay is home to a remarkably original female artist and the world awaits.Why does she get the biggest rave here? Because I can’t say enough about her work and she also has hot legs.

Tony Backhouse

(Where are the newspaper taxis?)

One of my oldest, dearest friends and a very welcome new addition to the neighbourhood, Tony Backhouse, a great singer, and brilliant musician, arranger and composer, has moved here with his wife Marianne, a fashion designer and singer. What a creative boost to Napier music they will prove to be – they have already started a Community Choir.

While he still travels the world teaching rapturously received workshops in the ‘Black Gospel’ tradition, and arranging vocals for recording artists (“He is simply one of the best in the world!” – Tim Finn), Backhouse is here to concentrate on recording in his rambling home studio on the Hill.

A prolific songwriter and composer, Tony has a catalogue of wonderful songs that reflect influences from James Brown to David Bowie, The Temptations to The Beatles, and Elvis to The Dixie Humming Birds. He is a consummate composer who has written piano music that assertively flirts with Eric Satie, experimental pieces using field recordings like ‘Where Are The Newspaper Taxis?’ which features a rusty swinging gate, and absurdly beautiful operatic works such as ‘Where Is My Blue Snorkel?’ for which the libretto is in German. I have been constantly surprised and delighted by this man’s astounding creativity and humour for nearly forty years.

We have been on the road together in bands with Peter Dasent including Les Hots, The Living Hamsters, Spats, The Crocodiles, and Bend (thankfully what goes on the road stays on the road), and are currently completing a three album set of Bend recordings, some 25 years in the making. Tony is also involved playing bass and singing with me, Andy Gladstone and Nicole Taylor, in our fabulous local groove unit No Engine. Oh did I forget to mention we will be playing 20 original songs at the Cabana on Dec 20th?

Leanne & Brian Culy

(I’m not going home I’m having too much fun!)

After a year struggling with a small gallery/shop in their garage at Ballquidder Rd, the Culys have moved their fabulous ‘Homebase’ brand to a pop-up shop in Ponsonby Rd – which word has it, is “going off!”

The demographic of groovy homemakers who get that Leanne’s eclectic kiwi bach aesthetic can work in any environment – from up-tight minimalist to cluttered kitsch, must be bigger in Auckland simply because there are more people, but I suspect the neighbourhood of funky shops she is nestled in, Wunderkammer, Real Time, Flotsam & Jetsam, Minnie Cooper etc probably helps.

It is good to see their creative hotpot starting to earn them a living. All I hope is that they manage to work the Auckland retail scene to their advantage and keep living and designing in ‘the Bay’. Homebase’s success might enable Brian to get back to his stunning ‘art-photography’ practice and kick some more arse, not to mention collaborate with me to make some beautiful audiovisual works for my music. Fingers crossed.

Martin Poppelwell

(Somebody had too much to think!)

Martin is frankly a creative genius (and that is not a term I ever bandy about) so it is always interesting to see how he will take the exquisite black line he has been blessed with and convolute or simplify it into some fresh version of his endlessly obfuscated cartoon.

The question is, will he follow the line into some dangerously brave new world where there is no ladder to get into the tree, no grid system keeping the planets in orbit, and the internal nebular structure remains unexpreessed? Or will he just keep hatching and patching his way to the top, making minor adjustments to the structure of the map?
Rumour has it that he is becoming so successful that he plans to take a year off – to think! ….. He is going to perfect the tree! Good luck with that Martin.

A year is a long time in show biz and as you know it is possible to have too much to think.

Fane Flaws

(Please give me what I want)

My personal creative endeavors are very complicated right now. You might describe them as id-like – a seething cauldron of chaotic excitations. I am trying to get the lethargic NZ publishing industry interested in some beautiful, funny, interactive children’s books, which are so obviously the future (ask any kid with an I-pad) – yet this would appear to be a creative exercise akin to impersonating a plate of chopped liver.

I have been deconstructing old kitchen tables to make some ‘Formicons’ for Compass Points – a show at Bill Millbank’s Wanganui gallery where I am helping to represent East. Yes East – that is here – the East Coast! A weighty honour to shoulder.

My main focus is completing an album of Sam Hunt poems I set to music and began recording in 1987 … Ok so I am tragically slow. Very good things sometimes take a little time. The Oxford dictionary was 25 years late, mate.

Mark my words – by the time Dan Jello, Sir Wilfred Effingham, S.F. Zorro, Dr Strangeglove and I – aka BEND have finished recording the five new songs in November – there will be a masterpiece in the can or my name’s not Avant Vu. Then it’s onto the videos….now where is Culy’s number…?

Annabel Sinclair-Thompson

(There’s a good time coming)

The indomitable Annabel who runs the gorgeous ‘works on paper’ gallery Paperworks is having a creative flush with a xmas show titled 1, 2, 3. In a cunning move to provide affordable original art for the xmas market and get the lazy local artists to get off the sun-lounger to make something that fans on a budget can lash out on, she has asked us all to make whatever we like in three sizes of work…

1 (100x100mm), 2 (200x200mm) and 3 (300x300mm).

These will be sold for $100, $200 and $300 respectively. Now that’s what I call creative thinking. I personally have eschewed the smallest format, pleading blindness and incompetence and offering a recent gardening accident involving a five sided pole cactus and my bottom as a lame excuse and have opted for the 2’s and 3’s.

The more cynical minded element might suggest that I am a shameless self-promoter and have only mentioned this event, because I have illustrated this article with little paintings which will be part of this show. That would be churlish and unfair. This is a win-win situation and I am well known as a selfless philanthropist and as legendarily hopeless at marketing myself.

Candidates X, Y & Z

(Aisles of plastic junk from China – every fuckwit’s a designer)

On a closing negative, I can’t fail to mention the sad state of affairs regarding the billboards for the local body election. Minus a few commendable exceptions, we have been assaulted by such a mind bogglingly disturbing kludge of unkerned type, billious colourways and tragic photography, that I have had to erase the first month of spring from my fragmented hard drive.

The downside of the wonderful ubiquitous, computer techknowledgie that now rules the world of graphic design, is that anyone with a lap-top can do their own poster. Why hire a designer when with a few lessons on Indesign and Photoshop, or worse still CorrelDraw you can do it yourself and save the money? Well listen up people – in my day where we did everything by hand – it took years of study to become a designer. And guess what? It still does!

Design is not all about the ‘app’ – that just speeds up the process. The development of the design aesthetic and acquiring the myriad skills necessary to become even basically competent, still takes years. For all of you sad guys who thought it was just fine to have your badly lit mugs plastered all over town in a tsunami of amateur environmental pollution, think again. Just because everyone else’s billboard looks like shit, doesn’t give you a license to join in the epidemic. Next time – get a budget and hire a pro’ – please. (Incidently, I have several Best Design Awards, am on The Massey University Design Wall Of Fame, and cost only $200 per hour)

There are a plethora of wonderful local creatives I could include on these pages, cementing my already safe position on the ‘Roster of Nepotism and Disgrace’, and no doubt earning myself maximum brownnose points towards the coveted ‘Prince Of Persiflage Awards’, but sadly the overated word count is up and I do have a bunch of my gorgeous gouaches to squash in, so I will say farewell until next time and remember – Always Call Your Mother.


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