To celebrate the Rugby World Cup, the TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre is featuring rugby inspired works from the Wallace Arts Trust Collection including works by artists Philip Trusttum, Mark Braunias, Jacqueline Fahey, Kate Walker, Michael Shannon and Stuart Page.
Highlights include six works by Philip Trusttum: an early piece from 1997 using oil on hardboard, and five of his distinctive large cut-out canvas works created between 2010 – 2011 that can be re-assembled in varying ways to reflect the dynamic action of the players and the game.
Trusttum has always painted subjects from his immediate life. His father was an All Black trialist and played for King Country, while Philip played for North Canterbury in the 1960s. While he gave the game away, the creative possibilities within the constructs of rugby, as well as the culture of the game itself have made the subject as relevant now, as it was then to Trusttum and his concerns.
Contextualising the later works against 1997’s All Blacks vs The Irish acknowledges the refinement and risk-taking realised by Trusttum during this period, as well as the influence of Masters such as Matisse. In 2009 Trusttum flew to London to spend time with an exhibition of Matisse’s work from the Hermitage Collection shown at the Royal Academy, and his nod to the Master is clear in HOM to MAT where the All Blacks cavort in a circle in a similar way as Matisse’s The Dance.
Works such as 1995 and CANT with Trophys reveal the influence of Indian tantric art, which allowed Trusttum to free up his approach and further animate rugby players with multiple heads and arms into demi-god like status. These cannibalistic characters – full of hubris – are in the act of crushing their opponents, re-enacting triumphs such as Jonah Lomu’s dominance over the English at the 1995 World Cup, or the Cantabrian’s thrashing Waikato. Distinctive tattoos of individual players and design elements of each team’s jerseys are included to provide viewers with further visual clues.
Mark Braunias’s Black Order, of the Emblems of Identity series (1988-1993), uses the All Blacks as a generic identity, rendering them either faceless or partially obscured to explore aspects of our national identity. In this work he employs A4 sheets, a device that he has continued to use and that has been described by critic Justin Paton as Braunias’ “natural habitat”.
Braunias won the inaugural James Wallace Art Awards with Roll Call, and won 2010’s Fulbright Wallace Art Award with The Periodic Table. He is currently completing his residency at Headlands Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
Jacqueline Fahey’s work The Football Practice is from the Down in Grey Lynn Park series, which documents the colourful characters she observed while walking her dog Ben every day for three years. Like the other works from the series, the painting includes elements of flight as birds infiltrate the space in which the players tackle one another. The colour and vibrancy of the graffiti and public art in the background further energises the painting.
The exhibition will also include a second edition book of Michael Shannon and Stuart Page’s topical 1981 Springbok Tour silk-screen images, which were famously projected onto the walls of the Beehive in Bowen Street from Bowen Galleries.
Two of Kate Walker’s works Player Black and The Defenders 1 reflect her interest in making art as a record, sourcing everyday events and cultural ephemera for their story telling potential. Both render parts of rubgy players in the act of kicking or being tackled, and in The Defenders 1 Walker paints the figures over floral wallpaper.
The final work is by an unknown photographer of a young Maori rugby player identified as H. Tiopira in the year 1893. The young man is positioned in a traditional reclining pose in rugby garb with a silver fern emblem, and could potentially be lying on a Maori feathered cloak. Tiopira was part of the 1893 New Zealand tour rugby to Australia, which was the second tour by the New Zealand national rugby union team to Australia (the All Blacks were not formulated till 1903). Ten matches were played against regional and district sides.