Monday, 23 June 2008

Exiles at Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill

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EXILES - Rudolf Boelee

Charles Brasch, Robin Hyde, Dan Davin, Rewi Alley, James Bertram, Geoffrey Cox, John Mulgan.

Exiles at Forrester Gallery, Oamaru

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EXILES - Rudolf Boelee

Charles Brasch, Robin Hyde, Dan Davin, Rewi Alley, James Bertram, Geoffrey Cox, John Mulgan.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Exiles Portraits

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James Bertram, Geoffrey Cox, John Mulgan

Exiles Portraits

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Charles Brasch, Robin Hyde, Dan Davin, Rewi Alley

Exiles Biographies

EXILES - Rudolf Boelee
Forrester Gallery, Oamaru, 2008
Southland Museum & Art Gallery, Invercargill, 2008
Eastern Southland Gallery, Gore, 2008
Millenium Art Gallery, Blenheim, 2008/09


Born in Dunedin, 1909.
Died in Dunedin, 1973, aged 64.
Poet, editor, teacher, translator, lecturer.

Charles Brasch was born in Dunedin, into a prosperous commercial family. His mothers early death left him struggling throughout a difficult childhood to meet the demands of an ambitious father who never really understood him. Schooling at Waitaki Boys High School and three years reading history at Oxford strengthened his interests in the arts and brought friendships that were to be important for the rest of his life.

A subsequent visit to New Zealand convinced Brasch finally that he could not accept a business career, but must somehow make himself into a writer. In 1932 some of his early work was published in the Auckland journal Phoenix. The following decade was spent chiefly out of New Zealand - in Egypt, working on the site of Akhenaten s capital at Tell El Amarna; traveling in Italy, Germany, and Russia; and teaching at The Abbey, a small experimental school for disturbed children at Little Missenden.

Briefly back in New Zealand in 1938, he left the manuscript of his first collection of poems, The Land and the People, with the Caxton Press in Christchurch, but returned to England where he spent the war years in intelligence work for the Foreign Office. In 1945 having resolved to make his home in New Zealand, he returned with his mind turning steadily toward a proposed new journal. The first issue of Landfall came out two years later and he was to be the editor of this publication for the next 20 years. Charles Brasch continued to write poems until his death in 1973.


Born in Capetown, South Africa, in 1906.
Died in London, England,1939, aged 33.
Poet, novelist, journalist.

Robin Hyde was born Iris Wilkinson in Capetown, South Africa, 1906, the second of four daughters. Shortly after her birth, the family moved to New Zealand where they lived in Wellington.

Iris began writing at an early age and became a journalist at 17, when she joined the Dominion. Under the pen-name Robin Hyde, she published her first book of poetry; The Desolate Star (1929). Her first prose work, a kaleidoscopic account of her life in journalism; Journalese, appeared in 1934. Between 1935 and 1935 she published five more novels including The Godwits Fly. The work Robin Hyde most cared about was her poetry and she remains one of New Zealands major twentieth century poets.

In January 1938 she left New Zealand for England, planning to travel via the Trans-Siberian Railway and write a book about her experiences. In Hong Kong she decided to visit China, then in turmoil and resisting the invading Japanese. Dragon Rampant, published shortly before her death in England in 1939, was the result.


Born in Invercargill, 1913.
Died in Oxford, England, 1990, aged 77.
Novelist, short-story writer, soldier, editor, publisher, critic.

Dan Davin was born into an Irish Catholic working-class family in Invercargill. Davin prospered through his intellectual prowess, eventually winning a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford in 1935.

At the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the army and served with the New Zealand Division in Greece, Crete, North Africa and Italy. The future official historian of the Crete campaign, he served in army intelligence before settling in London and then Oxford, where he began publishing his novels and made the friendship of fellow writers including Dylan Thomas.

He rose to become Academic Publisher at Oxford University Press, instrumental in the publication of major scholarly works. His often turbulent private life, in contrast to the

domestic stability of the home that he made with his extraordinary wife Winnie and their three daughters, nevertheless was central to his creative life until the tragedy and distress of his last years.


Born in Springfield, New Zealand 1897
Died in Beijing, China, 1987, aged 90.
Farmer, teacher, social reformer, peace activist, writer.

Rewi Alley was born in Springfield, New Zealand and is one of New Zealands most distinguished sons, as well as one of the best-known friends of the Chinese people. Through his trying experience, especially as a factory inspector in Shanghai, witnessing the social upheaval and the dire poverty of the labouring masses, he grew determined to share their destiny in the struggle for a radical change.

Beginning in 1938, he travelled extensively in areas unoccupied by the Japanese to promote Gung Ho Industrial Cooperatives which effectively helped Chinas resistance war. In the 1940s he created the Shandan Bailie Technical School in remote Gansu province to develop a new type of half-work and half-study suited to Chinas conditions.

After Liberation he attended many international conferences for world peace and in solidarity with the oppressed peoples. He lived in Beijing and became its first Honorary Citizen in 1982. New Zealand awarded him the Queens Service Order in 1985. Rewi Alley died in Beijing in 1987, he is dearly remembered as an outstanding educator and social activist for his role in advancing social progress.


Born in Auckland, 1910.
Died in Lower Hutt, 1993, aged 83
Journalist, writer, relief worker, prisoner of war, university professor, editor.

James Bertram was born in Auckland and grew up in a Presbyterian family. At Waitaki Boys High School he formed a lasting friendship with Charles Brasch, poet and editor of Landfall. At the University of Auckland, while studying English literature, he founded The Phoenix in conjunction with three others. He studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and subsequently went to China, where he joined with Madame Sun Yat-sen and others in setting up the China Defence League.

In China in 1936 as a Rhodes Travelling Fellow, he was a British correspondent during the Sian Rising and the months leading up to the Japanese invasion; he fought in the brief defence of Hong Kong in December 1941, and spent the next four years as a POW in Hong Kong and Tokyo. During his years in China he came unusually close to a number of outstanding men and women; he interviewed Mao Tse-tung extensively, in what were to become The Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung.

On his eventual return to New Zealand Bertram became a lecturer in English literature at Victoria University and retired as an Emeritus Professor. For his last forty-five years he and his wife Jean lived on Belmont Hill in Lower Hutt, in a large garden with a stream, native bush and old roses.


Born in Palmerston North, 1910.
Died in the Cotswolds, England, 2008, aged 97
Journalist, writer, soldier, diplomat, television executive.

Geoffrey Cox grew up in Invercargill and when he arrived at Oxford in 1932 on a Rhodes scholarship he had high expectations. But his initial reaction to the prestigious university was not as he had expected. To escape Oxfords ivory towers Cox read Marx and Freud, and travelled to Russia and Europe to experience "the immediate matters of the day" first hand. In 1934 he visited Germany to "see Nazism from the inside". He worked in a German Youth Labour Camp during an Oxford vacation and later attended a Nazi Party Rally at Nuremburg. As the world moved towards war, Cox became a foreign and war correspondent for Fleet Street newspapers and covered fighting in Spain, Austria, Finland, Belgium and France.

In 1940 he joined the New Zealand Army, and served in Greece, Crete, Libya and Italy, and for a time as a diplomat in Washington. After the war he returned to journalism, becoming an Assistant Editor of the News Chronicle. In 1956 he became Editor of Independent Television News. He was one of the pioneers of television journalism, and in 1967 started News at Ten. He was later Deputy Chairman of Yorkshire Television, Chairman of Tyne Tees Television, and of London radio news station, LBC. He was knighted in 1966 for his services to journalism.


Born in Christchurch, 1911.
Died in Cairo, Egypt, 1945, aged 34.
Journalist, poet, novelist, editor, soldier.

Recognized when he left New Zealand at the age of twenty-one, as one of the outstanding young men of his generation, John Mulgan took a brilliant first in English at Oxford and then passed into the employ of the Clarendon Press. The Second World War took him to Northern Ireland, the Western Desert of Egypt, and the mountain fastness of German occupied Greece.

As a cool and daring guerrilla leader, Mulgan stood out in a company of fighters of whom Richard Capell wrote in 1945, "What they have done and been through speaks to my sense not primarily of practical but spiritual victory, the victory of mans unconquerable will over desperate circumstances". He was awarded the Military Cross after his tragic death in 1945.

Mulgan left behind him a novel Man Alone (1939) and the manuscript of a book of memoirs Report on Experience (1947). Man Alone, forgotten during the war, but republished in 1949, has never been out of print since that date. Mulgan is remembered, as a dispassionate voice with something compelling and truthful to say about New Zealand and England.

Exiles at PaperGraphica, Christchurch

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EXILES - Rudolf Boelee

Charles Brasch, Robin Hyde, Dan Davin, Rewi Alley, James Bertram, Geoffrey Cox, John Mulgan.


EXILES - Rudolf Boelee
Forrester Gallery, Oamaru, 2008
Southland Museum & Art Gallery, Invercargill, 2008
Eastern Southland Gallery, Gore, 2008
Millenium Art Gallery, Blenheim, 2008/09

Charles Brasch, Robin Hyde, Dan Davin, Rewi Alley, James Bertram, Geoffrey Cox, John Mulgan.

Not all of these seven New Zealanders are widely known; their individualism and idealism sometimes put them at the fringes of colonial culture. They have been selected by the artist for their ability to see beyond the confines of that culture. All of them travelled, engaged with the world beyond these shores, exiled themselves. With the advantage of education, they then spoke thoughtfully and eloquently about the human condition.

Most, apart from Rewi Alley, were born at about the time of the First World War so their experiences through the Depression and the Second World War had a profound affect on them. But the link is more than generational. Highly intelligent, sensitive and observant they used their creativity to promote the greater good; in most cases, through literature.

Rudolf Boelee was born in Holland in 1940 so has a personal understanding of how world events can impact upon the lives of people. Seeing his homeland ravaged by war he chose to live in this country, the New Land, in a youthful search for utopia. In selecting these seven Exiles he identifies the need to look beyond regionalism at the wider issues for humanity.

Rudolf Boelee has painted these portraits as bold chiaroscuro heads that completely dominate the coarse weave of the hessian surface. Each portrait is painted from a photograph. The backgrounds are dark; solid black. Light radiates off the facial planes in sharp contrast. Facial shadows are painted in a single flat colour, a different colour for each person, so although the images are bold, almost confrontational, the features are flattened, increasing the drama. The impression of each person, the idea of them, resounds more strongly than their physical reality.

Like many other works by Boelee the paintings flash like stills from film noir and create curiosity about the moments before and afterwards. Each of the Exiles had a full and active life and, aside from Geoffrey Cox, have all died. Despite the solidity of their achievements it is hard not to think that their lives, albeit intense, were fleeting.

In the words of James Bertram, "Hard to explain now just how strongly we all felt in those days. But it wasn't just politics, rather, a sort of evangelical sense of mission, of not allowing oneself to become contaminated and absorbed into the establishment".

Marian Maguire

Friday, 20 June 2008


Top photo: Adrienne Rewi

Artist Rudolf Boelee has been living in Christchurch since the early 1980s, having emigrated from Holland in the 1960s. His popular screenprinted images are infused with New Zealand's culture, with a commitment to retaining the politics and social values of the country before the emergence of New Right politics in the mid-1980s. As the winner of the 1998 CoCA Award Exhibition, and an artist with a long-standing presence within the art community of Christchurch I recently interviewed Boelee, to examine his interest in New Zealand's culture and discuss his experiences as a working artist.

How long have you been exhibiting in New Zealand?

I started as a sort of self taught artist in 1969. I had my first exhibition in what was then the Rotorua Arts Society building in 1971. My practice in those days was not that different from what it is now. I travelled around quite a lot, and my next exhibition wasn't until 1981 in the Mair Gallery at the CSA in Christchurch.

You came out from Holland in the early 1960s.

Did you suddenly take an interest in making art and exhibiting in New Zealand, or had you been involved in the arts previously?

At school [in Holland] I was not a terribly good student and the only thing I was interested in was history and art. When I left high school I was supposed to go to art school. I was accepted at the time, but my parents thought that it was not a good career move, and I went to sea instead and ended up in New Zealand.

Was it fairly straight forward to get an exhibition into a gallery in the late 1960s?

I was living in Whakatane, and I'd been living in New Zealand since 1963. I didn't start painting until about five or six years later. I had children, and I had jobs where I often had to work at night, in hotels and that sort of thing. I got a job at New Zealand Forest Products in Whakatane Board Mills and for the first time I actually had time to do something. The first year that I started painting I did something like seventy or eighty paintings in my garage. I was really working totally in a vacuum, but the public library was very kind to me. They got me books from the country library service.

Did you have any knowledge of New Zealand art at all? McCahon or Woollaston, or what had been happening with the modern movement in this country after the war?

McCahon used to go around those districts and do art and stuff, but the art society was very much like what it was here. It was all these ladies painting the equivalent of Shag Rock or something. I sort of quite liked it. I showed at the Whakatane Art Society a couple of times and was treated like the village idiot.

Why do you think immigrants sometimes appear to take a greater interest in New Zealand's culture and art than many of the local people do?

When you go to a new place... your powers of observation are more acute than once you get used to things. Familiarity breeds contempt. The show that I had at the Annex [recently] (Things to Come 1997) was really me as the little alien boy. I mean it all seemed so familiar, but it wasn't. The imagery that I was using there was really... a lingo that people talked in that seemed like English, but ultimately meant nothing to me.

'Things to Come' featured images that were very close to New Zealanders, the Man From Prudential and the NZ Railway cup. Yet sometimes it seems to be immigrants that remind people in New Zealand about themselves. Were you a foreigner looking with detachment upon that, or were you aware that for many individuals who visited the exhibition it would touch them on a very personal level?

I think so. I like people like Dick Frizzell, but I think that taking it to the point of the Four Square man is a bit of a throwaway. The Visions of Utopia (1994) was more a statement about the working classes as such, as they existed, while Things To Come was quite middle class. It's really where I come from myself. You can't be totally detached from what you're looking at, and what you experience of things. I do think that Dutch artists have contributed quite a lot really [to New Zealand art] from day one. The whole Van der Velden thing... Kees Hos was the first New Zealand dealer who did an awful lot to stimulate art in Auckland.. and was not treated with a lot of respect.

Isn't that typical? In the 50s show in Auckland a few years ago there was an essay in the catalogue that argued that if you were a foreigner and liked art, you were probably also homosexual and a communist. Do you think that because the Dutch community were a noticeable presence in New Zealand after the war that they managed to make such a positive contribution to the arts?

Yes. We were the only safe bet. We had no racial taints and we worked hard. Almost everybody I knew here of Dutch descent changed their name to Bill or something like that. There was a lot of pressure. I came here at the end of the immigrant wave. At the beginning I tried to talk English properly, but it would be denying 23 years of your previous life...

Warren Feeney


Thursday, 19 June 2008

New Zealand Railway Cups

It was just the thing for a tea stop on a long rail journey such as the overnight express between Wellington and Auckland, which always stopped at the tearooms in Taumarunui, made famous in a 1950s ballad Taumarunui On The Main Trunk Line.
The company that eventually became known as Crown Lynn Potteries was established by Thomas Clark in 1937 as the 'Porcelain Specialties Department', a special department of the Amalgamated Brick and Pipe company, which had been started by Clark's great-grandfather. The new department, which later came to be referred to simply as the 'specials', produced items unrelated to the building trade such as intricate ceramic electrical components and moulds for rubber products such as gloves, baby bottle teats, and condoms.
The first Crown Lynn tableware was produced in the late 1930s, and it took the form of vitrified mugs - mugs hardened by firing in the kiln at high temperatures. In 1939 the outbreak of the Second World War saw the imposition of cargo restrictions, which meant that virtually no pottery was imported into the country.
New Zealand Railways, which provided the bulk of inland public transport in New Zealand, urgently needed replacements for its mugs, which had previously been supplied by British firms. In answer to their request Crown Lynn produced a straw-coloured mug without a handle with the letters 'NZR' stamped on in large block letters under a clear glaze. In 1943 a handle was added. Like much of the company's production in the early years, the Railways cups were highly functional and sturdy.
Crown Lynn was declared an essential industry during the war, producing durable mugs and cereal bowls for American soldiers in the Pacific. Rank-and- file soldiers were given the Crown Lynn handleless mugs, while the officers received mugs with handles that were probably American-made.
The Crown Lynn lines of military and Railways crockery were highly successful. However, because there was no imported crockery being brought into New Zealand, the range had to be extended to suit the domestic market. A tunnel kiln was erected in 1941, and the next year a new range of tableware was produced including pudding basins, casserole dishes, and various sized chamber pots. However, due to shortages of material and labour, the decorations remained simple. Alongside this extended range, the Railways cups and saucers continued to be produced in bulk.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

New Zealand Railway Cups

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Born 1940 in the Netherlands, Rudolf Boelee immigrated to New Zealand in 1963 and has been painting and exhibiting for the past 35 years. Boelee draws the inspiration for his works from various sources including science fiction, magazines, popular culture images and film. Boelee often employs imagery that, while on one level is seemingly prosaic, an alternative meaning or political vision is often suggested or more obviously stated. "Over the last twelve years I have tried to make work that speaks on a personal and universal level. Looking backward and forward at the same time. Investigating New Zealand's recent history in relation to the present."Screenprinting has become his media of choice as it allows Boelee to work multiply within the realms of constructivism, pop art and design. The geometry, scale and use of colour in his works, as seen in his "NZR Cups", "Crown Lynn Modernist Vases", "Crown Lynn Swans" and "Mr. GE Free" means that they can enrich any environment as individual pieces or in Warhol-like groups.Boelee has been the recipient of several art awards including the CoCA Award in 1998. He is represented in countless private and public collections both nationally and internationally including Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu and het Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague. Individual works and exhibitions by Rudolf Boelee and the Collective Crown Lynn New Zealand can be seen on the website