Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Cabinetmakers

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What do you call a bunch of premiers and prime ministers – a posse, a pack or a pride? Whatever your choice, you can get up front and personal with representations of all 38 of them on display in The Cabinet Makers: New Zealand Prime Ministers at Shed 11 on Wellington’s waterfront until 10 February 2010.

The famous and the forgotten

New Zealand gained responsible government in 1856 and since that time plenty of our leaders have stamped their mark on our country. Julius Vogel transformed society with his development programmes in the 1870s. Richard Seddon was so dominant in the 1890s and early 1900s that he was known as ‘King Dick’. ‘Farmer Bill’ Massey was top dog for almost as long (1912–25), but it was for Michael Joseph Savage’s funeral cortege in 1940 that hundreds of thousands paid homage. Many older Kiwis grew up during the ‘Holyoake Years’ and who will ever forget the nine-year reign of Rob ‘Piggy’ Muldoon between 1975 and 1984?

But for every history maker there are two or three forgotten leaders. Did you know that our first premier, Henry Sewell, ruled for just a fortnight? Or that another forgotten leader, George Waterhouse, never stood for office? He led from the old upper house, which was composed of political appointees. Five of our leaders, in fact, came from the upper house.

They are an interesting bunch. Predictably, 36 of the 38 were men, while it took until 1925 for the first New Zealand-born prime minister to lead the country. Even today we have been led by more foreign-born prime ministers than by home-grown ones. Finally, it must be said, they are a pretty white-looking bunch.

A tradition in the making

We have no tradition of official portraiture for our leaders so collecting materials for the exhibition required some lateral thinking and a good deal of begging, borrowing and stealing. There are 75 items in the exhibition. Some are exactly what you would expect in a Portrait Gallery exhibition – a superb Augustus John oil of Massey and excellent A.A. Berrie paintings of Savage and of his successor, Peter Fraser.

Then there are the busts – Nelson Illingworth’s magnificent one of Seddon, as well as two others of lesser-known politicians – and framed photographs, all suitably statesmanlike.

But there’s also a lighter, more modern touch. Rudolf Boelee offers a modern take on an iconic image of Micky Savage. Hugh Major contributes a remarkable modern interpretation of Helen Clark, full of characters and incidents in her life, and John Key is portrayed in perforated aluminium.

Not forgetting the quirky

Finally, we have also assembled some decidedly quirky items. A 1939 hand-stitched wall embroidery of Savage attests to a supporter’s devotion 70 years ago. A plastic Muldoon piggy bank speaks of commerce rather than sentiment, and Muldoon features again alongside Bill Rowling in a salt and pepper shaker set (naturally Muldoon was the pepper!) from the 1970s. There’s even a glamorous portrait of Helen Clark on a scent bottle – an official gift from the 2001 APEC summit in Beijing.


Article by Gavin McLean, curator of the exhibition and an historian and writer with the History Group at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Cabinet Makers: New Zealand Prime Ministers

The Cabinet Makers: New Zealand Prime Ministers
19 November 2009 to 10 February 2010
Shed 11 Wellington Waterfront 10.30 – 4.30 daily admission free
Curated by Gavin McLean, an exhibition of NZ Prime Ministers from Henry Sewell to the present day: portraits, busts, cartoons and photographs along with personal memorabilia, public gifts, and historical curios.

Included in this exhibition is my triptych portrait of Michael Joseph Savage, first Labour Prime Minister and founder of the Welfare State.

A scent bottle depicting former Prime Minister Helen Clark might be an unexpected item in an exhibition of New Zealand prime ministers, but historian/curator Gavin McLean provides a personal as well as an official context to The Cabinet Makers, a new exhibition at the NZ Portrait Gallery. It will be opened by the current prime minister the Hon. John Key on November 18th and shows until February 10, 2010.

“This is the first time a complete gallery of premiers and prime ministers has been collected and shown in a public space” he says. “Every individual office holder is represented from Henry Sewell‘s leadership 160 years ago to John Key. Viewed together, they take us on a pictorial journey through our political history by way of painted portraits, photographs and cartoons, and demonstrate the nation’s progress from colonial dependence under Victorian social values, to democratic independence and a liberated culture.”

Far from a conventional parade of politicians, the images frequently differ from what we traditionally expect of formal portraiture. Through a selection of less formal photographs, like “Kiwi Keith” Holyoake packing his own bags for an overseas tour, to the Seddon family at home, a more personal side of our political leaders emerges. Along with the images, is a selection of official and personal memorabilia which reveal clues to their lives. While the Helen Clark scent bottle (an official APEC gift), may be an extreme example, a record cover featuring “Big Norm” Kirk, a table top depicting Richard John Seddon in 875 pieces of native timber, and a delicate miniature of Sir George Grey as a child shown with his parents, all add personal perspectives to political stories. Busts and sculptures, including that of Norman Kirk by New Zealand sculptor Tony Stones, historical and contemporary cartoons and details of official residences, add a wealth of context to the story of our political leadership.

Gavin McLean, Senior Historian at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, is the author of The Governors: New Zealand’s Governors and Governors-General (2006), and is currently preparing a history of New Zealand prime minister-ship in conjunction with this exhibition.

The Cabinet Makers: New Zealand Prime Ministers curated by Gavin McLean

NZ Portrait Gallery November 18 2009 to February 10, 2010

Shed 11 Wellington Waterfront 10.30 – 4.30 daily admission free

(04) 472 8874

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Exiles at Rotorua Museum of Art and History

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Installation Images of Exiles – Rudolf Boelee

Rotorua Museum of Art and History

Starts: Saturday, June 06, 2009
Finishes: Sunday, August 02, 2009

Portrait paintings by Christchurch artist Rudolf Boelee depict identities of the Depression era who travelled abroad: artists, pathfinders and cultural identities who ‘went where few Kiwis had been before’.

The chiaroscuro head and shoulders portraits are of Charles Brasch, Robin Hyde, Rewi Alley, James Bertram, Geoffrey Cox and John Mulgan.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

"Reclaiming the Crown" North & South Magazine 2009

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"Reclaiming the Crown" North & South Magazine 2009

By Adrienne Rewi.

Christchurch artists, Rudolf Boelee and his wife, Robyne Voyce are breathing new life into the iconic New Zealand pottery brand, Crown Lynn.

The pair has developed a new range of Crown Lynn tea-towels, cushions and cards depicting three of the company’s most famous images – the swan, the New Zealand Railways cup and the Ernie Shufflebottom-designed hand-potted vase. For Boelee, it is the perfect extension of his use of the images in his own paintings and a continuation of his passion for “the first New Zealand factory company to step beyond the humdrum” and make what has become a highly collectible product.

Boelee owns the former Crown Lynn New Zealand trademark as a limited liability and likens its discovery to “finding the very best vase in a junk shop for next-to-nothing.”
“Back in the early 1990s I was working in the New Zealand Companies Office as a compliance clerk. My job was to strike companies off the register when they had ceased trading. Company closures were notified in the New Zealand Gazette and that’s where I saw the Crown Lynn Potteries Ltd name listed. Robyne and I had been collection Post-War ceramics since the early eighties so it was all part of a continuum. I applied for their trademark - Crown Lynn New Zealand – incorporated the nameas a limited liability company in 1993. A few years later I also incorporated a ‘new’ Crown Lynn Potteries Limited that I have since sold, but we still own Crown Lynn New Zealand Limited he says.

He has since exhibited a number of painting series featuring Crown Lynn imagery and the latest – a suite of lithographs - will show at Papergraphica in Christchurch in November.

“Crown Lynn had a very egalitarian approach and that’s what I liked most when I arrived in New Zealand from Holland in 1963. Many of the products veered towards the kitsch but they also have a simple formality that has endured and many New Zealanders now recognise that. It was made in New Zealand and not much of that quality was back then. The tea-towels and cushions continue that philosophy – they’re a way for people to own an affordable piece of the Crown Lynn brand.”

Screen printed on cotton in cobalt blue and white, the tea-towels feature the Crown Lynn logo and are available in galleries and design stores from Auckland to Invercargill. ( for more details).

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Closer You Get, The Bigger I Look Indoor Shots

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Some of New Zealand’s most respected music industry figures have come together on a unique and exciting project to raise awareness and understanding of dyslexia, with a brand new single released to celebrate Dyslexia Action Week 2009 (15-21 June).

Written by Don McGlashan, produced by Sean Donnelly and performed by dDub, the single ‘The Closer You Get, The Bigger I Look’ is now available for free download

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Pug Design Store Website

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Pug Design Store is now online, functional but not quite completed yet, not far away either!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Greg Yee at Pug Design Store June 2009

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Greg Yee
My work reflects the collective identity held in family and structure of community. It describes the support and restraint these can provide - the struggle for and against love, on a collective and individual level.
The imagery in my work is drawn from a personal and cultural exploration of my New Zealand Chinese upbringing.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

More images from the Flagstaff Gallery, Opening on Wednesday 8 April 2009

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Photographs, Rudolf Boelee with Flagstaff Gallery director Alka Fowler, John Green, Stuart Hoar, Caroline Barnes, Warren Pringle, Charles and Wendy Heywood.

Flagstaff Gallery Opening 8 April 2009

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Photographs, Rudolf Boelee with Finn and Lara Fair, Lennie and Julie Worthington, Onno Boelee


Born in the Holland in 1940, artist Rudolf Boelee has a personal understanding of the impact of world events on lives. Seeing his homeland ravaged by war he chose to live in a new land. Migrating to New Zealand in 1963, he worked for NZ Forest Products from the late 60's to the mid-70's, both at their Whakatane Board Mills and Kinleith Paper Mill, Tokoroa.
Some of the works hark back to his early days in New Zealand, combining constructivism, pop-art and design elements, with the Exiles series featuring portraits of literary 'exiles' from our history. Marginalised by colonial culture for their individualism & idealism, they were selected by the artist for their ability to see beyond the confines of that culture. They travelled, engaged with the world and effectively exiled themselves

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


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New Zealand Forest Products 4

Linemen - 2008

Rudolf Boelee

Acrylic, silkscreen and lacquer on board


Chatham Island Black Robin

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New Zealand Forest Products 3

Chatham Island Black Robin - 2008

Rudolf Boelee

Acrylic, silkscreen and lacquer on board

$1500 SOLD

Forward Observer

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New Zealand Forest Products 2

Forward Observer - 2008

Rudolf Boelee

Acrylic, silkscreen and lacquer on board


Fallow Deer

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New Zealand Forest Products 1

Fallow Deer - 2008

Rudolf Boelee

Acrylic, silkscreen and lacquer on board


The Lion

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‘The Lion’

Portrait of Charles Upham V.C. and bar (1908 - !994)

Rudolf Boelee

Acrylic on hessian on board


Charles Upham

Acknowledged widely as the outstanding New Zealand soldier of the Second World War, Captain Charles Upham remains the only combatant soldier to have received the Victoria Cross and Bar (awarded to members of the armed forces of the Commonwealth for exceptional bravery). In Crete in May 1941, and the Western Desert in July 1942, Upham distinguished himself with displays of ‘nerveless competence’

The Boss

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The Boss’

Portrait of Sir Bernard Freyberg, V.C., G.C.M.G., K.C.B.,

K.B.E., D.C.O. and three bars (1889 – 1963)

Rudolf Boelee

Acrylic on hessian on board


Lieutenant General Bernard Cyril Freyberg, 1st Baron Freyberg VC, GCMG, KCB, KBE, DSO and three Bars , arguably New Zealand's most famous soldier and military commander, also served as Governor-General of New Zealand. He became an officer in the British Army in World War I, during which he won the Victoria Cross and became one of the British Empire's most highly decorated soldiers during the Second World War, he commanded the New Zealand Army Expeditionary Force in the Battle of Crete, the North African Campaign and the Battle of Monte Cassino

The Garbo of the Skies

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The Garbo of the Skies’

Portrait of Jean Batten (1909 – 1982)

Rudolf Boelee

Acrylic on hessian on board

$2500 SOLD

Jean Batten
Hine-o-te-Rangi: Daughter of the skies

She was the manifestation of triumph and hope against the odds through the dark days of the depression. In 1934 she smashed by six days Amy Johnson’s flight time between England and Australia. The following year she was the first woman to make the return flight. In 1936 she made the first ever direct flight between England and New Zealand and then the fastest ever trans-Tasman flight. Jean Batten was the ‘Garbo of the Skies’. She stood for adventure, daring, exploration and glamour. In her time Jean Batten was one of the most famous people in the world.

Crown Lynn New Zealand 3 - 4 at PaperGraphica

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Installation images of the exhibiton 'El Alamein & N.Z.F.P.' at PaperGraphica, Christchurch 9 - 28 March 2009

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