Caspar David Friedrich: Landscape with the Rosenberg in the Bohemian Mountains, 1835
This small, unfinished painting was on display in Te Papa’s European Masters exhibition, but most people probably walked straight past it. Really, though, this bleak, empty landscape is fantastically grim and perfectly embodies the Romantic artist’s melancholic outlook on life. Friedrich was all about God being in nature, and if you want to have a god anywhere, that’s probably the best place for him. If this painting had a soundtrack it would probably be Sunn O))). Crushing mountainous doom. Nobody got Friedrich when he was alive—being grim and nihilistic wasn’t really the 19th century vibe—but he was definitely well ahead of his time.
Seraphine Pick – Love School
I first saw this work on a fifth form school trip. We’d been traipsing around Te Papa, I happened to stray from the herd and the glimpse of richly textured indigo hues and shadowy nude figures intrigued me instantly. Pick has a unique mastery of light that infuses her pieces with an effortless mystery. One can read any number of themes in her work but it’s the way she seems to delve into our own subconscious that is particularly enrapturing. I found myself staring beyond the canvas—the depth of field is such that you feel you’re entering another plane of existence and not merely a painting. A truly ethereal work by a very talented Wellingtonian.
Stephen Willats – The West London Social Resource Project
There are no pictures of my favourite artwork to show you. In 1977 Stephen Willats basically gave the art world the big finger by staging an art piece that didn’t invite regular gallery goers or critics. Instead, residents of housing blocks in West London were invited to take part in The West London Social Resource Project. Photographs of their private living spaces were distributed in a ‘manual’ for other residents to comment on. Willats wanted to create artistic engagement between subjects in the subject’s own context. That meant that critics and curators didn’t even get a foot in the door. You can read more about it in Willat’s magazine Control,