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May 27, 2006 | by  | in Visual Arts |
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Art To Know For Dinner Party Conversations

Rita Angus, Cass 1937

So, from medieval Ireland we jump to twentieth century New Zealand. This week we are looking at Rita Angus’s seminal southern landscape scene, Cass. Anyone who’s done seventh form art history will have had this work drummed into their brain, being a favourite of that course.

New Zealand artists working in the 1920s and 30s are often described as ‘regionalist’ in style. The argument is that they were seeking a separate national identity, consciously removing themselves from the influence of the ‘home land’ Britain. However, it has been argued that Angus in actual fact had little interest in developing a national style, and saw New Zealand art as entirely dependent on European artistic traditions. Her aim “to show the present in a peaceful way, and through devotion to visual art to sow some seeds for possible maturity in later generations.”

Whether or not her landscapes are ‘peaceful’ is debatable. As seen in Cass, Angus’ works are characterized by their clear, bright, carefully delineated fields of colour and space. There is also the somewhat gothic sense of foreboding and introspection. Here, the lonely figure waiting at the station is dwarfed by their environment, dark conifers and a tempestuous, troublesome sky.

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