City Gallery

Past exhibition

Joanna Margaret Paul: Beauty, Even 1945–2003

12 December 2004–6 March 2005

CURATOR Emma Bugden, Greg Donson PARTNER Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui PUBLICATION essays Emma Bugden and Greg Donson, Bill Manhire, Michael Nicholson, Ian Wedde, Bernadette Hill, Jenny Bornholdt, Bridie Lonie, Cilla McQueen, Gregory O'Brien, Daryl McLaren, Mary Paul

This tribute to Joanna Margaret Paul is the first show of her work since her sudden death in 2003 at the age of fifty-seven.

Born in Hamilton in 1945, Paul was the eldest child of booksellers and publishers Blackwood and Janet Paul. She received a BA from the University of Auckland in 1968, and a DipFA in 1969. Moving to Port Chalmers in 1970, she married painter Jeffrey Harris, and they had four children. Their daughter Imogen died in 1976, only ten months old. She became the subject of some of Paul's most moving art works and poems.

Paul worked across a range of media, including drawing and painting, photography and film, and poetry. Encompassing landscape, still life, portraiture, her works responded to her immediate surroundings and everyday life. Documenting a meal, an encounter, or a season, they read like a visual diary. Paul said she was 'aggressively in support of the minor—I like my work to relate to a room rather than a gallery’.

In 1984, Paul received the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship. Later, she moved to Whanganui, where she lived and worked for the rest of her life. She had strong associations with Wellington as a sometime resident and regular visitor, and as the recipient of the 1993 Rita Angus artist's residency. Her work was included in our shows Alter/Image in 1993 and The Figured Landscape in 1995.

Beauty, Even is not chronological, but instead organised around five themes, taken from titles of works: ‘Conversations in a Room’, ‘Beauty, Even’, ‘Inventories’, ‘Small Events’, and ‘Weather and Time’. Paul said, 'I'm dealing with the repositories of life where it is lived.’ Jerusalem Delivery (1990) and Beta Street (1981) are painted on circular wooden table tops. A freestanding three-panel painting, Screen Winter/Spring (1987), echoes the simplicity of Japanese calligraphy. The show also includes a compilation of Paul's Super-8 films from the 1970s and 1980s. Among them is Maggie Documentation (1975), showing her daughter spinning on a merry-go-round and on a trip to the zoo. There are also sketchbooks and writing. The show’s public programme includes poetry readings by Bill Manhire, Jenny Bornholdt, Bernadette Hall, Gregory O’Brien, Charles Bisley, and Daryl McLaren.

In the Dominion Post, Mark Amery writes, 'The strength of Beauty, Even is that it doesn't set out to survey Paul's diverse oeuvre but rather reflect Paul's concerns through the presentation of a variety of work representing three decades of production, arranged thematically around clear strong themes. In presenting fragmentary views, it reflects the sketchbook approach of the artist herself, her practice an ever-shifting view of the world around her.’

Paul once described painting as ‘not a job, not even a vocation. It is part of life, subject to the strains, and joys, of domestic life.’

Beauty, Even is staged as part of the season Three New Zealand Painters, which includes shows by Wellington Melvin Day and expatriate Max Gimblett.