What Will We Leave Them?
Exhibition: 14 June - 4 July 2016
Preview: Monday 4th Jul 5:30 PM
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Margaret-Lawlor Bartlett’s exhibition “What Will we Leave Them?” is a selection of artworks that address the question of our ecological fate. It is representative of the body of work that she has created in the last 17 years of her career.
Lawlor-Bartlett paints out of the fertility of rock and fire. Her two main work-sites are volcanic zones – one near Mt Tawarewa, the other in sight of Rangitoto Island, and hard by Auckland’s North Head, the extinct volcano of Maungauika. These are the ground beneath her feet and they underpin her painterly language. She works often in the many depths of red and black. The reds connect blood and the vulcanism of the planet. The blacks appeared early in her painting of the deeply shadowed slopes and profiles of our indigenous forest. Her instinct for the powers in this dark was later to be reinforced by Goya’s remarkable Black Paintings seen by her in Spain in the 1950s.
The title of her show, “What Will We Leave Them?”, is an interrogating of dilemmas deeply locked in to our lives on this planet. She learned early that socially engaged art was not always acceptable. In 1953, she left Elam Art School after being told by her supervisor that she would fail her degree course if she did a mural concerned with the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The decision to leave was the beginning of a lifelong career as a socially engaged painter, working on many critical public issues.
Sixty-two years later the heat in her artist’s kitchen shows no sign of abating. The world is still charged with aroha and violence and she continues in the knowledge that art is a vital way of healing and informing consciousness in that world. The protecting of life is a central concern. Her recent painting is populated with images of ruru or morepork. Sometimes believed to be a bird of ill-omen, it is reclaimed by her as an often feminized guardian extending a mantle of protection over human and the natural world.
“What Will We Leave Them?”, the unifying question of this show, concerns our ecological fate. What of life on this earth will we leave our descendants and other species? This is the largest open question the human race has ever posed itself. To paint the question is not to make comfortable art. Nor is it simply to sloganise or preach. Rather, these works present states of grace and failure in the individual and society. Because they make objective and visible the structure of dream and the geography of the psyche they can reach further in to the meaning of history than the surface perceptions of cause and effect and can say more than preaching could ever hope to do.
– Denys Trussell, Auckland, July 2015