Saturday, March 7, 2009


Mermaids Doing Their Thing by Ivan Hill

Gallery De Novo
6 to 18 March 2009

Ivan Hill is a prominent local 'naive artist', dear to Dunedin's heart. We cherish our 'primitive' artists here; the late Annie Baird was another well loved local identity and artist. (See some of her paintings at the Moray Gallery web site.)

Ivan Hill's latest exhibition opened yesterday at Gallery de Novo. His theme this time is 'mermaids' and there's generally an underwater ambience, although images of Ralph Hotere and Jeffrey Harris also stalk through many of the large works. As usual the works are lively, colourful, witty and pleasant. Newly flush with a small inheritance, I even bought a small piece that just cried out to me to take it home. It had little fishes swimming on a wildly paint-daubed slice of the base boards that Ivan uses while he is painting other works. The surface of the painting is as thickly textured and rough as a choppy ocean. It's a friendly mysterious piece, found and fondled and decorated by the artist with a shoal of darting little glittering fish. Felt good to buy it, and it'll be loaded with all sorts of significance for me.

There weren't any mermaids on the painting I bought. I'm not actually a huge mermaid fan - I find them a wee bit disturbing, and wonder if they aren't rather more of a male fantasy than a symbol I as a feminist can find useful for my personal iconography. Or at least I thought so until I saw a moving news story this week about how a woman who had lost both her legs as a child, had been supplied with a working mermaid tail by the genius modellers at Weta Workshop (of Lord of the Rings fame.) Way to go guys! Give them another Oscar!

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