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Christchurch City Council Media Release 1 March 1999

Leading Contemporary New Zealand Artists Look Towards The Comic For Inspiration


The Influence of Comics on Contemporary New Zealand Art

McDougall Contemporary Art Annex, Christchurch Arts Centre

3 April - 23 May 1999

"I’ve looked through a few comics just to get an idea and found…that they can only appeal to moronic children." (A.R.D. Fairburn)


The comic book has long been considered a low form of popularist entertainment, appealing to the cultureless masses. What is it then, that leads many of our most successful artists to draw inspiration from this ‘base’ and ‘inferior’ source?


Gruesome! explores the dynamics of high and low art by considering the impact of the comic book on the world of fine art. Although writers such as A.R.D. Fairburn have discredited comic aesthetics, images and approaches drawn from the comic book has surfaced regularly in post-war New Zealand art. The tension created by the comic has enlivened the work of artists such as Bill Hammond, Jason Greig and Gavin Chilcott, all of whom are represented within the exhibition. Gruesome! also acknowledges the serious commentary that the comic book has increasingly received since the mid-1980s.

Recognition of the particular aesthetics of the comic provides a new perspective and framework through which the work of a number of contemporary New Zealand artists can be examined. This exhibition will explore the use of comic devices such as word balloons and the frame by artists such as Dick Frizzel, Peter Robinson, Saskia Leek and Tony de Lautour.


Gruesome! declares that the comic book has enriched high art through its ability to belittle the pretensions of ‘serious’ art, providing welcome access to a popular audience. This exhibition will be accompanied by an in-house catalogue, featuring an essay in comic form by comic artist Tim Bollinger.


Curator’s Floortalks. Guest Curator of the exhibition, Warren Feeney, will speak on the exhibition at the Contemporary Art Annex at 1pm on Thursday, 8 April and Sunday, 11 April at 11am. Free admission.

The Robert McDougall Art Gallery, located in the Botanic Gardens, is the country’s most visited public art gallery, featuring regularly changing exhibitions of international and New Zealand historical and contemporary art. The McDougall Contemporary Art Annex, located in the Christchurch Arts Centre, features international, national and local contemporary exhibitions. Both galleries are open daily. Hours are 10 am. to 5.30 pm. (before 5 April) and 10am to 4.30pm (after 5 April). Free daily guided tours are available on request and admission is free.


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