Autumn has taken hold and winter is on the way but at the end of the school holidays this informal talk by David Alsop at his gallery in upper Cuba Street was a really special chance to listen, look and ask questions about both Ans Westra and Jeffrey Harris – well known names and personalities in the history and development of the art of Aotearoa. David shared his extensive knowledge as well as anecdotes and opinions and was very generous with both his professional and personal insights. David Alsop is fresh from curating After Handboek:Ans Westra Photographs, currently showing at the Dutch Centre in Foxton and has a passion to make excellent prints available of her work. We began our visit upstairs alongside her photographs.

David is both a family friend and professional advisor to both Ans Westra and Jeffrey Harris and spoke warmly about his respect and admiration for their work. His connection spans many years and the development of the work of these two artists. The documentary focus of Ans Westra and the beautifully mounted works on the walls beside us resonate as a record of our country and our people. Luit Beiringa writes …”the images ….take us through a remarkable photographic journey and allow us all to view or review our own position vis-a-vis the stories that the journey conveys” He is writing of the After Hanbroek exhibition at Foxton but we share this also at (Suite) Gallery. The upstairs and outdoor courtyard walls have works chosen for us to view by David Alsop. The intricacies of real photography form part of a fascinating and informative presentation.

We move downstairs to where there are Jeffrey Harris ‘drawings and paintings spanning a timeline from 1970 to 1997. Harris is still painting and lives in Dunedin. The influences of studying alongside an era of artists who today form a strong part of the developing art identity that is our own are evident. McCahon and Hotere resonate and there is personal struggle and unrelenting searching in these works. David has a very recent work in the gallery (not on show) that he shares. This was painted in 2021 and the power of Harris’s artistic voice is bold and immediate. Both these artists speak directly from their canvases to the observer. We go out into a crisp, beautiful evening with much to review and certainly some sense of our own responsibility to respond to these artists and to consider.

Thank you to hosts of the Friends of Te Papa and to David Alsop himself. If you are reading this and can visit {Suite} Gallery it is well worth a visit. On at {Suite} until May 7th.  Also After Hanboek: Ans Westra Photographs at Foxton Mapuna-Kabinet Art Gallery. Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom until 19 June.

Deirdre Tarrant
Member