Magazine article New Zealand Management

World Class New Zealand: Art with No Boundaries; Ceramics, Sculptures, Drawings, Text and Film -- Waiheke-Based Artist Denis O'Connor's Multi-Dimensional Works Reach out to Collectors around the Globe. He Is Currently Engaged in a Major Project -- a Documentary on Artists in Their Studio Spaces

Magazine article New Zealand Management

World Class New Zealand: Art with No Boundaries; Ceramics, Sculptures, Drawings, Text and Film -- Waiheke-Based Artist Denis O'Connor's Multi-Dimensional Works Reach out to Collectors around the Globe. He Is Currently Engaged in a Major Project -- a Documentary on Artists in Their Studio Spaces

Article excerpt

The "O" in the Studio: The Spaces of Artists is a documentary inspired by artist Denis O'Connor, and produced and directed by Stephanie Bennett of Rongo Productions (see box story). O'Connor, respected sculptor, writer and artist, guides us through the film with conversations and interviews with leading UK art historians and scholars.

The artist in the studio is the central theme. Studios are confined rooms, private sanctuaries occupied by one artist for three, four or even five decades. O'Connor focuses on two very different artists, Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud and through this, reveals himself and his own studio.

He travelled to Europe to talk to those involved in the archaeological survey of the most famous studio in the 20th century -- the Francis Bacon Studio in Dublin. The exclusive interviews, with everyone from the curator to the archaeologist, reveal fascinating detail and stories of the excavation and relocation from London to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.

The entire studio was gifted by the Bacon estate and houses over 7000 items including unfinished paintings and personal effects, all of which can be seen in relation to his work.

O'Connor talked to the distinguished UK art historian Martin Gayford, best-selling author of Man with a Blue Scarf, describing his two-year experience of sitting for a portrait by painter Lucien Freud. O'Connor and Gayford discuss the influence great artists like Piet Mondrian, Alberto Giacometti, Brancusi, Philip Guston and Rodin had on the two painters and how their identities were mirrored in their studio environment.

O'Connor is currently completing the final works in a seven-year project portraying the artist as a horse-masked figure, The Tangler. A major work from this project, The Tangler's Cave, was a reinvention of an artist's studio inside a horse float. The controversial sculpture was awarded the Premier prize at Headland Sculpture on the Gulf in 2011. An interview with Irish social historian Noel Mullins provides insight on the origins of the tangler character in rural traditions in Ireland, with footage of a horse fair in Kilkenny.

Sequences in O'Connor's actual studio on Waiheke Island include an interview with his late daughter, Dr Blaze O'Connor (d.2009), who recounts early childhood experiences of this studio. She later became a celebrated archaeologist and art historian. In this poignant interview, Blaze muses on how the child dreams their future out of the parent and threatens an archaeological survey on her father's studio after completing the survey of the Francis Bacon studio and its relocation.

David Mitchell is the elder statesman of architecture in New Zealand and an articulate cultural commentator. He has observed O'Connor's art practice over three decades and has commissioned artworks that have been integrated into award-winning buildings and public spaces. These site-specific sculptures have been a hidden dimension of O'Connor's studio practice, requiring broad historical research and an insight into the character of a client and place that is akin to the portrait painter and sitter.

In the documentary Mitchell discusses with the artist how he goes about finding a coded image that reflects the resonant material and space into a building where this can be best dramatised. Filmed sequences reveal these most private of commissions.

The documentary also features a collaboration with Irish actor Conor Lovett, one of the world's leading interpreters of the work of Samuel Beckett. Lovett 'voices' and performs Denis O'Connor's 'other self' in a cameo appearance and recital. …

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