When we were staying in Auckland, we used the Sky City Hotel (a great place by the way). As you came out of the elevators they have these lovely, different for each floor, paintings by the well known New Zealand artist Michael Hight. A self-taught artist, painting since the age of 14, Michael Hight is a painter, sculptor and assembler, working with paint, canvas, tin, wood and found objects. He is most well-known for his observations of the ubiquitous beehive and their individual locales. These works contain all the particularities of location – geography, vegetation, weather. More than that they convey the idiosyncratic qualities of ownership and use and allude to a wider consideration of “place”. His works “gain their intensity from attention to the minutest detail.” The beehives stand in contrast to the surroundings, providing the “elegant lyricism” of juxtaposition. His virtuoso skills of representation of the highest order of skill to achieve “the heights of mood” and the undeniable specifics of place that go beyond just representation. I took pictures, began to really like them, and I thought I would share.
Michael was born Stratford, New Zealand in1961. He received a bachelor of Social Sciences from the University of Waikato 1982. Following a period from 1984-87 in which he travelled and lived and painted in London, Hight returned to live in Auckland. He has regularly exhibited since 1984 and has been a full time artist since 2001. He has received several QEII grants and his work is held in many New Zealand collections including Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, The Chartwell Collection and The James Wallace Trust.
Apiary (as collections of hives are known) have dominated Hight’s painting since the mid 1990s. The colorful stacks that can be seen sitting out in the fields in New Zealand near the roadside, like little clusters of teetering mini tower blocks are painted in different times of the year with an empty photorealistic background. These were all on done on the South Island of New Zealand between 2003 to 2004. In many of the paintings the hives in various states of ruin form casual circles on wide open valleys, forests and grassland, ringed by makeshift fences as if communities with their own history, secrets and rituals, the closest New Zealand might have to Stonehenge. The backgrounds show spectacular scenery but somehow the ever present beehives in the foreground are the thing that draws you into the painting. “The row of hives totter and shuffle forward like filing cabinets, promising to unload any personal history you might call up. There is a beautiful play between tones, light and texture, the hives’ appealingly worn fronts able to be read like a library of historic iconography.” The landscape of the central island is indeed accurately depicted, with a lot of dry areas in the center much like Australia as you can see on my post on the Taieri gorge. I hope you will take a little time to to savor these paintings as I have, they tend to grow on you.
Milford Galleries: http://www.milfordgalleries.co.nz/dunedin/artist/104-Michael-Hight