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Showing posts from July, 2019

Alison Duff: the essence of life

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Alison Duff was a major Aotearoa New Zealand sculptor with a career spanning over sixty years. She introduced new materials and techniques and combined them with a commitment to local subject matter including native flora and fauna, and conservation concerns. She was inspired by her surroundings, without any reference to what anyone else may have done in the same field or in similar media, wrote Peter Cape who interviewed Duff in 1969. “A tui is the sound of a chime as well as shape and movement, and so her tui sculptures have sound as well as form (a carefully tuned bell, or sounding disc at the throat).” Duff carved and welded images of fantails, pied stilts, tui and kingfisher in which she tried to capture the essence of the birds and these sculptures often included acoustic elements. When asked if she observed and then drew birds before creating her sculptures, Duff replied, “No, I’d get him into my heart and then he comes out. I don’t do them photographically…. They’re not natura…

Three Faces of Frank

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There can’t be too many Aotearoa NZ writers who have been immortalised in bronze three times – but Frank Sargeson has been. His three portrait busts were made by sculptors Terry Stringer, Anthony Stones and Alison Duff. They are being shown together for the first time in an exhibition called Three Faces of Frank, in the Angela Morton Room in Takapuna Library from 1 August – 31 October 2019.


Duff produced the first bust of Sargeson, commissioned by The Arts Advisory Council (forerunner of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of NZ) in 1963. However, Sargeson took some persuading because he was annoyed that the Arts Council had turned down funding for a theatre production he was involved in. He finally agreed to sit for Duff, who was also a friend, and in the end he wrote that she had produced a torso which he was obliged to admire: “her work much more than myself.”


Duff depicted Sargeson in animated conversation, and in his shirtsleeves “because he is a writer of the people,” she said. …

Channelling negatives

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When I first came across this photograph from the Auckland Libraries heritage photograph collection I was mesmerised by the uniform yet complex and almost translucent pattern veiling the entire image. Shot from a landing above a stairwell, with a garden just visible through the large gridded window, the subject looks up resolutely towards the camera through what feels like a web of different physical and temporal spaces.


Auckland Libraries Principal Photographs Curator Keith Giles explained that this net-like pattern  - termed “channelling” - is caused by the contraction and deterioration of the cellulose layer in acetate film negatives. This degradation is usually the result of a process commonly known as vinegar syndrome (due to the strong vinegar-like odour) which occurs when the acetate ion reacts with moisture, signalling that ascetic acid has formed. While the issue is unavoidable with acetate film, preventative measures such as cool storage, acid free enclosures and stable rela…