I was born in England but have been a New Zealander for almost forty years. I have been a visual artist since childhood and have never considered myself as anything else. I have never had any other occupation and only in extreme circumstances have I ever worked for anyone else. As I refused to join the general workforce in any capacity, my early days in New Zealand were fraught with difficulties. My wife Patricia is a Kiwi (and my reason for coming to New Zealand). She has been my saviour in all things. She has always worked and held down a good job which has enabled me to continue with my painting full-time and increase all efforts to communicate through my art. Luckily I have a strong penchant for art, history, antiques and books, so was able to supplement my income for a time by consulting and trading in art and antiques as an adjunct to my studio. I continued to paint and exhibit where I could but my early exhibitions in Christchurch were generally not well received. I showed my paintings at various galleries around the city but they seemed to cause only much scratching of heads and gapes of incredulity. Also, of course, any favourable reviews or sales were out of the question.
'The Great Magician' (My first painting in New Zealand. 1973)
It was not until the mid 1980s that something really began to happen. In 1985 I entered what was then termed ‘The Montana Art Award’ (now the ‘Montana Book Award’). This was a National competition held by the leading North Island wine organisation, Montana Wines. It was the first (and only) art competition I have ever entered. There were many hundreds of entrants from all over the country and I had, on the advice from a friend, sent one painting at the last minute. To my great surprise the painting ‘Performance’ won an award and a cash prize. We were flown to Gisborne for the presentation and I remember feeling that, at last, I may be on the right track.
It was after this, in 1986, that Tricia and I went to London and New York for a month. This was an exiting time and we learned much about the ‘Big Apple’ and its art scene.
In 1988 I went alone to London for a solo show at New Zealand House and exhibited again in a couple of West End dealer galleries. While it became obvious that there may be potential for real development and growth there, like New York, the art dealers do like you to live close and be readily available. New Zealand was just too far away to establish strong relationships.
In 1989 we returned again to New York and lived between there and London for a year. In Manhattan I leased a large studio on Broadway where I worked hard every day and, while I did succeed in getting a few gallery exhibitions on both sides of the Atlantic, it was hard going and very expensive so, after a year of much learning and great fun with many new friends, we returned to New Zealand.
The nineties saw me once again exhibiting in Christchurch and Auckland dealer galleries. It was again very obvious that the local art establishment was not interested in my work. However, It was the time of the burgeoning Internet and the communication of my images across the world brought much more attention and offers than ever before. I began selling well to private collectors and this is when I began sending my paintings overseas. In 1993 and ’94 I exhibited well in Japan. I showed with the ‘International Artists Congress For Peace’ held at the Museum Of Modern Art in Tokyo. This exhibition toured over forty galleries throughout Japan and inspired one Japanese collector to fly to New Zealand and buy direct from me.
I exhibited with many smaller galleries in New Zealand but the best and most useful to my cause was the dealer and curator Alexis Brown. I held some strong and successful shows with her at her large Christchurch gallery and she was most encouraging and helpful when New York and Italy began to take an interest in my work. She facilitated representation for me in ‘Art Basel, Miami, Florida’, ‘Art Contemporary’ in Istanbul, ‘White’ New York, the ‘Florence Biennale’ Italy and ‘Music For Manhattan’ New York. Since then many doors have opened for me on the international circuit, especially in Italy and Australia.
Once again, apart from informed private collectors, there is very little or no response to my work in this country. However, this is no longer of any concern to me as I am not a ‘regional’ artist anyway. My belief in the universality of art is well known and respected elsewhere and I am now more than happy just to ‘live’ in my chosen paradise without expectations.