Title / object name
|Maker ||Role ||Date |
|Trusttum, Philip ||artist ||1976 |
acrylic on unstretched canvasMaterials
acrylic paint, canvas
|Image ||2397 (Height) x 1930 (Length)|
Purchased 1980 with Special Projects in the Arts funds
In 1979 Philip Trusttum had a clean-out. After staying with relatives in the North Island, where he found the experience of a house with empty walls refreshing, he decided to apply it to his own art-filled home in Christchurch. He hired the largest space he could and staged an auction. There were over a hundred lots: paintings spanning two decades and numerous drawings as well. According to one observer, ‘There was a breathtaking pause for a long half minute before the initial bid was received… Then things moved along in a brisk fashion as lot after lot was knocked down.’(1) Among them was Music I, bought by the National Art Gallery.
Trusttum was taught at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts by Rudolf Gopas, from whom he learned an unwavering commitment to his art. He worked through diverse and exotic influences, from Art Brut and van Gogh to Joan Miro, Paul Klee, and Indian and Persian miniatures. The subjects of his work, however, have always been rooted in the ordinary and everyday. As Trusttum said in 1980, ‘McCahon has his bible and his landscape. Hotere his poems. I have my chesspieces, my house, my garden.’(2) Tennis matches, bills and letters, the horses on Trusttum’s farm in South Canterbury, his wife’s clothes, his children and, lately, grandchildren too can be added to that list. As Peter Leech has noted, for all this diversity of style and subject matter, ‘consistency with Trusttum lies… in the unvarying, exuberant joyfulness of all his art’.(3)
Those qualities are evident in Music I. Many of Trusttum’s signature devices are on display — the nod to Klee, the chalky paint and its restless application, the array of signs that do not quite cohere into meaning, the openness of the composition. The painting resembles nothing so much as a graphic score, the kind produced by avant-garde composers wanting to unshackle their works from conventional notation and all its determinacy. In fact it was Karlheinz Stockhausen’s seminal composition of 1955–57, Gruppen – a sprawling, agitated, complex score for three orchestras – that provided a direct stimulus for Music I.
This essay originally appeared in Art at Te Papa (Te Papa Press, 2009).
1. John Coley, ‘Christchurch’, Art New Zealand, no. 17, Spring 1980, p. 17.
2. Philip Trusttum, quoted in Derek Schulz, ‘Everyday optimism’, New Zealand Listener, 6 December 1980, p. 36.
3. Peter Leech, ‘A game for the living’, Otago Daily Times, 12 August 1982, p. 22.