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Object: Purple rain at Glorit

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Title Purple rain at Glorit
Production Dashper, Julian (artist), 1986, Auckland
Medium summary oil and conté on velvet
Materials oil paint, velvet, conté crayon (material)
Classification paintings
Dimensions Overall: 1374mm (Height) x 2140mm (Length) x 35mm (Width/Depth)
Image: 1374mm (Height) x 1070mm (Length) x 35mm (Width/Depth)
Credit line Purchased 1986 with Ellen Eames Collection funds
Registration number 1986-0022-1/A-B and B/B

Painted with bright colours and thick, blobby paint, Purple rain at Glorit is based on a series of drawings Julian Dashper made in the Glorit area at the southern end of Kaipara Harbour. The work is the outcome of a rainy day spent in the area, listening to Prince’s pop album Purple rain. It is exuberant and lurid in colour and material, as well as in the seemingly joyous and haphazard application of the paint.

As Christina Barton has noted, Dashper’s work has ‘continually disrupted expectations about art’s meaning, making, history and effects’.(1) In Purple rain at Glorit Dashper plays with the style of abstract expressionism — loose brushwork, a lack of figurative elements, a sense of spontaneity. Dashper might have adopted the style, but he rejected the ethos: this is not an outpouring of emotion in wild gesture, driven by the artist’s troubled psyche. Purple rain at Glorit looks like an expressionist painting, but, as Dashper noted, the works from this period ‘were all made by holding the tube and just squeezing it. So I never actually touched or embraced the paint. I could have made them wearing three-piece suits. They were like lies in terms of artistic expression of angst.’(2)

Likewise, while the work’s title names a specific place, there is nothing ‘about’ that landscape evident in the painting. In another example, Cass altarpiece, 1986 (Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki) makes tribute to Rita Angus’s Cass, 1936 (Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu), but shows nothing of either Angus’s style or the Canterbury landscape. Here Dashper toys with the long history of landscape painting in New Zealand and the promotion of those artists who were seen to express an emotional and aesthetic response to the unique qualities of the New Zealand landscape. In this way, Dashper inserts himself into the history of New Zealand art, whilst keeping a knowing distance.

Charlotte Huddlestone

This essay originally appeared in Art at Te Papa (Te Papa Press, 2009).

1. Christina Barton, ‘Zero-ing in: On Julian Dashper’, in The Twist, Waikato Museum of Art and History, 1998, p. 9.
2. Julian Dashper, interviewed by Mark Kirby, Luxus, The Hague, 1997; reprinted in The Twist, Waikato Museum of Art and History, 1998, p. 36.

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