What do Colin McCahon, Shi Lu, Petrus Van Der Velden and Gerda Leenards have in common?
They are all landscape artists whose work were studied in a recent teacher workshop here at Te Papa.
In the education team we love giving a little back to all those hard working teachers, by offering fun and inspirational workshops. Last week a group of teachers took some time away from the classroom and enjoyed a professional development workshop to learn about the approaches artists have taken to landscape painting. This was part of our on-going series of workshops designed to give teachers insights into different areas of artistic practice, gain first-hand knowledge from practicing artists, and leave inspired with ideas that can be used in the classroom.
Dr Rebecca Rice, Curator of Historical NZ Art, began by introducing teachers to the work of Shi Lu, a modern master of Chinese painting and calligraphy, who lived through a time of political and cultural revolution (1919-82) and maintained his unique artistic vision throughout. His work, currently in Te lhomatua gallery, includes a series of landscape paintings that feature his distinctive seemingly chaotic and loose, but carefully composed brush work.
Rebecca then took teachers to Nga Toi | Arts Te Papa and discussed the work of Dutch artist Petrus Van Der Velden who arrived in New Zealand in 1890. New Zealand’s majestic scenery inspired him to capture the landscape in dramatic, large scale, raw, expressive paintings. Chelsea Nichols, Curator of Modern Art, led the teachers into the exhibition Emblems of Identity to talk about a group of landscape paintings by Colin McCahon. Using a deliberately raw painting style with thick black outlines in these works McCahon places ungainly religious figures against an expressively coloured New Zealand landscape.
Teachers finished their exhibition tour discussing a large scale multi canvas work by Colin McCahon titled Walk Series C. This abstract landscape is in part an imagined journey along Muriwai beach. It was designed to be viewed, while walking alongside it, and was painted during a time when McCahon was grieving both the death of his mother and his long-time friend, poet James K Baxter. Teachers then discussed ways to use some of the approaches to landscape they had witnessed in the gallery with their students. The workshop culminated in a painting demonstration by artist Gerda Leenards, whose paintings are part of the collection. Teachers were able to view Gerda’s paintings up-close, which were brought out from storage for the workshop. Gerda discussed the way that travel has influenced her painting approach. She then encouraged teachers to try some painting techniques; squaring up an image of a landscape onto canvas, using charcoal to block out light and dark areas, blocking in with acrylic paint, using acrylic medium to mix consistency and create shine, using tissue paper on canvas to create texture, and using dryer paint to blend colours.
If you are a classroom teacher and would like to attend our next professional development workshop, sign up to our education e-newsletter and we’ll invite you along. We’d also love to hear your comments, what new things would you like to learn at Te Papa that will help with your classroom teaching?