Jim Allen has been called the “father of experimental art” in New Zealand. He was a pioneer of post-object art and performance art in this country, and is regarded as the most influential art educator of his generation. Allen died in June this year aged 100. Futuna chapel, one of NZ’s most iconic buildings, is the site of some of Jim Allen’s most important and enduring artworks including the dramatic coloured window light modulators, carved Polynesian Jesus figure, and plaster cast ‘Stations’ around the chapel interior. At Futuna on November 11th we celebrate Jim Allen’s contribution to art and culture in Aotearoa with a tribute concert by Phil Dadson and others at 2pm, followed by this panel of heavyweight artists, writers and thinkers who will talk around Jim Allen’s life, work and legacy including:
Phil Dadson (ONZM) - sound artist
Elizabeth Thomson - artist
Tim Barlow - artist
Christina Barton (ONZM) - curator and writer
Greg O'Brien (MNZM) - writer
Born in Wellington in 1922, Jim Allen served as a machine gunner in Italy during Second World War. After the war he stayed in Italy undertaking art studies at Perugia University and Instituto d’Arte Florence, followed by a Diploma of Fine Arts from University of Canterbury and in 1951 he became an Associate of the Royal College of Art, London. In 1976 he was among the early exhibitors at the Experimental Art Foundation in Adelaide, South Australia. Allen's work had a significant influence on the development of post-object practices in New Zealand. His environmental sculptures place the experiential elements of spectatorship foremost, and his performances emphasised ephemeral process over and above the physical object. Allen’s work is included in collections in countries all over the world, including the UK, America, Australia, Japan and New Zealand.
Alongside his pioneering art practice, Allen is regarded as the most influential art educator of his generation in Aotearoa and Australia, where he was a vital force in shaping the local art scene during the 1960s and 1970s. Employed by New Zealand’s Department of Education as part of the Gordon Tovey-led art education initiative, Allen taught a radical hands-on teaching in schools in the Far North alongside the revolutionary educator Elwyn Richardson. Allen’s commitment to student-led education informed his tenure as head of sculpture at Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland (1960–76) and as the founding Head of the Sydney College of the Arts (1977–87)
Phil Dadson is one of New Zealand’s most important living artists and a seminal figure in the history of sonic arts in Aotearoa. His highly inventive trans-disciplinary approach encompasses experimental musical instruments and sonic objects, video/sound installation, music composition, graphic scores, drawing, sound sculptures, improvisation and collaboration. Founded in 1974, From Scratch was Dadson’s central creative outlet through the 1970s and 1980s, producing internationally celebrated performance works encompassing Dadson’s mixed interests in instrument making, composition and visual aesthetics and underpinned by environmental and political themes. Since the group’s heyday in the early 1980s Phil has continued to create with interminable energy, exhibiting, performing and producing solo and collaborative work around the globe.
Liz Thomson is one of New Zealand's leading contemporary artists, with a career spanning over 30 years. A conceptual and interdisciplinary artist, Thomson creates works that span a range of media, including painting, printmaking, photography, and sculpture. Her work draws on music, philosophy, and mathematics as well as the natural world, involving a variety of botanical, organic, and molecular forms. The interaction between art and science has become a key focus of her work in the age of globalisation and climate change.
Christina Barton is a highly respected art historian, curator, art writer and editor. She was director of the Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi between 2007 and 2023. She has worked at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. She has curated numerous exhibitions, including the major Billy Apple retrospective at Auckland Art Gallery in 2015. Her writing has been published widely, and she has contributed as an editor of journals Antic and Reading Room, and volumes including the collected art writings of Wystan Curnow. She has focussed much of her research into post-object and conceptual art in New Zealand.
Tim Barlow is a multimedia artist who has been creating installations, performance, and social artworks since first creating a giant living mould in High School art classes. His works explore intersections of environment and ethics, community activism and humour. In 2017 he was conferred with a PhD in Fine Arts from Massey University Wellington. He cites some of his early artistic influences as experimental artists in Aotearoa including Jim Allen, Andrew Drummond, David Mealing and Pauline Rhodes.
With one foot in the literary world, the other in the visual art realm, Greg O’Brien has been a prolific and busy presence on the cultural scene in Aotearoa for nearly three decades. As Lara Strongman says " Greg O'Brien is one of New Zealand's most distinguished 'cultural odd job men'. As a curator, poet, novelist, art writer, and visual artist he makes major contributions to our culture. His great achievement is to uncover, and to bring into the light, the overlooked and undersung”. Greg has a long association with Futuna chapel and is on the Board of the Futuna Trust.
Entry by koha
Futuna Chapel, 67 Futuna Close, Karori
Many thanks to the Futuna Trust and Creative NZ.
Other Phil Dadson Events 10-11 Nov:
Fri 10 Nov
8pm Pyramid Club
Phil Dadson / Rob Thorne: ‘Aurongo/Inner Listening’ album release
Sat 11 Nov
2pm Futuna Chapel
Phil Dadson tribute to Jim Allen concert