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Time passed at the “speed of a shark” for Frances Hodgkins Fellow

Tuesday, 8 March 2016 1:24pm

John-Ward-Knox-artwork-image
John Ward Knox, No Title, 2016, oil on board. Reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Relief. Elation. Post-show blue. Mildly anxious.

The words used by 2015 Frances Hodgkins Fellow John Ward Knox following the opening of his exhibition: a deep and tumbling kind of laughter and associated publication Ashes at the Hocken over the weekend.

The exhibition and publication are a culmination of his work during his year on the Fellowship.

a deep and tumbling kind of laughter presents a cohesive grouping of intimate paintings depicting body parts and with subtle variations of skin tone, veins and imperfections. Ashes represents the varied projects that he undertook throughout 2015.

Mr Ward Knox says during his year on the Fellowship, time passed with the “speed of a shark” – a “languid pace of patience and occasional bursts of fury”.

John-Ward-Knox-guests
Guests examine the works at the opening of John Ward Knox’s Hocken exhibition last week.

In terms of depth, time opened outward, allowing life to tumble in to cracks and crevices that were inaccessible before,” he says. “Not having to rush to work in the mornings and evenings allowed me the freedom to macerate in my own thought, and to find ideas and content I would never elsewise.”

The Frances Hodgkins Fellowship was first awarded in 1966 – and will celebrate 50 years this year. Mr Ward Knox was the 47th person to hold it, as two Fellows (Marte Szirmay – 1971 and 1972 and Fiona Pardington - 1996 and 1997) each held it for two consecutive years.

Named after Dunedin-born Frances Hodgkins, it was established by the University Council in 1962 to aid and encourage painters, sculptors and multi-media artists, while at the same time associating them with the life of the University and fostering an interest in the Arts within the University.

Since then, it has been held by many prestigious artists, including Ralph Hotere (1969), Marilyn Webb (1974), Grahame Sydney (1978) and Shane Cotton (1998).

John-Ward-Knox-artwork-2-image
John Ward Knox, No Title, 2016, oil on board. Reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Mr Ward Knox says while he is pleased to join the list, he tries not to let it mean too much.

“The shallow part of me enjoys seeing my name in the same list as some of those other esteemed artists, but this is a part of myself I do not wish to grant too much agency to. Prestige is a funny word, it implies an audience, or at least an awareness. I would feel most honoured if it were the work which I produced this year, and not my name on a list which people thought impressive. I do not care about my name, but I do care about my work.”

Mr Ward Knox graduated with an MA in Fine Arts from Auckland’ Elam School of Fine Arts in 2008. Prior to receiving the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 2015 he was based in Auckland.

He says the year was challenging in many ways, particularly because he is a “poor manager” of his own capacity for work.

“I believe I can do everything and that my body is servant to my will. This is fallacy, of course, but one which reared its head in the newfound freedom of a whole year of self-directed work. I crammed as many things as possible into the year and then had to do them all.”

For now though he is looking towards this 2016. Like many artists who complete this Fellowship he is re-emerging into the world, with rent and bills again a reality.

“I am looking for work and re-adjusting to the financial vagaries of being an artist in New Zealand. I will be working on the next three exhibitions and planning a fourth. Maybe writing a novella?”

John Ward Knox’s exhibition will run to the end of April.

Check it out:

John Ward Knox: a deep and tumbling kind of laughter
27 Feb to 30 Apr 2016
Hocken Gallery
90 Anzac Ave, Dunedin
Open weekdays 9am to 5pm, Tue 9am to 9pm, Sat 9am to12 noon
http://www.otago.ac.nz/library/hocken/