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Picture/Poem: imagery of Cilla McQueen & Joanna Paul

The Hocken Library

Friday 24 April 2015 2:06pm

Picture Poem collage image

This new exhibition (April 19 to July 25) just launched at the University of Otago Hocken Library brings together the creative works of award-winning poet Cilla McQueen and respected painter Joanna Margaret Paul. The pair met in Dunedin in the late 1970s and during the following decade their lives continued to intersect.

Both artists have strong ties with the University, being past Arts Fellows. In 1983, Paul was a recipient of the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship. McQueen is a former Burns Fellow (1985-6) and her first poetry collection Homing In (John McIndoe Ltd, 1982), included a poem based on Paul titled “Joanna”. She penned a second poem dedicated to her friend after Paul’s untimely death in 2003. McQueen credits Paul, who was also an accomplished poet, with showing her that she was a visual artist.

The Hocken is home to hundreds of artworks by both Paul and McQueen, many of which have been gifted by them or in the case of Paul, her estate, which generously donated nearly 200 of her sketchbooks in 2008.

The exhibition focuses on works from the 1970s and 1980s that were created while these artists were living in Dunedin. It includes 28 artworks (predominantly works on paper). Examples of their published work include poetry and, in the case of McQueen, musical scores published in poetry books, artist’s books and ephemera relating to the life and work of these two creative women.
Many of Paul’s works in this show have not been exhibited before. Most of the works are drawn from the Hocken’s extensive art collection of more than 17,000 artworks but a small group of works have been borrowed from her Estate.

A double portrait by Paul (c. 1970) was recently gifted to the Hocken and came from the collection of the late Michael Hitchings in 2010. The painting features him and his former wife, Maureen Hitchings.
Hocken Curator of Pictorial Collections and also curator of this exhibition Natalie Poland says the Hitchings, like Paul and McQueen, contributed to the shaping of Dunedin’s cultural outlook during this period. Michael was the former Hocken Librarian (1965-1984) and Maureen Hitchings ran the Dawson’s Gallery where Paul’s works were exhibited in the 1970’s.

“Although this exhibition has a narrow focus the Hocken has a wealth of other material relating to both Paul and McQueen. For example the Archives collections houses correspondence from Joanna Margaret Paul to Deidre Airey and her letters to Charles Brasch, as well as the literary papers of Cilla McQueen and the business records of Dunedin’s John McIndoe, the local publisher that printed McQueen’s early poetry collections,” she says.

Despite working predominantly in different artistic fields the approaches of McQueen and Paul have common features including an interest in juxtaposing pictures and poems and the visual arrangement of words on the page. In the 1980s it was not as common as it is now to create interdisciplinary work.

In correspondence with Natalie Poland, McQueen wrote: “The works on display date primarily from the 1980s and show that both women were informed by experimental approaches that blurred the conventional boundaries between art, literature and music. Their pictures and poems celebrate the richness of the everyday experience and the local environment. The freshness of their drawings, use of collage and surprising combinations of images and text enliven ordinary language and convey a sense of living intensely in the present moment.” [Source: Unpublished memoirs, email to Natalie Poland May 2011, now in Hocken’s artist’s files.]

An artwork by McQueen called Sequestered (2009) was purchased by the Hocken in 2010.

“McQueen has made it using a series of six floppy discs that she has scratched text onto a series of six outmoded computer floppy discs that contained a late twentieth century manuscript by McQueen. The scratched texts, etched into the surface of the black circles, are partly occluded with red seal wax, an evocation of other modes of communication that are facing obsolescence - the tradition of handwritten letters,” says Ms Poland.

One series by Paul makes its debut in Picture/Poem - Untitled (The Stillness of the Rose . . .), 1974-1980, comprising seven water-colour and pencil works conceived to be viewed as a single creative work.

“Curiously each separate piece of this work was created on the same day over a period of seven years. Each part contains a fragment from the poem ‘The Rose’ by American writer William Carlos Williams. This work was purchased by the Hocken just this year.”

For more information, contact:

Natalie Poland, Hocken Collections
Tel 64 3 479 5600
Email natalie.poland@otago.ac.nz

Imagery:

Left: Joanna Margaret Paul, Untitled [self-portrait], ink drawing, 299 x 229mm, acc.: L278. On deposit from the Estate of Joanna Margaret Paul. Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Middle: Joanna Margaret Paul, Untitled [The Stillness of the Rose] (detail), 1974, watercolour and pencil on paper, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago. Dunedin.

Right: Cilla McQueen, Self Portrait, 1991, ink drawing, acc 92/1462, pen & ink on paper, 298 x 210mm. Gifted by Cilla McQueen, Dunedin, 1992. Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

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