Frequently described as Aotearoa’s most prominent Expressionist artist, Philip Trusttum has often confirmed its influence in his paintings. Yet, in the numerous and varied series that he has explored over the past five decades, his work has refused to be constrained by his varied responses to the application of paint to canvas or his selection of subjects and narratives. Arguably, it may be that the nature of human behaviour is his essential subject.
Founder and director of Dilana, Hugh Bannerman’s and design director, Sudi Dargipour’s recent visit to Trusttum’s studio, like that of most visitors, may have commenced with paintings by the artist from his Tennis Series, 2009, (a major body of work, simultaneously figurative and abstract, recording and referencing the experience of the artist engaged in a favourite sport), but Dargipour also recalls: ‘He brought out all these paintings and suddenly we saw these other works from just after lockdown and Covid 19’.
Dargipour describes the recent paintings from Trusttum’s Signage Series as ‘single figures just moving... the only sign of human beings that you saw during lockdown. I related to those painting. They are ‘us’ in a way and you notice all the detail about the movement of people that you never see or usually do not notice’.
These subjects in Trusttum’s art from Covid 19 lockdown have their origins in 2011 post-earthquake Christchurch, the artist no longer able to work in a dedicated studio. Trusttum sustained his practice over a fifteen month period, completing over 1600 drawings in volumes of hand-made paper books that he purchased from Trade Aid, filling them with people, creatures, toys and figures. These drawings were followed by new paintings of figures cycling and walking, and later trams and street signs. Trusttum acknowledged his interest in these subjects in spite of wishing to avoid comparison with other well-known New Zealand artists who had explored the urban environment through their work. Yet, in spite of initial concerns about road signs and directions as subjects for his work, they fitted well within his practice. He noted that with signs; ‘they have already done the hard work, [by refining their subjects]. Trusttum’s silhouetted figures became essential abstracted forms on bikes, crossing the road and walking, no less animated or distinct as the individuals that he had observed and drawn them from.
Trusttum’s figures in motion became the subjects of Dargipour’s designs in response. She comments that the only thing that she did was reduced the white. ‘He picked the red and I tried to capture the person by adding more white around it. You can see a head at the top, and the brush marks or canvas creases are heightened, that interrupts the figures, which are solid shapes’. Dargipour’s designs for these rugs have Trusttum’s marks and gestures and the life of his animated figures, as well as a spirited, painterly quality, shared and recognised in Trusttum’s paintings.
Dilana, 102 Buchan Street, Sydenham
Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm, weekend on appointment
Sudi Dargipour, Coca Exit 1.5 by 2.2 … hand tuft, 100% wool