Don Peebles' Canvas Relief Red

Story by Jane Dennehy and Zsa Zsa Hartmann-Hughes

Museum and Heritage Studies, 2015

  • <p>Don Peebles, <em>Canvas Relief Red,</em> 1980, acrylic dyed canvas, Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection, purchased 1980</p>

The Painting

Its loose and flowing curves form an unusual take on abstraction, which had been traditionally defined by pigment applied to a flat surface.

Abstraction came to Aotearoa New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s with artists, like Peebles, returning from overseas. Influenced by the British constructivists whom he had encountered in his travels to Europe, Peebles forged a new path in New Zealand painting.

By stitching long strips of canvas to a large flat rectangle of canvas, Peebles sought to catch light and shadow in the 'fins' that play on the surface through refraction, gravity and the movement of air.

Don Peebles

Originally from Whakatane, Peebles entered the army in 1941 working as a radio operator until 1945.

Peebles worked as a teacher at Canterbury University School of Fine Arts for over 23 years, during which time he became the head of the Painting department, retiring in 1988 to become a full-time painter.

After his service in the Pacific and in Europe, he encountered the constructivist artist Victor Pasmore while in London. Pasmore's work 'was like a kick in the guts' and inspired Peebles to bend the conservatism of the art scene in New Zealand.

Peebles did this initially by creating works which playfully bridged the gap between painting and sculpture as painted wooden constructions and then with painted unstretched lengths of canvas.

Peebles is considered to be a pioneer of abstraction in New Zealand art. He continues to influence new generations of artists through works such as this.

See It for Yourself

Kirk Foyer, Level 3, Victoria University of Wellington, Kelburn, Wellington 6012, New Zealand