Artwork Description / Detail
Iconic New Zealand artist, Piera McArthur, was born in 1929 in Ramsgate, England, where her New Zealand father, member of a famous medical dynasty of the Monros, practiced for eleven years, after taking his FRCS in Edinburgh. The family moved back to their native New Zealand in 1938.
There the young Piera would foster her love of art and drawing. After completing her schooling at Erskine College, Piera took up a Scholarship at Victoria University and received a Master of Arts in Modern Languages with First Class Honours. There she met fellow student John G. McArthur whom she married and accompanied throughout his career as one of New Zealand’s Senior Diplomats. He became one of New Zealand’s well known Ambassadors.
Although she insisted on working independently of the Embassy in her own right as a painter she never the less says; ‘quite frankly I owe much of my inspiration to the experiences of life in sophisticated capitals of the world.
I am sometimes accused of being ‘European’. This is hardly astonishing seeing that my life as a good New Zealander has been spent in capitals of the world. It is also a fact that my work deals largely with people, a theme of eternal interest and valid everywhere, in Paris, New York, Auckland, Timbuctoo … Let’s not get parochial and let’s remember that a true painter applies his or her vision to whatever happens to be the surrounding theme.
Piera lived and worked for many years in Paris. While painting in Moscow later on, she became the first New Zealander to have a solo show at the New Tretiakov Gallery in Russia. Of this experience she wrote, “I came of age as a painter, experiencing strong reaction both for and against”.
Piera describes her work as follows:
“There are two poles to my work, which influence one another nevertheless. One is the fascinating world of drawing, a miraculous medium which can say it all, the other is the glorious world of colour and paint. My life aim as an artist is to travel on both these paths, combining and integrating. I am aiming for the thrill of ordered chaos, which can end in harmony.
My idea is to abstract the human form in close proximity, so that the bodies are reduced to simple plains, the people depicted become part of a world of colour which has a life of it’s own – ambient, turbulent, vibrant, but which, because of an underlying balance, results, like the people it infiltrates, in a final harmonious whole. It is about tensions and balance. Hopefully, other satirical elements complete the picture.
What matters is the quality of the work. Did you know that Rembrandt so prized drawings that he had a collection of over two thousand done by other artists? Who can tell what I may be tempted to portray now that I live and work in lovely ‘Godzone’?”
Themes must be fully explored in order to develop into a final elusive simplicity. Multiple choices face an artist. Behind every gesture lie alternative possibilities; behind every painting lurk the ghosts of paths not followed.”
Since returning to New Zealand, Piera has held numerous successful solo exhibitions and her works are held in many private and public collections throughout New Zealand and internationally.