The Colour of Music
“I owe much of my inspiration to the experiences of life in sophisticated 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.”
With her energetic brushwork and line, Piera McArthur is best known for her colourful depictions of people in society, celebrating life in vivid works that merge figurative with abstract.
It is her recognisable and original style, contained in the expressive application of paint and the scrupulous economy of line that can interpret a person’s essence in four confident strokes, that has earned Piera McArthur enormous respect and passionately loyal audiences.
Piera travelled extensively throughout Europe & America between 1957-73 with her husband John McArthur’s Foreign Service Postings, and it was during this period she developed a growing interest in contemporary art. During her posting to Chile in 1973, Piera discovered the art of Roberto Matta (1911 – 2002) and began painting seriously.
In 1975 McArthur returned to Paris where she met up again with expatriate New Zealand artist, Douglas MacDiarmid and began an enduring painterly relationship. He became her mentor and ardent supporter. It was in Paris that Piera learnt the technique of marouflage, whereby the artist can fasten or “weld” one surface to another. The ability to marouflage paper onto canvas enabled her to exploit the marvels of line, as opposed to works more dependent on solid blocks of colour for their splendour.
Again it was her diplomatic posting with John to Moscow, from 1988—90, that influenced her stylistic development. Piera had to resort to using acrylics, brought with her from France, which had the effect of furthering the fluidity of her style.
In 1990 The Soviet Artists Union sponsored an exhibition of 100 of Piera’s paintings and graphics at the New Tretyakov Gallery. It was the first solo exhibition by a New Zealander at the Gallery. The exhibition gained widespread attention and was well reviewed capturing the imagination of many conservative Muscovites.
Piera McArthur’s exhibitions are a perennial sumptuous feast, a blast, a tonic to be enjoyed. She is known for the energy of her work, its wit, humour, daring and satire. A brilliant colourist, Piera is also a superb draughtsman and audiences are often staggered by her rich variety. She has exhibited regularly in Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington and Christchurch and her works are held in public and private collections throughout New Zealand and internationally.