William (Bill) Sutton (1917 – 2000)
The work of Canterbury artist Bill Sutton straddles the border between landscape painting and contemporary painting.
Sutton’s work before 1955 was regionalist realism, but the artist’s eye for the abstract in nature became more acute as he grew older. His viewpoint zoomed in to studies of vegetation, grasses and rocks, then out again to aerial perspectives. Sutton experimented with the abstract qualities to be found in close up views of earth and rocks.
Sutton’s lifeblood was the hot and blustery nor’wester and he was famous for works such as Nor’wester in a Cemetery (1950) and the Plantations series (mid 1980’s). For Sutton “heaven is standing in the full blast of a boisterous, blustery nor’west gale as it howls down from the mountains, roaring through the foothills and across the plains … I get a bit high … it is almost as of I am part of the nor’wester itself”.
Bill Sutton lectured at the Canterbury University for 30 years and was a mentor for many New Zealand artists. He was a member of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council in 1973 and in 1980 Sutton was appointed the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the Queens honor list. In 1984 he became a Fellow of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Art. In 2009 a bronze bust of Bill Sutton was unveiled on Worcester Boulevard in Christchurch, New Zealand as a part of the Twelve Local Heroes. The project commemorates twelve 20th century local Christchurch people who excelled in their fields with a series of bronze busts displayed in front of the historic Christchurch Arts Centre.
Anchors and Cloud, 1952
The distinctive hole in the side of the stone in Sutton’s Anchors and Cloud used for threading rope through, suggests it is a Polynesian anchor stone. Sometimes known as a Punga; anchor stones were used on canoes and waka throughout the Pacific. Because of the significance these anchors have within the history of Polynesian sea-faring and exploration many anchor stones are held in New Zealand museum collections, it may have been one of these artifacts that inspired Sutton’s painting.