In the late 1940s Doris Lusk rented a disused farmhouse at Duvauchelle. Located at the head of Akaroa Harbour on Banks Peninsula, the house was a destination at holiday times and weekends for Lusk, her husband Dermott Holland and their young family, as well as a gathering place for artistic and literary friends. Lusk took the distinctive forms of the Banks Peninsula landscape as her subject matter in a number of works over the next few years, including this, one of her largest paintings to date.
‘What attracted me to this terrain,’ Lusk later explained, ‘was the breadth and structure of these hill forms.’ To reveal that breadth and structure, Lusk adopts a high viewpoint in Akaroa Harbour, Banks Peninsula and eliminates virtually all descriptive detail from the picture. The landscape is stripped back to bare essentials — the rhythmic, muscular forms of the hills, and the stark contrast of land, water and sky. In this, Akaroa Harbour, Banks Peninsula differs from the series of works that had immediately preceded it, in which Lusk documented the massive engineering works of the Lake Waikaremoana hydroelectric power scheme in the central North Island. There, and elsewhere in Lusk’s work, the forms of the landscape are articulated in relation to the marks of human habitation upon it. Here, it appears as if such habitation was merely a passing phase.
Like Colin McCahon’s paintings Otago Peninsula, 1949 (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa), and especially Takaka night and day, 1948 (Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki), in which the landscape is similarly denuded, Akaroa Harbour, Banks Peninsula is strongly diagrammatic. McCahon had worked on Takaka night and day while staying at Lusk’s house in Christchurch the year before. The two painters would have doubtless exchanged ideas during this time, continuing an artistic dialogue begun a decade earlier in Dunedin. It was there that McCahon had first encountered Charles Cotton’s book Geomorphology of New Zealand, 1922, which became a shaping influence on his own work. It seems likely that McCahon would have shared his enthusiasm for Cotton’s ‘explicit and ordered drawing’ of the landscape with Lusk.
True Size - 54 x 31cm including 8mm border.
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