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March 21, 2011 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts | [ssba]

The Imaginative Life and Times of Graham Percy

The Imaginative Life and Times of Graham Percy is currently showing at the City Gallery and is a great exhibition for anyone with a sense of humour and a bit of childlike wonder left inside them. The show exhibits pieces from throughout the career of this New Zealand-born illustrator, writer, designer and artist. Graham Percy (1938-2008) lived and worked overseas but remained true to his New Zealand roots. Pieces selected from his vast body of work for this exhibition range from illustrations for children’s books and the New Zealand School Journal, to his exceptionally humorous ‘imagined histories’, right through to his later work created as he struggled with cancer in his final years.

The colours that Percy uses in his pieces are unique and interesting. In this collection, Percy largely works in black and white, which focuses the viewer on the stories being told by the artist. However, when Percy does use colour, the palate he uses is subtle and modern. The work Wash Day on the Coast, 2005 creates a charming scene of ‘marauding’ kiwis watching clothes dry. Not only does the picture cause one to giggle at such a sight, but it is also beautifully created with bright, explosive colours set against black and white graphic drawing.

I caught myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion at the vastly humorous tales that Percy presents, as he re-examines familiar stories and takes a different look at New Zealand identity. Percy shows that he is keen to have a laugh with his audience and encourages art not to be taken too seriously. This really is the point to take away about this show and why I would encourage those City Gallery virgins out there to give this exhibition a go. You do not need a BA in Art History to appreciate this Kiwi artist. Just be prepared to have a chuckle and see the world in a way that your younger self would have welcomed.


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