The Portmanteau Years is a survey of two decades of Gavin Chilcott's paintings on paper bags. Born in Auckland in 1950 Gavin Chilcott attended Auckland Technical Institute in 1967 followed by three years at Elam, School of Fine Arts, Auckland, from 1968-1970. His first exhibition was at the Barry Lett Gallery in 1976 and since then he has exhibited widely throughout New Zealand and Internationally. He has been a recipient of numerous QEII grants and is represented in all major New Zealand collections. His works on paper bags span the bridge between art and object, addressing the ethos of the preciousness of art. They are designed to be hung on pins, unframed, and are available as single works or suites.
"My first paintings were exhibited as un-stretched canvases, I wanted them to have a softer look. For me these bags have a similar informality. First bags: mid 1980s I was working on tapa inspired paintings and ceramics. I liked the palette of brown on brown and started using brown paper bags. These were becoming rare with the use of cheaper plastic. The carrier bag style had almost disappeared. I thought this was a loss, as I was interested in printed ephemera.
My preferred method of painting is acrylic on paper as it suits the wood block and stencil technique perfectly. The work is easily stored and very easily transportable. My use of craft-paper bags is not an economic one, the same images on sheets of rag paper look quite different, perhaps it is the 'funk' element that appeals. A long-time favourite painter, Alfred Wallis, used scraps of cardboard boxes for his timeless seascapes, they are still just the ticket. In 1998 I moved to Wellington and the "new life - new rooms" stacks of bags were my first work from that period. Originally conceived as a running frieze, I realized they worked better as columns. Forty of these bags were later used for the Wellington City Gallery's inaugural biennale exhibition 'Prospect' in an installation titled. "Cult Effigy 1956- 2001". They accompanied a 5 metre white paper swan. The title of the most recent bags series is "new currency". They are oversized banknotes and comment on the boom/bust financial cycles of recent times. People respond in various ways to these works, the more adventurous go with their spirit and see them as I intend. They can be easily rolled and taken on holiday and have been." Gavin Chilcott