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Don Binney: Flight Path's Marlborough launch draws a crowd

Marlborough reporter13:56, Nov 19 2023

More than 100 people listen to Sir Grahame Sydney speak at the launch of Gregory O’Brien’s book Flight Path.

A book celebrating the life and work of one of New Zealand’s most significant artists has been launched in Marlborough to a crowd of more than 100 people.

Don Binney: Flight Path, by Gregory O’Brien, had its South Island launch at Te Kahu o Waipuna on Saturday afternoon, to an audience that was making good use of the new building’s atrium staircase and upper floor balustrades.

O’Brien also curated the Don Binney: Flight Path exhibition at the Marlborough Art Gallery, which honours Binney’s close connection to Marlborough with works from the gallery’s collection as well as works inspired by the region. The exhibition runs until November 26.

Binney, who died in 2012, was considered one of the most important New Zealand artists of the 20th century and was renowned for his stylised, modernist depictions of native birds. He also painted landscapes from his travels across Aotearoa, and worked in oil, acrylic, charcoal, ink and carbon pencil.

Fellow artists Sir Grahame Sydney and Dame Robin White spoke about Binney’s life and work at the launch in Blenheim, and O’Brien said he was chuffed to be launching the book alongside them.

Poet and writer Gregory O’Brien has pieced together a story of Don Binney’s life in Don Binney: Flight Path.

O’Brien met Binney as a young poet at Auckland University, where Binney himself studied and later returned to teach.

O’Brien said at the Auckland University launch of the book in October that he considered the book a reciprocal work. He said he spent his childhood sleeping under a 1963 Binney artwork of two shining cuckoos.

O’Brien spent seven years researching Binney’s life for the book, aided by Binney’s widow Philippa and daughter Mary.

Don Binney: Flight Path.

Alongside Binney’s paintings, drawings and prints, O’Brien drew on the artist’s letters, journals and other writings, as well as a previous book in 2003 by Damian Skinner, which featured 75 illustrations.

O’Brien described the artist as a larger-than-life and paradoxical character, who could be opinionated and grumpy, and the book detailed his clashes with another great 20th century artist, Colin McCahon, and his avoidance of kiwiana tropes.

“I was not trying to throw up yet another silver fern or woolly sheep or profiled kiwi. I wasn’t trying to add to the already burgeoning addendum of kiwiana,” Binney said.

Earth, Light and Sea, an exhibition of Binney’s estate collection, was also on display at the Diversion Gallery in Picton until Thursday. Binney had a long association with the gallery and a personal friendship with art dealer Barbara Speedy.

Author Gregory O’Brien, centre, speaks at Te Kahu o Waipuna.


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