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Dave Gunson

My Realist/fFigurative works are nearly always rather whimsical in nature — I always like to have a touch of the surreal – and possibly the subversive — creeping in somewhere to make things other than they might first appear. I suppose it’s the juxtaposition of the commonplace with the unexpected that I enjoy about these paintings. Sometimes it’s the notion of an usual title that might call an image to mind for a painting, and sometimes it’s simply a ‘what if’ situation that stirs the imagination… to take something commonplace and ordinary, and give it a twist.


Juxtaposition is almost the whole point of my abstract geometric work — I’m intrigued by the happy and pleasing accidents that continue to arise in these paintings, as colours and shapes come together in ways that I hadn’t quite expected, despite the arbitrary parameters that I might lay down for each work. It's always something of a voyage of discovery - to see what colour harmony or dissonance might eventuate. Sometimes I allow myself a broad and comprehensive palette of colour, and sometimes one much reduced – even down to simple black and white, where the impact of the apposition and contrast of form and colour value (at 100% in this case, of course) is at its most dramatic. These works are known in the family as ‘squaresies,’ though if they were to be given a formal name, I guess it would have to be the broad label of ‘juxtapositionalism.’ 


Found Objects. Artists have long used the found object component in more abstract and modernist words — by introducing real objects into paintings by way of illustration (the objet trouve of the surrealists), and into collages, assemblages and constructionfound, without amendment or alteration. Hence the term.

The found object has nearly always been simply an element – a component – of the artist’s final work. 

I use found objects in several ways; Sometimes I place and paint the object in a totally inappropriate or conflicting ground or background, and I find that this allows an interesting re-examination of the object.


In other related works, I enlarge the found object almost beyond easy recognition, much in the style of some of the ‘Pop Art’ works of the 1960s, though executed in a realistic manner, rather than the flat graphics often used in that genre.

In recent years I have tried a contemporary approach to a traditional subject – that of applying ‘found object’ principles to the natural world, and to use them not as supportive elements, but as the whole point of a formal, regimented painting. 

In my own particular adaption of this discipline I limit myself to group together only those objects found all on the same day and at the same location – the nature of an individual site is thus explored and examined in one ‘stretched’ moment of time. I find that the artistic isolation from their natural environments and the archival, almost severe, nature of the paintings, all then become part of a fascinating formal documentation, and revealing, as one art writer aptly put it – ‘fresh repertoires of form implicit in aspects of nature previously ignored.’


Wildlife Studies.  I've always been fascinated by natural forms… whether a dead bird  found at the roadside, the tangle of a forest floor, the shape of an epiphyte on a branch, or simply the play of light on otherwise commonplace foliage… all strike an impulse to draw or paint... to record.

I have had many solo exhibitions, as well as involvement in several group exhibitions, in many galleries over the years (McGregor–Wright, New Vision, Wildlife Art, Portfolio, Flagstaff, Monterey, Art By The Sea etc), but I’ve always been something of a reluctant exhibitor, so there is only a small history in this regard. My wife Barbara (as a printmaker) and I were both working members of the Auckland Society of Arts, and exhibited regularly in members’ exhibitions until the ASA changed into a wholly teaching establishment.   


I've been a freelance artist/designer/author for nearly 50 years. I've written and/or illustrated around 200 books, plus many paintings for New Zealand Geographic posters, and I've designed numerous postage stamp issues for New Zealand and several other countries. I've also also been engaged as art director for several magazine publications, in New Zealand and the USA.

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