Artwork Details


abstract, landscape, line, painting, repetition

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Nietzsche on Whites Beach

ArtistJohn Reynolds
Production Date1996
Mediumacrylic on hessian
Size2800 x 8000 mm
DepartmentNew Zealand Art
Accession Date20 Jun 2005
Accession NoC2005/1/18/1
Credit LineChartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2005


The artist talks about this work extensively in the publication SUMWHR 2002, he says with characteristic humour, “It’s New Zealand’s largest finger-painting. One of my favourite Nietzsche quips is from Will to Power: “It is easier to be titanic than to be beautiful”. When he is asked what Nietzsche is doing on Whites Beach, he says, "The idea is an opera, and slightly absurd. Whites Beach is minor, a small stretch of sand, between North Piha and Anawhata on the West Coast; while Nietzsche is major, one of philosophy’s heaver hitters. There’s a displacement or inversion there.” While the work is a collision of scale; or perhaps a collision between minor and major musical key, it is also about the disconnection between the landscape and the rhetoric that floats around landscape, both in literature, and in art. He says, with works like this one, “You get shallow Byzantine pictorial space – planiverse. These big paintings aren’t exactly abstract, aren’t exactly figurative. They’re diagrammatic, calligraphic: hieroglyph and pattern, sign and grid at once. I think of the hypnotic repetitive forms in Moorish art. Muslims consider images graven. Instead they have this repertoire of abstract motifs, conflating vegetal forms, writing and pattern. In multiplying and expanding, these forms direct the viewer’s mind to bigger structures. These ornamental patterns embody Islamic principles of interconnection and integration. I think of tukutuku.” John Reynolds talks to Robert Leonard in SUMWHR 2002, NZ: GBAG/Artspace, page 55 and 56