Old Year, New Challenge

2019 is already gathering pace and I am yet to blog about my New Year's resolutions Well actually that's an easy topic to dispose of as, enmeshed in the midst of a wonderful trip to New Zealand, I didn't bother to make any.

What I have done, however, is to set myself a new challenge. Exploring Planet Retirement, I have established that it is much more than ticking off a bucket list and, by the same token, not a laissez faire place either. It does, however, very clearly include a journey of self-discovery and development and last year I set myself 3 challenges to help that journey along. They were perfectly ordinary activities that I gave myself targets to pursue.

Personal to me, I confess that they were hard to fulfil; they would not have been challenges otherwise.

Whilst I began them unable to visualise failure, it is a measure of my personal growth and how much I adapted those challenges into my day to day life that, by month 9, counting was no longer important. In retirement we are not subject to appraisal against a set of numerical targets. Whatever the final score, therefore, I succeeded in incorporating more reading, swimming and travels into my already busy retirement lifestyle.

Buoyed by that success and conscious of time constraints from my other activities and commitments (thank goodness there isn't remunerative employment to fit in too) and still desirous of increasing my creative potential, I have set a single challenge for the current year. It is simply this: to visit 52 art galleries or exhibitions (1 for each week of the year, although not necessarily to  be undertaken on a weekly basis).

It started well with weeks 1 and 2 in New Zealand seeing me visit first a small exhibition in the Old School Arts Centre in Raglan and then the Auckland Art Gallery, Toi O Tamaki. 

At the first, two local artists, Catherine O'Kelly and Marise Rarere, were exhibiting pieces under the title Illuminosity which included paintings made by mixing beeswax with oils to create an 'encaustic image', with a luminous quality. The idea thrilled me more than the effect but I love the prospect for experimenting in this way and if I ever master any basic techniques would love to give it a try.

The second, I have of course visited before but this time we joined a guided tour gaining an insight into not only the guide's favourite pieces but also design elements in the building itself which was remodelled and extended in 2011. It now includes a large glass atrium with native kauri pillars and roof, whilst the windows allow the pohutukawa trees outside to make an impression indoors. Like the Maori themselves, the building seeks to incorporate nature and also pays respect to the traditions and culture of the native tribes that inhabited the area with carvings on the pillars and around the doorways as well as a water feature.

It was an inspiring morning and the visit could easily count as several weeks of my challenge as we experienced so much. We examined everything from the paintings in a gallery entitled Love, Longing, Loss, especially the funeral scene that is The Kingdom of Heaven painted in 1891 by Frank Bramley, to unique videos within an exhibition entitled Groundswell: Avant Garde Auckland 1971-79. We admired the Maori portraits of Gottfried Lindauer dating mainly from the late 19th century and then a display of contemporary Maori art and sculptures entitled Radical Beginnings where the influence of Henry Moore was clearly visible. We wandered through Iris, Iris, Iris by Dane Mitchell; halls where chemical engineering meets art and the mixing of our senses is explored with aroma molecule extraction equipment.

Judy Darragh's Limbo from 2015 remains suspended in the main atrium, comprising of seven large metallic meteor like shapes, seeking to demonstrate how what is familiar in daily life (i.e. the materials from which the objects are made) can shift into an unknown cosmic world. We did have the guide to thank for the detailed explanation of what I might otherwise have concluded were simply brightly coloured representations of fragments from outer space.

Then there was Earthly Visions a display of New Zealand landscapes including of Hawkes Bay, which we had of course visited shortly before, by Rita Angus. Game Changers: International Modernism included pieces by Moore, Hepworth, Picasso, and Hayden and explored a journey through modernist art forms ending with New Zealand artists who embrace the abstract. A fitting New Zealand reminder of our stop in Dubai was Dervish by Gretchen Albrecht, a bright red and orange semi-circle seeing to invoke the energy and mesemerising nature of the dance as well as Aotorea where she portrays the land of the long white cloud, as the Maori describe New Zealand, in another semi-circular painting.

Sadly episodes of art appreciation haven't continued in such splendid style since my return home, having been thwarted on two occasions by firstly a road traffic accident and then bad weather. However, so long as the rest of my challenge delivers up 50 (or thereabouts) offerings half as good as those in New Zealand, I shall be more than content.


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