When I told a senior New Zealand art critic that I was writing about Emily Jackson he screwed up his face. The art that Jackson produced in such quantities for so many years was, my friend maintained, ‘outdated’. Jackson was a landscape painter, he pointed out, and landscape painting is ‘passe’.
In the decades after World War Two the genre was, he admitted, fashionable, as young men and women like McCahon and Woollaston and Angus wandered through the New Zealand countryside, squinting at hills and headlands and horizons and trying to put them onto canvas and board. But times had changed, the art critic insisted.
What could Jackson’s paintings of the King Country or Otago’s backblocks have to say in the twenty-first century, when New Zealand is an overwhelmingly urban nation plugged into a globalised economy and the worldwide web?
I think that my friend the art critic is wrong, and that Emily Jackson’s landscape paintings are pressingly relevant to contemporary New Zealand. Over at EyeContact I've published an essay comparing the glossy art of the 100% Pure New Zealand Campaign, which exhibits its stuff on billboards and in glossy magazines around the world, with the cryptic paintings of Emily Jackson, who has just published a posthumous book with Atuanui Press.