Dennis Knight Turner
This series of striking abstract watercolours is inspired by Melanesian and Oceanic motifs, in their swirls and sweeping forms.
Born in 1924 in Whanganui, Dennis Knight Turner was one of the first European artists to incorporate Maori and Oceanic motifs, for which he is recognised as one of New Zealand’s pioneering modernists. He was dismayed that local art in the 1940s and 1950s seemed very old-fashioned in its imitation of English regionalism. Along with his fellow artists Theo Schoon and Gordon Walters (famous for his Koru series), Turner was fascinated by the power and simple lines of Maori rock art and Oceanic art forms, and used these as a starting point for a new kind of distinctively Pacific modernism. He also liked the way these art forms could represent a human feature or form with a single line or block of colour.
Turner was described by the NZ Herald in 1951 as ‘providing the link between past and future that New Zealand has been needing’. He left New Zealand in 1964 to live in England, despondent at how hard it was to work here as a full-time career artist. He was persuaded to return to his home town of Whanganui for The Sarjeant public gallery residency in 1992, and completed a significant number of watercolour paintings, often using restrained colours mimicking natural pigments. This is the first time this series has been exhibited.
Although Dennis Knight Turner was regarded in the 1950s as one of Auckland’s most important artists, he has come in and out of public favour over the years, a situation common to many artists who spent much of their career overseas, not exhibiting in New Zealand. However, recent articles and books now firmly acknowledge his significance in our art history.
These paintings are not reproductions of Oceanic forms, they are evolutions which respect the artistic quality of the original motifs which inspired him. As individual works, they have a strong impact, and a freshness which belies the fact they were painted nearly 20 years ago.
Each of the works is in perfect original condition, and we have framed a selection of 10 for the exhibition and offer further 10 unframed. This is an excellent opportunity for collectors to acquire quality work by an important artist, at very affordable prices, undeniably good value and accessible for new collectors too. These works have never been exhibited before, and are quite different from his earlier Tiki series, or the drawings on paper occasionally seen at auction.
Please enquire to view the other paintings in the Oceanic series.
More About the Artist
The exhibition Oceania: The Sarjeant paintings arrives at The Diversion Gallery in Marlborough with a tale of mystery, about the apparent disappearance of the artist.
In 2008 Luit Bieringa, former director of the National Art Gallery, asked if The Diversion would be interested in exhibiting a series of stunning modernist watercolours by important mid-20th Century New Zealand artist Dennis Knight Turner. The works had a strong appeal, still as fresh as when they were painted in 1992 when Turner was artist in residence in Whanganui.
Bieringa had been given care of the paintings when Turner could not be found, and in 2008 when the exhibition idea was raised, he confessed he had no idea where Turner was, or even if the artist – in his 80s – was still alive. He had only a suspicion Turner was still back in England.
Recently, however, Dennis Knight Turner was located in Hackney, London, and interviewed about his life and career by Richard Wolfe for Art New Zealand magazine. Through him Luit was able to make contact and arrange for the exhibition to go ahead.
Dennis Knight Turner was also known for his portraits in the 1940s and 1950s, and his strong paintings of shearers and woolshed workers. Determined to make a living by his art practice without having to teach art, he worked at times as a commercial artist – including illustrating the School Journal and notably being prosecuted for painting a mural on a Sunday in breach of labour laws.
Ultimately he was dismayed New Zealand could not yet support full-time career artists, and left in 1964 for the UK. There, he continued his practice of visiting museums wherever he travelled, and making drawings of the Oceanic and Pacific art forms, inspiring new interpretations in his work.
Please contact us to confirm current prices: most prices are posted at the time of exhibition, and may be revised as the artistsí values increase.