The Long View | Petrus van der Velden

Drawing outside gives you an enduring link to a time and place. Perhaps it's because you have to make a deliberate effort to interrupt your usual rhythm and stay in one place for a long enough to commit something to paper. Somehow that particular place attracts you. Is the place calling to you - or is something inside you calling to it? You don't know, but next time you pass there or find that page in your sketchbook, you're jettisoned back to what you were seeing, feeling and experiencing there. This can be a good enough reason in itself to stop and draw.
Of course the artists in the current exhibition 'The Long View: Landscapes from the Collection' went further, creating fully realised artworks of a particular place, thereby deepening their experience of it exponentially by hours, energy and effort.
They probably all knew how uncomfortable it can get out there. The wind picks up and suddenly you're covered in sand and your pencils are gone. Or your bottle of ink blows over and sticks your pages together so that all that remains of the past half hours work is a Rorschach ink blot.
Petrus van der Velden, whose paintings are also on display at Aratoi right now, would head out into the Otira Gorge at all hours of the day and night, laden down with canvas and his full oil painting kit, causing at least one local to suspect he was mad: 'at all those times when thunder rolled, and wind howled, and rain poured, Van der Velden would go into the gorge, whereas at all those times when the sun shone from a cloudless sky, he would lie with his back to the grass near the hotel and sleep'.
The drive to communicate something about that place obviously overrode all.
'The Long View' features selected NZ landscape art from the Aratoi collection, spanning from 1863 to 2013. And for all the diversity of styles, approach and medium, perhaps there is a common link -  as Swiss philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel wrote: 'Any landscape is a condition of the spirit'. It reveals as much about what's going on inside the artist as what's happening in the outside world.
Aratoi exhibitions: 'Petrus van der Velden: Art of two halves', until 5 Feb; 'The Long View: Landscapes from the Collection', until 19 Feb. Aratoi is open Tues-Sun 10am - 4.30pm during January.

Caption: Details of landscapes (clockwise from top left) by Petrus van der Velden, William Sutton, Gladys Eastwood, former Masterton artist Beth Sutherland, John Weeks and Gwen Knight.