The On and Island: Len Lye, Robert Graves and Laura Riding exhibition wraps up on 6 August at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre. The exhibition takes a look over Len Lye’s working relationship with the poets Robert Graves and Laura Riding. Many know of Lye’s friendship with Graves, less so the relationship with Riding. Both were important in expanding Lye’s practice.
One of the high points of the exhibition is the publication of Individual Happiness Now, an essay written by Lye and Graves establishing a set of values to counter the rise of fascism during the Second World War. Unpublished, it seemed more pertinent now than a typical exhibition catalogue. Lye’s biographer and editor of the essay, Roger Horrocks, appeared on Radio New Zealand, speaking to Kim Hill about Lye’s work with Graves on the essay while the text was briefly covered in the Nota Bene page of the Times Literary Supplement (No. 5955, 19 May 2017).
The exhibition itself was reviewed by Lana Lopesi at Pantograph Punch in the nicely titled “Let Beryl and I sort it out”: On Len Lye and Friendships.
A small symposium organised by the Govett-Brewster, held on 9 June at the University of Auckland, took the exhibition as a starting point for a discussion of the Graves and Riding circle, looking at their collaborations with Lye and relationships with other figures such as John Aldridge and Gertrude Stein.
Following a welcome from Govett-Brewster Director Simon Rees, I opened with a brief overview of the relationship between Lye, Graves and Riding before Andrew Paul Wood (writer and critic) opened the conversation in earnest with Fantasy I(s)-Lands and Disputed Territories. Linda Tyler (University of Auckland) returned us to Lye with her paper An Artist in Every Child, A Child in Every Artist: Len Lye and the modernist avant-garde’s investment in children’s art followed by Raymond Spiteri (Victoria University of Wellington) addressing the frequent question of Lye as a surrealist in Dreams are not enough: surrealism in the Graves-Riding circle. The final two papers of the day were particularly interesting for those of us from the Lye side of the conversation with Lisa Samuels (University of Auckland) exploring Laura Riding’s work with John Aldridge around her illustrated poem The Life of the Dead and then Ann Vickery (Deakin University) with her closing paper ‘[B]eing brilliant trouble in arrangement’: Len Lye, Laura Riding, and Gertrude Stein as Acquaintances in Composition.
John Hurrell at Eyecontact writes positively of both the publication of Individual Happiness Now and the symposium (having not seen the exhibition).
I’ll add another round up as more views come in.