Memories of Aotearoa, by Tony Allain

Memories of Aotearoa, by Tony Allain

An exhibition of pastel work by members of the Pastel Association of New Zealand

29 March – 21 April 2019

Clowning Around, by Michael Freeman

Clowning Around, by Michael Freeman

This stunning exhibition comprises a selection of artwork by members of the Pastel Artists of New Zealand.

Pastel art groups are spread throughout the country, with artists encouraged to attend the PANZ conference each year alternating between North and South Island destinations. This year the three-day event is being held in Stratford. 

In conjunction with the conference, there is a national exhibition, Purely Pastel. This national exhibition at Percy Thomson Gallery features more than 80 selected works, as well as a section comprising precious award winners. The exhibition includes portraits, landscapes and contemporary work and explores the myriad of ways the medium can be utilised.

The word pastel is derived from pastello, Italian for paste. Chalk Pastels are made from finely ground pigment mixed with water and a small amount of glue, usually gum tragacanth. Pure colours are made lighter by adding white chalk called calcium carbonate. The finished paste is shaped into round or square sticks and allowed to harden. 

The softness or hardness of a pastel depends on the nature of the pigment and on how much binder is used, the more glue the harder the stick. Oil pastels are made by cooking raw pigments with an oil-soluble wax binder into a buttery paste, which is then moulded into crayons.

Pastels are very versatile; they can be used as both a drawing and a painting medium. By twisting and turning the pastel stick you can create several different effects – fine, precise lines; broad, sweeping strokes, and solid dense layers of colours – and these can be combined in an almost infinite number of ways. Pastels are quick and direct, have pure vivid colours and can be mixed with a variety of other drawing and painting mediums, for example: watercolour, acrylic and oil paints, pen and ink, monotype prints, pencils and ball point pen.  An abrasive surface or ‘tooth’ is required as a ground for pastel to hold onto. The finer the tooth the quicker it fills, the rougher it is the more pigment it holds. There are many types of papers and supports that can be used including; velour, pastel, watercolour and sanded papers; canvas and museum mat boards.

Pastel is an immediate, spontaneous and luscious medium to work with. It can be used in many exciting ways and, with proper care and attention, will never discolour or darken, crack or fade.

Pastels can be traced back to the 17th Century when they were used for highly refined portraits in a range of colours rivalling the palettes of many oil painters of the time. Leonardo de Vinci produced limited works in pastel, and later Edgar Degas was a recognised artist in the medium. Today’s pastel artists find it an immediate, spontaneous and luscious medium to work with.

Gaining popularity, pastels had their peak in the 18th century when a Venetian pastelist named Rosalba Carriera introduced the medium to Paris. In her first year there she completed 50 portraits. Pastel portraits became all the rage, with Maurice Quentin de La Tour becoming one of the most successful proponents.  Later in the century Chardin created a new look for pastels, painting boldly with individual strokes of colour, a contrast to the soft, delicately blended style of other pastel painters.

It was in the mid-19th century that pastels were first used in a truly expressive way. The Impressionists loved pastel for the brilliance of colour and the quick application. Edgar Degas was the most experimental, combining it with oil, gouache or monoprint, using it wet and dry, even steaming sections of the painting to create special textures. Mary Cassatt, a pupil and friend of Degas, was responsible for the introduction and popularity of pastel in America. 

At the Going Down of the Sun, by Lyn Henry

At the Going Down of the Sun, by Lyn Henry

French artists, such as Picasso, Redon and Vuillard, continued their love affair with pastels into the 20th century, until World War I brought a decline in its use worldwide. Since the end of World War II however, pastels have experienced a growing acceptance and popularity, largely through the efforts of the many pastel societies and groups.

 Pastel Artists of New Zealand (Inc) was founded in April 2002 when 30 people attended a meeting in Blenheim called by local pastel artist Walter Scott. Since then membership has grown to more than 200, encompassing beginners to professionals, and is steadily growing as knowledge of the diversity of pastel spreads. The revival of pastel as a fine art medium is due in no small part to founding president Walter Scott, who was awarded the society's highest honour, that of Fellowship, given in recognition of his efforts to establish Pastel Artists of New Zealand and promote the pastel medium.

PANZ (Pastel Artists of New Zealand)
2019 Award Winners

Maxine Thompson, Deidre, $1750

Gavin Chai, Light of mind, tears of soul
$450 SOLD

Lyn Henry, At the Going Down of the Sun, $850

Zoe Alford, Tucked Away, Matawhero, $1200

Veronica Tee, Reflections, $520

Merle Bishop
It was all that Spot had dreamed it would be, $850

Anita Adamson, Hereford, $750


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