AFTER more than a decade in one of the great art capitals of the world, artist Angus Collis has found his way back to the Eastern Bay.
Returning to New Zealand last month to make a new home in Waiotahe – near where he grew up in Kutarere – Angus says despite 10 years of living in the Spanish city of Barcelona, Europe was never going to be home. “It’s a wonderful city, stimulating, lots of amazing artists and galleries and museums, but I’m really stoked to be back home”.
The artist, whose paintings have been widely exhibited in both Europe and New Zealand, says despite his location, it was his home country that continues to inspire his work.
He is known for his often large-scale paintings, oils on canvas or paper. These technical pieces involve many layers of colour and commonly take months to complete. He also does woodblock printing, with works involving up to 20 printed layers.
Angus’s work could be viewed as reflecting the dichotomy between his roots and the places in the world he has found himself. “There is a sense of freedom here,” he says of his return to New Zealand. “I love to see and feel the landscapes, the beaches, and be closer to nature,” he says, in contrast to “the hustle and bustle of life in Barcelona”.
While committed to being happy wherever he lives, and indeed “I was in love with Barcelona,” he says, observations of these contrasts, an unease, perhaps, can be read in his work.
Many of Angus’s recent pieces currently rest against the walls of his Waiotahe studio awaiting an upcoming exhibition in Auckland – designed “to reintroduce myself to New Zealand clients,” he says.
There are pieces depicting a multitude of railway tracks disappearing out in an arc to a bleak urban wasteland, both haunting and transporting in appearance. There are brighter iconic, or perhaps ironic, images that could only have been born out of childhood memories of small-town New Zealand; a bowling green, a stand of trees, an empty swimming pool, “juxtapositions” it has been said of his work, “of wilderness, with bleak cityscapes”.
“I view New Zealand as somewhere very idealistic so the form of buildings in my paintings have a very naïve perspective,” he says, “blinkering out unwanted elements”.
“There’s always a personal narrative in there somewhere. There’s always a deeper element, a reflection of myself and my observations.” Angus has returned to New Zealand with his wife, Irina, a Ukrainian-born woman living in Spain for the past 30 years. “That is how I ended up there,” he says. “I fell in love with Irina, and then I fell in love with Spain.” But returning home has been freeing, he says, for both of them.
Irina, a former professional dancer of many years who has danced in performances of the likes of Ricky Martin, in numerous European television shows, and in Spain’s Eurovision entry, may, Angus says, look to teaching dance in the Eastern Bay. A dancer of many genres, including burlesque, he says sharing her skills may help her to integrate into life in New Zealand.
“It’s so laid back here, so different to Spain, but we are both happy. The move has been coming for a long time”.
Angus currently has a woodblock print displaying at 4 Arts Sake in Ohope. “I’m definitely keen to have a local presence and to be part of the arts community in the area”.
Angus’s work can also be viewed on website anguscollis.com.
By Lorraine Wilson