New Len Lye exhibition opens at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

A new exhibition at New Plymouth's Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre celebrates Lye’s important friendships.

A new exhibition at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre, in New Plymouth, celebrates Lye’s important friendships.

Focusing on the early years of his career and his stay on the Spanish Island of Mallorca in 1930, the museum sheds light on some of the inspiration behind his works at this time. 

At the heart of this period is Lye’s friendship with Robert Graves and Laura Riding, each acclaimed for their talent as poets, writers and critics. Together they were a formidable literary union, one of the most aggressive voices in the world of modern literature and instrumental in bringing the writer out in Lye. 

The exhibition 'On an Island' presents a survey of works connected to Lye’s time on Mallorca including his early batiks, photography and book cover designs, shown alongside archival and literary materials by Graves and Riding – capturing the creative circle Lye occupied. 

Len Lye Curator Paul Brobbel says that while "living in the coastal village of Deyá, Lye found a landscape that recalled his childhood in New Zealand, particularly the wild and rugged landscape of Cape Campbell”. 

“Mallorca connected with Lye’s fertile mind and provided the artist with one of his most productive but overlooked periods in his career.”

For several months following the completion of his first film, Tusalava, Lye lived with the famed literary couple Robert Graves and Laura Riding in their Mallorca home, working on ideas for new artistic projects and producing book cover designs for the couple’s newly founded publishing house, Seizin Press.

'On an Island' fills a gallery in the Len Lye Centre side of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery from 8 April to 6 August 2017. 

Pride of place in 'On an Island' is a rarely seen painting dedicated to Len Lye by Ben Nicholson, close friend, leading figure of the British art scene and one of Lye’s correspondents during his island stay.

Published in association with the exhibition is Len Lye’s essay Individual Happiness Now with an introduction by Roger Horrocks. A collaboration between Lye and Graves, it was written in 1941 as Britain was on the brink of being invaded by the Nazis. Their text - a kind of manifesto about what it means to live in a free society - is being published for the first time.

The Govett Brewster Gallery is in the heart of New Plymouth, the hub of the Taranaki region in New Zealand and one of Lonely Planet’s top regions to visit in 2017. 

About Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is New Zealand’s contemporary art museum in the coastal city of New Plymouth, Taranaki on the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. Since opening in 1970, the Gallery has dedicated itself to innovative programming, focused collection development and audience engagement. It has earned a strong reputation nationally and internationally for its global vision and special commitment to contemporary art of the Pacific Rim. The Govett-Brewster is also home to the collection and archive of the seminal modernist filmmaker and kinetic sculptor Len Lye (1901–1980).

About Len Lye 

A visionary New Zealander, an inspirational artist, a pioneer of film; Len Lye is one of the most important and influential artists to emerge from New Zealand. 

Len Lye was an experimental filmmaker, poet, painter, kinetic sculptor and creative visionary ahead of his time. Most of his works were so revolutionary that technology literally had to catch up to him – meaning much of Lye’s work was not realised in his own lifetime. 

Lye’s iconic 45-metre kinetic sculpture Wind Wand sways gently on New Plymouth's Coastal Walkway. The Wind Wand that glows red at night, is the first large outdoor sculpture to be built posthumously from his plans and drawings.