Split Level View Finder: Theo Schoon and New Zealand Art

Split Level View Finder: Theo Schoon and New Zealand Art

Curated by Dr Damian Skinner and Aaron Lister

City Gallery Wellington

27 July – 3 November 2019

Theo Schoon   Untitled (Mud pool) . c.1966, Eastern Southland Gallery

Theo Schoon Untitled (Mud pool). c.1966, Eastern Southland Gallery

Theo Schoon (1915–85) is a controversial figure. He was born in Java to Dutch parents, but educated back in the Netherlands at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts. He arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1939, where he would become a catalyst for modernism. The first comprehensive exhibition of Schoon’s art in decades, Split Level View Finder rethinks his legacy for twenty-first–century Aotearoa.

Schoon was an inquiry-driven artist. He described himself as a ‘cat sniffing around in a strange warehouse’. He worked across and between cultures and contexts, finding Paul Klee in the rock drawings of Te Wai Pounamu and art brut in the drawings of Rolfe Hattaway, a patient at Avondale Mental Hospital. Schoon chased his ideas across diverse art forms, with little concern for boundaries between art and craft, image and object, finished and unfinished. Alongside paintings, drawings, and photographs, our exhibition includes prints, ceramics, jade carvings, and carved and decorated gourds.