WEEKS, John

Chromatic Colour Structure

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1949
Oil on Board
495 x 390mm

This is one of John Weeks’ experiments in abstract painting after a lifetime as a landscape painter. In the late 1940s a number of New Zealand painters, Gordon Walters, Milan Mrkusich etc were encouraged to do the same thing. Unlike the older Weeks, who was already too well known as a landscape painter, they made their careers as painters of abstraction. Weeks’ wholly abstract work remained unrecognised for many years. Weeks studied in Scotland during the 1920s with a group of painters who were familiar with French modernism particularly the work of Cezanne, to which he was thereafter indebted. He also became confident about the bold use of colour. This sense was deepened during the year or so he spent dressed as Arab in North Africa where he did extensive work in pastel, some of which was worked up into paintings in later years.

Before returning to New Zealand in 1929 Weeks spent some time studying at the Andre Lhote Academy in Paris and here his work acquired the structural strength (some have called it “soft cubism”) which seemed to give it a distinctly modern flavour when he showed paintings back home. For many years Weeks taught at Elam influencing a whole generation of students. The impact of his teaching has not been properly assessed and his contribution to New Zealand painting remains neglected. It is significant that in 1955 a large scale retrospective exhibition of his best work was destroyed in a fire at Elam on the eve of its national tour. Weeks never recovered from this severe blow. Weeks’ abstracts began as stylised analyses of still lifes or seated figures. Only gradually did he come to view abstraction as something quite distinct from representation. This painting moves in that direction. The title of this work alerts us to this fact.