Len Lye

Len Lye’s unique fa­cil­ity to ex­press ki­netic magic is ex­plored in a new ex­hi­bi­tion at Christchurch Art Gallery.

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The artist’s ki­netic magic re­turns to his home city

Stopped Short by Won­der – a fab­u­lous col­lec­tion of Len Lye’s ma­jor sculp­tural works, films, draw­ings and paint­ings – heads south to Christchurch Art Gallery this month, on loan from New Ply­mouth’s Govett-Brew­ster Art Gallery / Len Lye Cen­tre. Though his col­lected works re­side in the pur­pose-built New Ply­mouth gallery, it was as a small boy in Christchurch that Lye dis­cov­ered his love of sound, move­ment and light. As the story goes, a very young Lye was kick­ing a kerosene can around the back yard on a sunny day, when he was de­lighted by the ‘thun­der­clap’ bang from the empty can, and the flash of light from the sun on the side. It was a mo­ment that con­tin­ued to in­spire him, as he con­stantly sought to bring move­ment to art. Lye briefly stud­ied at the Can­ter­bury Col­lege of Art in 1919, be­fore leav­ing New Zealand for Aus­tralia in 1921. He went on to Samoa, Mal­lorca, Lon­don and ul­ti­mately New York, con­stantly in search of move­ment and light in his art – a drive that would see him be­come one of the world’s lead­ing ki­netic artists. “You know what: the story is to let the old brain wan­der its words,” he once wrote. “Out comes a lot of junk but now and then may come one beaut ar­range­ment well worth nudg­ing it to feel like free­dom. When mess­ing with me­tal out may come a fig of mote for mo­tion. A some­time fig­ure of mo­tion are you ready press the but­ton. In ut­ter beat­i­tude, to swoosh!” Len Lye: Stopped by Won­der Christchurch Art Gallery Un­til Novem­ber 26 christchur­chart­gallery.org.nz

From above left A por­trait of Len Lye from 1918; ‘Ro­tat­ing Har­monic’ (1959); and ‘Grass’ (1961-1965) are both by Len Lye.

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