Mak­ing an easel liv­ing of it

The Tribune (NZ) - - News - RICHARD MAYS

To say Palmer­ston North artist Jack Register has ‘‘quite a fol­low­ing’’ is prob­a­bly a mas­sive un­der­state­ment.

His dis­tinc­tive land­scape paint­ings adorn the walls of busi­nesses and homes all over the coun­try.

He is also a dyed-in-the-wool Palmy­naut with com­mu­nity con­nec­tions that run deep.

He’s per­formed in gang shows started up by his friend Pat Snox­ell.

‘‘Pat gave me a wog­gle and a scarf to take to the 1957 World Jam­boree at Sut­ton Cold­field in Birm­ing­ham, Eng­land, with 200 other New Zealand scouts.’’

His fa­ther, Basil, es­tab­lished the Register name as an artist, while Jack went into busi­ness as a pain­ter and pa­per­hanger af­ter com­ing across his longterm busi­ness part­ner, Ge­orge Ma­son at Alexan­der Clarks.

‘‘We were two short guys, like a cou­ple of lit­tle spar­rows,’’ he laughs. ‘‘We didn’t have to ad­ver­tise, we’d just go from fam­ily to fam­ily. We had a good busi­ness, and we were to­gether for 28 years.’’

But good things do come to an end. Ge­orge was find­ing his path was in golf and Paul Bar­nett had of­fered Jack gallery room at King and Tep­pett when it was still in Broad­way.

‘‘That en­abled me to paint full-time. Best thing I ever did. I wasn’t a hobby pain­ter any more.’’

It also gave him greater con­trol over his work.

‘‘Try­ing to get money out of gal­leries in Welling­ton, or Christchurch or Auck­land for your paint­ings could be dif­fi­cult.’’

The 79-year-old has a new lease on life too, re­cov­er­ing from an en­counter with can­cer, and hav­ing re­cent cataract oper­a­tions that re­stored his colour sense and im­proved his depth per­cep­tion.

Even so, he still re­mains slightly as­ton­ished by his suc­cess.

‘‘It’s a story of how this guy stayed in Palmer­ston North and now has in­stant recog­ni­tion around the coun­try. Palmer­ston North is bril­liant for me – it’s so cen­tral.’’

One an­swer could be that the gen­er­a­tion that grew up here dur­ing the short­ages and ra­tioning of the war years learned to be self re­liant.

‘‘Sud­denly we went from the 1930s to the 1800s. Any­thing you wanted, you had to make it. We had to make our own cricket bats, so you had to be cre­ative.’’

His phi­los­o­phy has never been about be­ing high-brow.

‘‘I owe a great deal to another for­mer pupil of Col­lege Street School, Pat Hanly.’’ The artist died in 2004

‘‘He said the idea is to get paint­ings on the walls of ev­ery­day peo­ple, and that’s what the mid win­ter stu­dio ex­hi­bi­tion is largely all about – get­ting paint­ings on walls.’’

He en­joys be­ing able to talk to peo­ple about his paint­ings, and to main­tain a con­nec­tion with those who buy them.

There is also a bit of show­man­ship re­quired. Paint­ing he says, re­fer­ring to his gang show and mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence as a bands­man, can be likened to a street theatre per­for­mance.

‘‘All I have to do is set an easel up, say in The Square, and I’ve got an au­di­ence.’’

He’s bound to have an au­di­ence this Satur­day too, with a va­ri­ety of framed and un­framed paint­ings for sale. Jack’s 10 Bur­field Place stu­dio is open from 10am to 3pm.

PHOTO: WAR­WICK SMITH/FAIR­FAX NZ

Look­ing for all the world like a mid-win­ter Santa Claus, the ven­er­a­ble Jack Register is hold­ing his an­nual stu­dio ex­hi­bi­tion on Satur­day.

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