Ian Scott

Teller

Teller by Ian Scott

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Teller is the largest of Ian Scott’s ‘Girlie’ paintings and the most provocative. As a super-realist painting it was created at the same moment of the establishment of Auckland’s Broadsheet Collective (1972) yet, in many ways, Teller contrasts with the tenets of the then current feminism which opposed the visual exploitation of the naked female figure.

In terms of local art, Teller’s closest parallels were not created by male artists but in the art of Jan Nigro and Jacqueline Fahey who were, arguably, two of the more significant feminist painters working in New Zealand. Teller predates Alexis Hunter’s photographs of fetishised males by five years. There is no female nude by any male New Zealand painter that is comparable.

Teller 1970 shows a confident female nude standing against a West Auckland orchard building with signs selling apples and peaches. The artist had worked in local orchards and vineyards and considered this model as representative of the many young women who undertook seasonal fruit-picking employment. They sometimes also worked at the orchard stalls selling apples and peaches; hence the title ‘teller’ indicating someone who sells merchandise.

Teller is without parallel in New Zealand painting of the period as a result of its sexualised representation of a young woman. The only comparable painting of the period is Jan Nigro’s The Sun Baker 1973 (Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki). The female figure is dressed in a sunhat as if she may have recently been apple picking. One sees she has spent time in direct sun because of the tan lines caused by her bikini.

Professor Michael Dunn has written of this painting: ‘Of the Auckland painters of the 1960s only Ian Scott dared to introduce the female nude prominently into his art. Works like Teller showing frontal nudes with bikini marks occur late in the sequence. The girl is the blonde stereotype from the media world. She is young tanned, tanned and packaged for display as much as the apples, red and deliciously shiny, displayed behind her. This image has no precedent in New Zealand “high art”, where nudes are rare and conventionally displayed. Scott’s nudes stand as signs for values in this contemporary world, where sex-appeal too is commercialised’ (Michael Dunn, 1991).

Warwick Brown stated in 1997 that the white plaster background in Teller is meant to simulate textured stucco, the rendered surface finish common in buildings around Sunnyvale’s and Henderson’s apple orchards. The fruit stalls, the apple orchard buildings, the signs, colours and female staff are evoked by this painting.

The romantic and regional imagery of Robin White, Don Binney and Brent Wong have received more attention than paintings such as Teller simply because they raise fewer and less challenging issues about their subject matter and painting technique.

Ian Scott’s Henderson home was located close to the centre of Auckland’s apple orchards, most of which sold produce in makeshift roadside stands with hand-painted signs. In 1966 Colin McCahon had created his Keep New Zealand Green series that married local landscape views with hand painted signs that act like visual slogans.

By observing his teacher’s fascination with sign writing and its integration with place in a painting, Scott complicates the representation by adding a naked female figure. Such figures were not unknown in West Auckland at the time as can be seen in Marti Friedlander’s 1965 photograph taken in a Henderson garden block (2000/28/144 Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki).

By uniting super-realism, abstraction and regionalism, Scott created a new form of urban painting; along with his friend Richard Killeen. It was a contemporary position; it dealt with human issues and relationships. Richard Killeen recalled in September 2014, that “young artists were looking for painting that was more progressive, super realism was then entirely different as painting was still so academic then. No one was using illustration or commercial techniques to create contemporary painting’. Instead of looking at the regional and the traditional, Scott preferred the example of American painting with its connections to popular culture.

The precedents for Teller do not reside in New Zealand art as much as they are sited in the artist’s own regard for and familiarity with the paintings of James Rosenquist (Great American Nude series), Tom Wesselmann (Nude series) and Mel Ramos (Barbie Burger 1970).

Title
Teller
Artist/creator
Production date
1970
Medium
oil on canvas
Dimensions
2134 x 1730 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Nan Corson and Chris Corson-Scott, 2014
Accession no
2014/29/5
Copyright
Copying restrictions apply
Department
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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