Critical Responses

“It is to be hoped that the second showing of these important paintings will provide the opportunity to rectify [their] original oversight and stimulate debate about their historical importance.” Warwick Brown, 2015.

“Perhaps the real theme of his pictures is complex simplicity. He asked big questions of life and found amidst the inherent tragedy a beauty and simplicity.” David Wansbrough, 2015.

“Line excites and possibly directs Gilderdale. It flows, overlaps, twists, thrusts across his picture surface, unifying his calligraphic images and impressions which arise from some archetypal source.” Elizabeth Grierson, 1989.


During his life Alan Gilderdale was the subject of only one journal article. That was Elizabeth Grierson’s, “Alan Gilderdale,” in Art New Zealand 50, Autumn, 1989. Since his death, in association with his retrospective, a substantial catalogue essay has been written by Warwick Brown, “The Art of Alan Gilderdale,” Northart, 2015, and David Wansbrough, who knew Gilderdale in the 70’s, has written an appreciation that is published on this website for the first time. However, apart from these, the only critical responses to his work are the reviews of his exhibitions. Most, if not all, were reviewed – usually appreciatively. The reviews found amongst Alan Gilderdale’s papers are copied below, to allow readers to get some sense of the reception his works received at the time. He did not always keep all the bibliographic details when clipping, so in some cases it is not known which day the reviews were printed. In a couple of cases, where reviews are parts of larger articles, cross-referencing has been edited out, as have longer biographical sections, and explanations of technique. Readers can click on any of the short quotes below to see the review(s) related to the exhibition held in that year.

“A serious, mature approach.” Yorkshire Gazette, 1950.

York Art Society

Alan Gilderdale’s self-portrait is outstanding for different reasons. The style here is more incisive and masculine, and the description of form by strongly contrasting colour succeeds admirably. This work has character and displays a serious, mature approach to the task in hand.

M.G. Yorkshire Gazette, April 28, 1950

“His work is intensely interesting and has considerable potentialities for future development.” Terence Mullaly, 1955.

Reigate Artists

The work of Alan Gilderdale is even more  impressive, in fact he seems to me to be among the most interesting and promising artists here. The comparison between his drawing “Hollow Lane” and his “Landscape” is highly instructive. He is a good draughtsman and in the latter picture he also displays a preoccupation with colour and design. It is in some respects weak, the left hand bottom corner and the lower part of the picture to the right being unhappy. But what is important to me is that he appears to have a full realisation of the complex problems involved in picture making. His work is intensely interesting and has considerable potentialities for future development.

Terence Mullaly, Surrey Mirror and County Post, 1955.

“Fluent and dynamic.” Dorking Advertiser, 1965.

Studio Nine, Dorking

Dominating the exhibition is a wild, confident exploration of a waterfall.  Gilderdale… was trained at the Slade and paints within a very limited range of colours. But his work within those self-imposed restrictions is fluent and dynamic. His “Figures by a waterfall” shatters the peace of the small room with the guttural roar of excitement of the cascading water. The grey and white mass of the streaky current is brilliantly juxtaposed with the bright dissected figures. Another work, for some reason tucked away behind the desk, is a dark, forbidding canvas called “Rock Landscape”. The atmosphere of the painting with the dark depressing rocks is filled with Stygian gloom and the rocks themselves seem to beckon to Virgil’s “Acheron wave” to hurl itself against them, the very nightmare of a ship.

Dorking Advertiser and County Post [?]  November 10, 1965.

“Seen through a newcomer’s eyes these traditional motifs gain a new dimension.” Molly G. Elliott, 1970.

New Vision Gallery, Auckland

Perhaps more than the native-born New Zealander, the migrant artist successfully and perspicaciously fuses Maori and pakeha culture as evidenced in Alan Gilderdale’s recent exhibition at Auckland’s New Vision Gallery. [The] artist’s life adds up to a completely European cultural background; yet, Alan Gilderdale’s 22 untitled pictures in oil, gouache, mixed media and charcoal, all use Maori motifs with the emphasis on characteristic black, white and reddish brown.

Symbols and shapes draw on the spiral forms of Maori carving and unrolling punga fronds. Some suggest a melon’s splendidly curved plumpness; all evoke, without imitating, natural forms. They coil against large areas of colour suggesting space but not emptiness. These range from bright blues to dark greens and subdued greys with an occasional startling switch to orange and tomato. Brushwork always remains steady, balanced. Quiet, restful like New Zealand itself, some of these paintings become almost as impersonal as a machine with mimeograph ink in its veins.

Alan Gilderdale describes them as subjective responses to a new environment, to the New Zealand landscape, light exotic foliage, clear atmosphere and to the impact of Polynesian, even Australian Aboriginal, art. Certainly, they awaken an awareness of a culture taken for granted, even ignored, although the only genuine one this country has. Learned by osmosis but seen through a newcomer’s eyes, these traditional motifs gain a new dimension.

Molly G. Elliott, Art & Community, Vol. 6, No. 9. September 1970.


Sometimes it happens at an exhibition that while the main pictures on display are admirable in their way, the really exciting picture is in some small work tucked away in an obscure corner of the gallery. This is the case with the exhibition of work by Alan Gilderdale which opened last night at the New Vision Gallery. In the entrance foyer, outside the main gallery, is a screen print (No. 25) in which the colour harmony is deeper and richer than in any of the paintings. In this graphic image, too, the forms make a pattern of a complexity equal to those in the paintings and the clearly defined parallel lines, which are a prominent part of Gilderdale’s work, fit more easily.

The big paintings are quiet, subdued and correct. They have a formal academic approach; they take the elements of colour and form that have impressed the painter since his arrival in New Zealand, and work them into tidy patterns which have a good decorative quality. In the best of them, such as No. 11, a tumbled group of organic forms suggesting worm and fern shapers are imposed on a background of grey beyond which is a deep space indicated by areas of white and black. Other good works, such as No. 6, have some rather agitated brushwork in the foreground and sometimes, as in No. 14, landforms in the background. These work are superior compositions since they show a better sense of space than pictures that are simply a flat pattern. In many pictures the organic forms are arbitrarily curtailed in an unnatural way that alienates our emotional sympathy.

The whole exhibition shows a carefully developed taste and sound training; it is never less than nicely decorative but there is an absence of a driving idea that would give power to the show as a whole.

TJ McNamara, NZ Herald, February 17, 1970.

“Valid, highly workable paintings.” Gordon H. Brown, 1981.

New Vision Gallery, Auckland

Paintings in Gouache, New Vision Gallery, April/June 1981

In format, Alan Gilderdale’s black ink and Gouache painting have something akin to Adolph Gottlieb’s works of the 1940’s, but his images are less archetypal (in the Jungian sense). They are closer to the semi-surrealist images associated with other painters from that period.

Yet in the subjective freedom allowed today, Gilderdale’s works do not take on the appearance of another stylistic revival. Only in a couple, such as Drum (6), do they take on a ‘dated’ look. Generally, they retain a reasonable stylistic autonomy that lets them stand in their own right as valid, highly workable paintings.

With a pictorial space divided into segments (all of which could be read as small independent paintings) the inherent skill lies in welding them into a well-integrated work, each segment part of a total pattern. The variety of well-designed miniature shapes, the sense of spontaneity in their handling, and the general control over colour gives each work individuality, some muted in their effect, as in Float, or brighter feeling like Intersect.

Although they may be limited in appeal, these painting combine to present a modest but substantial exhibition.

Gordon H. Brown, Auckland Star, June 1, 1981.


Alan Gilderdale is a painter of considerable experience and skill. [This] skill is apparent in the way he achieves both transparency and textures [in these gouaches], often by dragging the colour across the work with a dry brush. The composition of these modestly sized works is compartmentalised in lines and rows. Within these sequences there is a dance of Miroesque shapes that suggest a microscopic world. Once we have enjoyed the dance of colour and shape because these elements are arranged in sequences we hunt for some narrative or progression. Because of the artist’s technical resources and fine sense of colour, many of the works are so successful on their intended level that it is perhaps carping to grope for more meaning. The dark textures of “Float,” the quiet strength of “Dolmen II” or “Dolmen VIII” and the deftness of “Intersect” suggest that the artist is due for a much more substantial exhibition.

TJ McNamara, NZ Herald, June 1, 1981.

"Easily the best Alan Gilderdale has had in Auckland.” TJ McNamara, 1984.

Pumphouse, Takapuna

Seekers after artistic stimulation must rove a little this week. They might cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge to see a show of paintings and drawings by Alan Gilderdale, at the Pumphouse , in Takapuna. The work of Alan Gilderdale often uses large stone shapes, and functions on the level of mythology and ritual magic. One of the most effective of the paintings is Megalith 2. The painting is predominantly brown with images of tribal messages and memories surrounding a blue space in the centre occupied by stone menhirs. Megalith 1 is also made up of stones with runic signs and images of the dance and the sun and the moon. Earth Mother, in gouache and ink, links stones and a female statue with rectangles arranged around the edge in the manner of an icon. The small framing areas show moods, paths and magic signs. These big paintings are quite impressive, but the colour lacks something of body and intensity. The deficiency is made up for by an excellent group of collage works that are images of real power and rich colour. Megalith 3 in this medium conveys a Dreamtime when torrents fall from the sky and are reflected in marks in the heart of the stones. This fine exhibition, easily the best Alan Gilderdale has had in Auckland, is completed by the banner he created for the opera Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight – which toured Europe – and by some good, precise book illustration.

TJ McNamara, NZ Herald, 1984.

At the dealer galleries the flood continues. It is impossible to get around all the shows in any one week. Complicating the problem is the number of worthwhile exhibitions being held outside the city centre. One such of exceptional quality was the work of Alan Gilderdale at the Pumphouse.

TJ McNamara, NZ Art News, August/September, 1984.

“More energetic and potent than anything he has achieved hitherto.” TJ McNamara, 1985.

New Vision Gallery, Auckland

At the New Vision Gallery in His Majestys Arcade, Alan Gilderdale is striving for deeper meaning. His paintings incorporate forms that have welled up from his unconscious and take on the force of archetypes.  There is in all his work a sense of ritual magic, of Stone Age monuments and of early carvings of the Mother Goddess. The paintings in which these are incorporated are more energetic and potent than anything he has achieved hitherto.  The central symbol is a rearing horse. The rhythmic shape of the horse is contrasted by the moods of his rider which, as in the sculpture of Marini, express a variety of emotions but always show Man in the grip of wild forces over which he has only partial control. Alongside this is the big-breasted Mother Goddess, generally serene. Over all there are big standing stones which have the feeling of Stonehenge and are erected into ritual monuments. Around the edge of the paintings are small images generated by the happenings within the main area of the painting but having ritual overtones themselves.

Although the painter feels that the forms are generated by the act of painting itself, the viewer feels a sense of scholarliness, of a knowledge of Jung, of myth and art history behind much of the work. This touch of the Academy leads to a restraint that may work against full expressiveness. The paint is handled in these paintings, especially in Horseman or Triumphant Rider, with a precision and a light touch but without density or drive. The forms are strong and the painting more direct than in Gilderdale’s earlier work but he has not yet tapped the full potential of his strange mythic structures. The occasional wormy form, as in Then, is a drawback too.

TJ McNamara, NZ Herald, November 25, 1985.

“His brushwork is sure and attractive; his compositional style is sophisticated.” Pat Unger, 1989.

CSA’s Canaday Gallery, Christchurch

The painter and graphic artist, Alan Gilderdale, is quoted in his catalogue as saying “I would love to be able to work like a child.” Fortunately – whatever the virtues of that statement – he paints very much like an adult. His brushwork is sure and attractive; his compositional style is sophisticated; it even has similarities to research charts designed to impart knowledge of “celtic myths druids dolmens and runic script” by visual enticement.

Nineteen works at the C.S.A. include acrylics on paper, on canvas and two lithographs. They are pictograms of simple images presented in a complex manner. Birds, unicorns, clowns, centaurs, secrets and rituals alternate as central motifs and elaborate grids and edges. “The Unicorn and the Wise Old Man” is a good and bold example of this as is “Dreaming Clown,” of balance between line, form and space. Gilderdale seeks his art in natural forms. Morphology is his introduction to a Jungian consciousness and that in turn indicates he is a chaser after philosophical codes and signs.

The artist’s colour is often strong, always harmonious. Paint application is confident and generally unfussy. At times, as linear highlighter, it can be distracting. And when used as background fillers or blocks, the pictures run-around ideas tend to suggest a grid-lock due to oversupply of painted information.

Years of painting experience enhance these multi-image, multi-grid and frame works. They are tableaux with British-European backgrounds. Their style of presentation is perhaps too tied to the printmaker’s format. Cryptic messages can seem free in the formal print process, but in paint such freedoms seem somehow compromised.

Pat Unger, The Press, March 25, 1989.

“Alan Gilderdale goes from strength to strength.” TJ McNamara, 1989.

ASA Gallery, Auckland

Alan Gilderdale goes from strength to strength. The figures in his evocative tableau have become more explicit while retaining all their reference to myth and legend and the Celtic feeling of their forms. At the same time the quality of the paint and control over colour has become more confident.

TJ McNamara, NZ Herald, June 8, I989

Alan Gilderdale, whose excellent exhibition was one of the previous shows at the ASA Gallery, has crowned that by winning the Bledisloe Medal for landscape painting which is incorporated with the Winter Exhibition for working members of the ASA. The judge for the award was Don Binney, who found much to praise in the exhibition as well as the winning work, called The Clown as a Tourist Observes the New Zealand Landscape. The clown is one of Gilderdale’s archetype figures, delicately painted and enhanced by fractured colour, the flight of birds and the red presence of buildings. [This work is now in the Wallace Collection].

TJ McNamara, NZ Herald.

“It is almost as if Gilderdale was a war artist working at great speed and under dangerous conditions to bring us these pictures.” Stephanie Sheehan, 1990.

Art Stop Gallery, Glenbervie

The exhibition of nine smallish paintings and two four-coloured lithographs are well worth the short drive out Ngunguru Rd to view. This year of the Chinese Horse gallops off to a good start with unicorns in gold hues. Orange, blue and purple unicorns, white unicorns with wobbly horns, free running and entangled, these are mythical, mystical horses, not some sort of goat. The intrinsic violation at the heart of the unicorn myth is only lightly touched upon despite the frequent appearance in those paintings of a doorway.

The confident, competent brushwork is a measure of this skill. Gilderdale sees more than surfaces and lifts veils for others. An effective compositional device of a framework of smaller pictures around the main scene gives extra possibilities of interpretation. Terracotta and blue dogs struggle, serpents hiss and a bird flight of rainbows takes off with fresh hopes.   All are included: Cows, fish, the sun and spinning mandala. The sacred heron observes the violence with a serene eye. Ancient hills become a Roman amphitheatre or a circus tent for these characters to act out their obligations.

The paint is mostly opaque with a loose, fast, controlled brushwork. Despite the expressive colour and visionary images it is almost as if Gilderdale was a war artist working at great speed and under dangerous conditions to bring us these pictures. Those bareback riders and centaurs are clearly real. The works are all framed and under glass. Because they are the small (74cm x 56cm) size these works are very suitable for private buyers to hang either at home or in the office. Priced at $475 each I was surprised at the lack of sales. Discerning art fanciers are missing a treat if they scorn these excellent pictures.

Stephanie Sheehan, Northern Advocate, February 17, 1990.

“Larger and more expansive than Gilderdale’s previous work.” TJ McNamara, 1996.

ASA Gallery, Auckland

Alan Gilderdale is a very unfashionable painter. His works at the ASA Gallery are based on the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh, creation stories that parallel the Old Testament. Gilderdale’s paintings and lithographs are illustrative, they tell stories. Most modern art emphasises art for art’s sake and avoids narrative, but there is a long tradition of narrative painting, particularly in English art, to which Gilderdale’s art belongs.  Yet it is more than illustration. It has strong qualities of painting, drawing and composition that give it a rich visual life. It gains much in a painterly way because the subject matter lends itself to painterly treatment.

The epic of Gilgamesh is about the destiny of human kind. It tells of the relationship of humans to gods – notably the mother goddess – and to nature, of the inevitability of death and the hope of immortality. These are the great general themes of prophesy and Gilderdale sets his action in a mythic world of mountains, temples and beasts that have general rather than specific meaning. Rhythmic forms are interlocked and woven together to make a formal composition where every part of the painting works to create the effect beyond the central action. For the hero king, Gilgamesh, the artist has used a bearded prophet very like that created by William Blake to illustrate his own poetic epics. This nude figure has an elemental force as he treads down Enkidu, the hairy man who allied with the animal kingdom or subdues nature by overcoming Humbaba, the Guardian of the Cedar forest. The small rhythmic touches that make up the work give a feeling of tension whether it is in paintings or lithographs. A suite of finely designed lithographs were printed by the celebrated Muka Studios.

The paintings are larger and more expansive than most of Gilderdale’s previous work. They are unified by colour and the touch is very assured. They are filled with a kind of flickering light which becomes an impressive glowing portal in Ishtar Leads Down the Bull of Heaven. The paintings are tumultuous yet ordered and controlled by oscillating patterns of colour and light. The lithographs offer more intense versions of the events and sometimes the gestures in them are more convincing than such dramatic movement as the thrust of the sword in the big painting of the felling of the Guardians of the Cedar Forest. Swords sometimes look like wooden props, but details like this cannot detract from the high achievement represented by these works.

TJ McNamara, NZ Herald, March 20, 1996. 

"Open, non-contrived honesty in seeking truth beyond the need for personal self expression." David Wansbrough, 2015.

Alan Gilderdale came from England to New Zealand in 1967. The paintings he brought with him showed his deep  inner quietness. They were deceptively simple abstract geometric compositions. Using a limited palette of earthy pigments he had pushed forms to dynamic extremes, and yet between the tensions, something mysterious began to happen; a harmony slowly appeared. That harmony was not a shimmering vacancy but an active interplay of factors which are difficult to put into words.

The paintings had absolutely no references to an empirically observable world. They had no narrative or descriptive elements. Perhaps Gilderdale’s Quaker background contributed to the sense of disciplined restraint and was necessary to his belief in the possibility of resolving conflicting elements. Emphatically this attitude was embodied in the manner he applied paint to his canvas. The paintings in that series were not in any way bland; they were evidence of an active interplay of disparate tensions from which a stillness emerged.

What was immediately obvious was the lack of reference to New Zealand in his pictures. Just as there was little to show of his English upbringing. He wanted a universal art. He was a sensitive man in a precarious time. He had been under fire in Italy in the Friends’ Field Ambulance Service in the second world war. Nuclear war was always a possibility. He was a leader in the Peace Movement. His male students faced conscription during the conflict in Vietnam. New Zealand seemed to be at the edge of the world. Even the local geography was an interplay of fire and water. Living in Auckland between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, between inactive volcanic cones and the liquid calls of birds, the fiery haka and the flowing poi dance, in a country that Captain Cook had sailed to while studying the transit of Venus and in the process saw the night sky dominated by the bright eye of Mars, in these opposing tensions Gilderdale found his quiet core.

Later he abandoned abstractions and immersed himself in ancient archetypal stories, in much the same way as C. G. Jung. He studied the Epic of Gilgamesh and he began to introduce figurative elements to his drawings and paintings. Often he produced almost pagan icons. He visited the Auckland Library to study medieval manuscripts from the Sir George Grey Collection because he liked their liveliness and the simplicity of their world view.

A highly cultured man, he recognised the integrity of ‘primitive’ art. At a time when Sir Peter Macintyre was admired, Gilderdale eschewed both slick technique, formalism, formulae and mannerisms, and also the then fashionable cult of lucky accidents. Like Cezanne he was not interested in visual impact. He did not get attention by shocking. His pictures just ‘were’. He was neither too cerebral nor instinctive.  His paintings aren’t passionate nor are they cold. They are a spiritual striving for balance.

In an age when nations split apart and ethnic atavistic tribalism is almost revered, his paintings became more universal. It is fair to assert that his pictorial development could not have been as fruitful in England or Europe without the freedoms and challenges of Aotearoa.

Some artists such as Nigel Brown and Don Binney very early in their careers adopt a style and a content, and then spend the rest of their lives developing that. Others like Kazimir Malevich, Greer Twiss, Pablo Picasso and Colin McCahon  evolve through contrary styles and themes many times as percepual possibilities are suggested. Alan Gilderdale had a consistent questing that resulted in several changes of direction.

Gilderdale’s final phase was as far from contemporary styles as his early abstractions were contrary to his Slade training. He had attained a frame of mind that would have been more aptly recognised in Zen Buddhism. Unclassifiable, he could not be associated with any artistic school or fashion.

He was not commercial although the perceptive Kees Hos of the New Vision Gallery tried to sell his works. Because of the market’s indifference his paintings have not been seen by many. Paintings need viewers because as they are looked at they assume a sort of numinous.
Jung wrote, “The meeting of two personalities is like the content of two chemical substances. If there is any reaction, both are transformed.” The same holds true for viewers and paintings. Art needs to be shown. This retrospective exhibition may allow the intrinsic value of these paintings to increase.

Whether or not these images and techniques are admired or rejected, viewers may recognise Alan Gilderdale’s open, non-contrived honesty in seeking truth beyond the need for personal self expression. They are the works of a man who was indifferent to the criticism of the age. His images don’t easily fit into any type of interior decorators’ ideals. They are not paintings as decor accessories. He was original. He painted because he wanted to experience the laws underlying psychology and nature’s tectonic forces. I don’t doubt that those lucky people who own his pictures do consciously look again and again at them. And find more layers of insight.

Perhaps the real theme of his pictures is complex simplicity. He asked big questions of life and found amidst the inherent tragedy a beauty and simplicity. If you can sense this in his paintings and drawings, then you know a little of the soul of Alan Gilderdale .

David Wansbrough


"Important paintings." Warwick Brown, 2015.

The following are extracts from Warwick Brown’s catalogue essay for The Art of Alan Gilderdale (2015).

At this point of time we are able to look at Gilderdale’s work as it stands, outside the context of its times. Notwithstanding all the influences, there is no doubt that he produced art with a distinctive ‘signature’, mainly the works that are either compartmentalised or have an internal frame and that feature mythical and classic motifs. Appearing frequently are the huddled man, the horse, stylised figures, fish, birds, stars, moon and sickle shapes (derived from Arp and Miro). Cubism is pervasive in several guises, both hard and soft-edged. The imagery and settings are largely drawn from European sources – glyphs on stones, gods and myths, ancient peoples and rites. Sources closer to home are circus and stage scenes and the art of Australian aborigines. The paintings display a strong graphic sense, with most forms outlined in a contrasting colour. These lines form structures that hold the works together. Gilderdale’s training is manifest in his skill as a colourist, ranging from delicate, restrained washes to bright oranges, purples, emerald greens and cobalt blues. Many works call to mind rich medieval tapestries, vestments, carpets or stained glass windows. Behind it all is the Jungian idea of the collective unconscious: instinctive, inborn memories passed down from countless generations.

Gilderdale’s most original, distinctive and important works were his 1969-1971 abstractions which reference tribal art – his response to new, local influences. This work is discussed at some length later in this essay. Had Gilderdale persevered with and developed this style he could well have joined the ranks of the New Zealand ‘young turks’ of the 1970s. Instead he moved away into Cubist-inspired semi-abstraction, followed by his more figurative works with classical themes in expressionist and semi-surreal styles. Unfortunately, local audiences at that time were looking for art that seemed relevant to life, landscape and culture here, rather than Europe. There was a strong current feeling that it was time to cut the ties with Europe and with Modernism. If there was a light shining in from abroad it was from America.

With the New Vision Gallery exhibition Gilderdale demonstrated that he was prepared to cast aside his British background and make new art in a new land. He should have been immediately placed within the ranks of the contemporary semi-abstractionists of the time, such as Matchitt, Ellis, Illingworth, Quentin Macfarlane, Buck Nin and Guy Ngan. His work had a distinctive and cohesive style. The sense of space and depth and use of floating forms was original and challenging. It is puzzling that public and private collectors did not embrace the works as forming part of the exciting new art wave that had been building momentum right through the 1960s. A sell-out show at this critical time may well have set Gilderdale off down quite a different path. It could be that ethnicity had something to do with it, as there was a readiness, some might say a yearning, for the emergence of contemporary Maori and Polynesian artists at the time. A recently-arrived Englishman did not quite fit the bill.

It is to be hoped that the second showing of these important paintings will provide the opportunity to rectify the original oversight and stimulate debate about their historical importance.

"A life-long voyage of intellectual and artistic discovery ." TJ McNamara, 2015.

Rewarding dig into the past.

Alan Gilderdale, although well known as an illustrator, was a man of many talents.

The spacious galleries at Northart are filled with paintings by the late Alan Gilderdale which give a telling insight into the stages of expression of his fine talents.

Paradoxically, his reputation mainly lies in his work as an illustrator, notably in the series of hugely popular children’s books written by his wife, Betty Gilderdale, about a little yellow digger and the “bigger digger” that tried to get it out of a ditch. Some of the original drawings for this famous series are on display.

The paintings begin in England where he trained at the Slade until World War II intervened. His early works place him firmly in the English Neo-Romantic landscape tradition with Graham Sutherland, John Piper and our own Frances Hodgkins. The show includes an impressive group of paintings of trees and a fine still-life from early in his career.

Later his style became much freer and his knowledge of myth led him into evocations of sagas such as the Gilgamesh epic. Embedded in his work were Promethean figures and mythical shapes of horses as symbols of power.

Gilderdale’s concern with the legendary past also produced paintings of standing stones where the strong forms were supported by his special palette of evocative colour. A splendid example is Nativity, done in 1992 [actually 1982].

Warwick Brown, who curated the exhibition, has also written an excellent catalogue. When he surveyed the work he was so struck by a series, from 1969, of paintings titled Vision of a New Land that he devoted an entire room at the gallery to 20 of them. He sees them as an important expression of the impact of our land and culture on an already mature painter.

These have stylised, rolling forms evocative of our hills, allied to stony shapes. They are deftly painted, with dominating lined shapes that evoke, without copying, the idioms of Maori and Polynesian carving and craft.

The whole show embodies a life-long voyage of intellectual and artistic discovery that is given worthy, if belated, representation in this remarkable show.

TJ Says: A splendidly copious exhibition of work by a fine talent over a long career, making  special use of the change of landscape.

TJ McNamara, New Zealand Herald, 12 September 2015, p.E11.