Jim Gorman (left) and Victoria Robson (right) with In a restaurant (Kevin Ramshaw photo) 

By Kevin Ramshaw

Kāpiti artist Jim Gorman, whose exhibition Jim takes a line for a walk has opened at Mahara Gallery, encourages his audience to think of music when they look at his work and search for meaning.

“When we listen to music, depending on our experience, emotional state or whatever, we respond by letting our imagination supply the ‘meaning’,” he says.

“That is how I would like people to approach my pictures; to think of them as music for the eyes; to ask, ‘What does it mean to me?’ instead of just ‘What does it mean?’

“In this way, the viewer is working with the picture rather than being dictated by it.”

Exhibition curator Vicki Robson says Jim Gorman’s work reminded her of European artists Ernst Kirchner, Paul Klee and Piet Mondrian.

“When I asked Jim about this he said, yes, he liked those artists and quoted Paul Klee’s famous description of drawing as ‘An active line on a walk, moving freely without a goal. A walk for a walk’s sake’.

“I asked Jim how he went about making his pictures and he said they kind of made themselves.

“He fetched a piece of paper and a pen and in one continuous wandering line, drew an eye connected to an ear, which became a face, which became a head, which developed into a body jointed with loops and finished with large hands and feet.

“Jim took his line for a walk.”

Mahara Director Janet Bayly says the exhibition is a survey of 50 years of Jim Gorman’s work, the latest in a number of senior Kāpiti artists the Gallery has staged since 2008, and one of the few times an artist’s work has filled the whole gallery. 

Jim Gorman was born in the village of Doune in central Scotland and brought up in Glasgow. 

He worked in the stores division of British Railways workshops after leaving school. He came to New Zealand in 1971 and enrolled in the graphic design course at the School of Design in Wellington.

For almost 20 years he designed, illustrated and commissioned illustrations for a variety of publications including the School Journal, Education and the Post Primary Teachers’ Association Journal

From 1989 he freelanced in design and illustration and exhibited paintings and sculpture in Wellington galleries.

Jim Gorman says he has always admired the work of the Dark and early Middle Ages. 

“In my work there are echoes of Byzantine icons, Romanesque frescoes and perhaps strongest of all, Celtic book illumination.

“The ambiguity of Celtic art fascinates me and I have sought to produce images which are formal and rigid and at the same time lively and flexible.”

Vicki Robson says a sense of humour permeates Jim Gorman’s work which is the result of “making” rather than “theory”.

“Jim seems to want to draw our attention to the accidental rather than the pre-ordained.

“He says he has reluctantly given titles to the pictures. This was done for purpose of identification and not to offer explanations or attribute meanings.

“If you feel that a title does not go with a particular picture, you are absolutely right.”

Jim takes a line for a walk will be showing in the Gallery until 5 June. Jim Gorman has generously donated sales from the exhibition to the Gallery Redevelopment Project.