The collections of a renowned artist

By Zoe Walker

Artist Stanley Palmer gives Viva a tour of his art-filled Mt Eden home.

Painter and printmaker Stanley Palmer. Photo / Babiche Martens
Painter and printmaker Stanley Palmer. Photo / Babiche Martens

Renowned painter and printmaker Stanley Palmer lives and works from a rambling villa in Mt Eden that is filled with artwork and precious things collected over the years. When Viva visits, the 76-year-old is working on a monoprint, or transferred painting, in his studio upstairs - later that day, he will make his way down the steep ship's ladder-style stairs, to where his printing press sits, and transfer the painting. Palmer's body of work has included these monoprints, as well as woodcuts and bamboo engravings. His distinctive work examines environments and landscapes, with a focus on the conservation of the NZ coastline. Indeed, he shows us a print that he is working on to donate to Gareth Morgan's project raising money to eradicate mice from the Antipodes Islands. Here are some of Palmer's favourite things from around his Mt Eden home.

10 FAVOURITE THINGS

1. Flag
In the late 1980s Palmer created a replica of the flag of the united tribes of New Zealand, recognised as the national flag until the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Palmer's large calico version features the red, blue, white and black of the original, and is something he describes as "very pertinent now", with the country's tribes uniting last week with a hui on water rights.

2. Custom brushes
Palmer works with personalised brushes made especially for him by German brush manufacturer Da Vinci, with his name engraved on the side. In his studio, he has around five paint cans filled with brushes, some housepainting brushes, some that he has altered to suit his needs by trimming the brush down.

3. Layla Walter glassware
Palmer has a small collection of coloured cast glass by Auckland artist Layla Walter, including vases and a bowl that moves and almost balances in place. "They're very lyrical. You can see they float almost," explains Palmer.

4. Family mementos
Family mementos appear throughout Palmer's home, from photos of his two children and grandchildren to vases sent to him from Egypt by his brother, to war keepsakes from his father and uncle. A small photo of his uncle hangs above a staircase, and Palmer also keeps his paybook from World War I and a letter when he came back to New Zealand and tried to re-enlist. His uncle died about a year later. Another treasure is a postcard sent from Gallipoli by Palmer's father Jim to his sister, which reads simply "With Good Wishes". "That's all they were allowed to write, they weren't allowed to write any details. It was all secret," explains Palmer. The postcard inspired Palmer's painting A Postcard from Gallipoli. "I had my dad in his uniform, dreaming of a perfect place here in New Zealand."

5. Eric Lee Johnson watercolour
Artwork lines Palmer's hallway, and hangs throughout his home: one of his favourite pieces is a small watercolour by Eric Lee Johnson. The simple bouquet of flowers, was one of the works Lee Johnson painted when he came back from England in 1938. Palmer bought it at auction "because no one really valued it".

6. Bronwynne Cornish fountain
Art is a feature of Palmer's garden too: a fountain by ceramic sculptor Bronwynne Cornish sits in the front garden, surrounded by water and greenery. Palmer has had it for about 12 years, and around it he has built a small pool.

7. Printing press
A large old-fashioned printmaking press sits downstairs in Palmer's home, bought from the art school when they were replacing their presses. "I bought it years ago from Elam for around $18 as scrap metal," says Palmer. "It's a fantastic press - the best press I've got." The design means that the weight is on the shoulder as you turn, although Palmer has suffered the consequences of years of working. "I've wrecked a knuckle in my hand from the pressure - the surgeon said he had only seen an electrician [with a similar injury]."

8. Drawer of tools
"These are all of my father's things," explains Palmer, opening a drawer filled with heavy duty tools - a large chisel, used instead of a saw, a carving tool that you use pulling towards you, and a bayonet that had been at Gallipoli. "I don't know why he kept it!" says Palmer, who still uses some of the tools at times - although not the bayonet.

9. Book collection
Various fine art books line the shelves of Palmer's bookcases. "I have lots of precious books, but this is probably the nicest one," he says, pulling out one of his favourites called Some Minor Arts. He had the book restored to keep it in good condition. Another favourite is a book of work by artist John Nash, featuring real ingrained wood prints - just 150 were made.

10. Henry Winkelmann photo
A photograph of Palmer's great-grandfather James McMurtie taken by famed photographer Henry Winkelmann in 1906 is another prized possession. The image shows McMurtie in the Drury Pottery and Fireclay Works, shaping a vase on a turntable. These were made for Albert Park, although they have now gone.

* Stanley Palmer, Rags and Shreds at Melanie Roger Gallery until September 29.

- NZ Herald

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