Quixotic painter Allen Maddox has a reputation plagued by myth and speculation, stories which are probably better left untold in this column - google them if you must.
Suffice to say Maddox lived with schizophrenia, struggling with it throughout his life to catastrophic effect at times.
The reason I focus on him in this column is that he is the subject of a very interesting exhibition that opened in Napier last night at Ahuriri Contemporary gallery.
Maddox is also handsomely represented in Hawke's Bay Museums Trust collection as evidenced by this fine abstract painting, Clerk.
Maddox's family moved to Hawke's Bay from Liverpool in 1963 when he was 15 years old. After the home of Britain's Merseybeat music scene and a city alive with new immigrant cultures (albeit violent and depressingly industrialised), Hawke's Bay must have been a sobering environment for a wide boy Scouser.
Following secondary school, Maddox lived in Ōtautahi, Pōneke and Tāmaki Makaurau for periods during his life but lived here in Hawke's Bay for the larger part of it, until his death in 2000.
Maddox is remembered as one of New Zealand's finest exponents of abstract expressionism.
Combining geometry and gesture, Maddox used the grid structure and cross motifs for over 25 years.
The story goes that in a moment of frustration, Maddox lashed out at a failed painting he was working on marking it with an X. The cross must have had some sort of anarchic appeal and from that point Maddox repeatedly used crosses in boxes, you could say adopting the 'X' as his signature motif.
As a cultural signifier the cross is rich; X meaning no, a mathematical signifier, an unschooled signature, marking a mistake, don't drink this, x marks the spot, as a symbol of Christ and so on.
However, Maddox's interest was in the structure and geometry of the cross in a box and the balance his gestural expression provided it.
The X became an endgame for Maddox, who explored it as a proposition through three decades of painting practice.
Starting in the 1970s and building to a chaotic (probably inebriated) crescendo in the 1980s and 90s - the works became more and more unruly with order giving way to an amplified expressive quality seen through more dynamic gestures.
Last night, an exhibition Abstract (Here Is The Thing) opened at Richard Boyd Dunlop's Ahuriri Contemporary gallery. The exhibition brings together contemporary artists from across the country to examine whether the context of Maddox's work has relevance to contemporary abstraction today.
The show is curated by one of Aotearoa's more established and successful artists, another who has chosen to make Te Matau-a-Māui Hawke's Bay his home, Peter Madden.
Madden is showing previously unexhibited works from the Maddox estate and has gathered around these works a grouping of Aotearoa's foremost abstract artists. Anoushka Akel, Phillipa Blair, James Cousins, Richard Bryant, Cat Fooks, Sarah Louise Keber, Patrick Lundberg and Jamie Te Heuheu are widely recognised.
Toni MacKinnon is art curator at MTG