Graham Kirk

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About Graham Kirk

"I was born in Hawera in 1948. Around the age of nine I began making comic strips - collections of short stories with titles like "Buttercup and Butch on Mars", and "Olley and Lazy in the Time Hat". The rest of the time I was drawing ships.

I bought my first camera in 1968 en route to England. It wasn't until several years later however that I began to take any decent photographs. By then I'd seen the work of photographers like Robert Frank and Cartier Bresson. At this time I was living in Auckland and spending most of my spare time taking street photographs with a 35mm camera and black and white film. I bought an enlarger and learned how to print. There was a vibrant photographic scene in Auckland in the early seventies and in 1977 I co-exhibited with Paul Hewson (an old school friend from Hawera) at Snaps Gallery, and later had some work published in Photo Forum magazine.

Towards the end of the seventies I decided to have a go at doing a comic strip again, using the camera as a tool and drawing directly with a brush from a projected negative in my enlarger. I used Letratone for tone.

I invented a character called Dick Sargeson, an intrepid photographer working for World Pictures Agency, now semi-retired in New Zealand, but soon caught up in new adventures working for the Daily Mail in New Plymouth. The Dioxin Man character (born out of a chemical spill at Ivan Watkins Dow) was incorporated into the Dick Sargeson strip which ran for three years in The Listener in the mid eighties.

In 1988 I had an exhibition of panels from the comic at the Govett Brewster Gallery. These took the form of air brushed gouache on paper. (I had been experimenting with an air brush as a means of putting down flat, even, colour for comic strips.) Seeing the individual panels done to a larger scale prompted me to make them larger still by switching to acrylic on board. About this time I was considering doing a series of paintings of Hawera, my old home town. I began taking photographs of the place (and the water-tower, inevitably) but realised that something else was needed. It turned out to be Superman. "Superman and the Hawera Water Tower', followed shortly after by "Batman and the Catholic Church", began a series of "Superheroes in New Zealand" paintings which currently number around 90.

By the end of the nineties, the Superheroes were being phased out and replaced with other elements, objects, people, statues etc. From a repertoire of images from newspapers, books, television and my own photographs I would look for interesting juxtapositions. A New Zealand stamp series (also ongoing) was one outcome and from my father's WW2 negatives, a collection of paintings called "Maadi and Beyond".

In 2003 I began drawing Superheroes again. By 2006 the "drawn" comic form was being replaced by the silver screen version along with other movie and television icons (of Superhero status).

In May and June of 2007 I spent six weeks travelling and photographing in the UK. The outcome was an exhibition of paintings; "Superheroes in the UK" at the Walrus Gallery in Wellington. These images are now available as A2 sized archival prints.

In 2016 I was invited to participate in the exhibition " My Hero" - Contemporary Art and Superhero Action, curated by The Bedford Gallery in San Francisco. I attended the opening and stayed on for a month taking photographs.

I've never wanted to be a painter in the traditional sense, working from sketches or painting from life. I've always preferred the immediacy of the snapshot image, and there has always been something about the photographic 'truth' that appeals to me.

1948 Born in Hawera, New Zealand

1957 Began making home-made comic books.

1968/69 Living in London. Taking colour transparencies with first camera and doing some drawing.

1973 Took first 35mm black & white photos during 6 week trip to Israel.

1974 Exhibited in various group shows in Auckland. Included in "The Active Eye", an exhibition of contemporary N.Z. photography organised by the Manawatu Art Gallery.

1975 Portfolio of photos published in Photo Forum magazine.

1976/77 Participated in various group shows.

1977 Co-exhibited with Paul Hewson at Snaps Gallery, Auckland

1978 Began "Dick Sargeson" comic strip.

1981 Returned to Taranaki. Exhibited at "Renonsense" (exhibition organised by Taranaki Artists Co-operative).

1983 Began "Dioxin Man" comic strip, inspired by IWD chemical leak at New Plymouth.

1984 Dick Sargeson comic strip begins running in The Listener.

1985 Exhibition at Words and Pictures Gallery, Auckland. Panels from comic. Two works selected for the 24th World Exhibition of Comics, Belgium.

1986 New Dick Sargeson story begins in Listener. Exhibition with Ces Hill at King St Gallery, New Plymouth. Panels from comic. Commissioned to illustrate Barry Crump Book: Bastards I Have Met.

1987 Change of direction toward painting for exhibition. Link with comic form still strong.

1988 Exhibition of Dick Sargeson panels at Govett Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth.

1989 Exhibition at Gallery Seventy Nine, Hawera.

1990 Exhibition at Words and Pictures Gallery, Auckland. Exhibition at Gallery Seventy Nine, Hawera. "Kirk Work" exhibition at Kudos Gallery, Wellington.

1991 "Superheroes in Wellington" exhibition at Kudos Gallery.

1992 "Superheroes in Auckland" exhibition at Oedipus Rex Gallery, Auckland.

1994 "Superheroes in Dunedin" exhibition at Dunedin Public Gallery. "New Work" exhibition at Oedipus Rex Gallery, Auckland.

1995 Work in "Elvis in Geyserland" exhibition at Rotorua Art History Museum. Work in "About Town" exhibition (images of Christchurch), Robert McDougall Gallery, Christchurch."Kirk Work" exhibition at Wonton Gallery, Wellington.

1996 "Icons and Artifacts" exhibition with Wayne Morris at Art Gallery, New Plymouth. Eight Taranaki Artists exhibition at Govett Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth.

1997 "Two Real" exhibition with Kees Bruin at Robert McDougall Gallery, Christchurch.

1998 Artistamps International, Barraca Vorticista, Buenos Aires, Argentina (via Internet).

1999 "Kirk Work" exhibition. Paintings and lithographs. Muka Gallery, Auckland. Waiouru War Museum: "Maadi and Beyond" Paintings by Graham Kirk from the Photographs of Jock Kirk. Taranaki Museum: "Kirk Work" exhibition.

2000 Auckland City Gallery: "The Cartoon Show" (two works).

2002 "Kirk Work" exhibition, Portfolio Gallery, Auckland.

2002 "Kirk Work" exhibition, Victoria Henwood Gallery, New Plymouth.

2004 "Superheroes in Auckland" Letham Gallery, Auckland.

2004 "New Paintings" Letham Gallery, Auckland.

2006 "New Paintings" Walrus Gallery, Wellington.

2007 "Kirk Work" Kina Gallery, New Plymouth.

2007 May - June. Photographic trip to the UK. Started producing inkjet, archival prints from scans of photos of selected works.

2007 "Paintings & Prints" Letham Gallery, Ponsonby, Auckland.

2008 "Superheroes in the UK" Walrus Gallery, Wellington.

2008 "Superheroes in Taranaki and the UK" Kina Gallery, New Plymouth.

2010 "Kirk and Carter" Kina Gallery, New Plymouth.

2011 Three works in "Renegade" exhibition, Puke Ariki, New Plymouth.

2011 "Kirk Work" Paintings by Graham Kirk & prints by Glenda Kirk, Kina Gallery, New Plymouth.

2012 Organised and contributed to "FRACKED", an exhibition by Taranaki artists at the Village Gallery in Eltham.

2013 "The Living Room" - five paintings. Pop Up Show, New Plymouth.

2016 "My Hero:" - four works. Contemporary Art and Superhero Action. Curated by the Bedford Gallery, San Francisco. Opening at the Bedford January 14th to March 20th and then touring the U.S. For three years to early 2019. Attended opening and stayed on in San Francisco for a month taking photographs.