Alan Pearson - Painter
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Alan Pearson  (1929 - 2019)

For over sixty years British-born Alan Pearson has been one of the outstanding proponents of pure painting in New Zealand art. His work, densely complex, restlessly explorative, remains true to the ethos of Neo-Expressionism, alive with gesture, emotion and insight, rarely rivalled for technical mastery. A Liverpudlian outsider in an artistic climate still clinging to nationalism-as-landscape, the beginning of Pearson’s training at the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts coincided with the arrival of the Lithuanian artist and educator Rudi Gopas there in 1959, placing Pearson in context with the likes of Philip Clairmont, Tony Fomison, and Allen Maddox, a veritable blossoming of Neo-Expressionists he has outlived, though in truth his highly idiosyncratic vision and individualism, further honed at London’s Royal Academy Schools in 1965-6 and a lifetime of development, makes him impossible to categorise with ease.

There is a profound theatricality in Pearson’s art, not merely in the gestural bravura of his brushwork, but in the direct reference (the marvellous, immediate and intimate sketches of his beloved opera and his painting captures that epic scale, expression, colour and tempo. Pearson’s portraiture is equally compelling. The artist wields insight like a scalpel, fluently paring his sitters down to their essence. His technical virtuosity and generous ferocity invest the subject with a heightened reality rich in emotion, personality and metaphysical suggestion. Pearson once told an interviewer, “The aim, and the art, of the portraitist is not merely to produce a likeness but to reveal the mind and the being behind the human face ... I look for the moment below the public mask ... that conceals their innermost selves from view.” … This is no less true of the many self-portraits, which, like Rembrandt’s own project of introspective record, eschews vanity and defies the world with a defiant statement of life: ego sum – I am! It is a legacy impossible to match that puts him in a direct succession with art’s great long conversation in a way not often seen now. Pearson is, without a doubt, an Old Master of the future.

Edited essay by Andrew Paul Wood, 2015 (for Sanderson Contemporary Art)

1958 Rosa Sawtell Prize for drawing
1959 Bickerton-Widdowson Scholarship
1964 Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand scholarship to study at Royal Academy Schools, London.
1976 Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand travel scholarship
1978 National Bank Portrait Award. 1st prize for Herne Bay Couple
1979 National Bank Portrait Award. 1st prize for Portrait of Mrs Oliver
1986 Artist in residence, Otago Polytechnic School of Fine Art, Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
1989 Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand travel grant to Australia.
1993 Artist in residence Tai Poutini Polytechnic, Greymouth (grant, Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand)

Aigantighe Art Gallery, Timaru
Alexander Turnbull Library,The National Library of New Zealand, Wellington
Auckland City Art Gallery
Chartwell Collection, Auckland
Christchurch Art Gallery (formerly Robert McDougall Art Gallery) Christchurch
Dunedin Public Art Gallery
Forrester Gallery, Oamaru
Hocken Collections, University of Otago Library, Dunedin
James Wallace Trust
Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Cleveland, England
Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington
New Zealand Film Archive
New Zealand Portrait Gallery, Wellington
Suter Art Gallery, Nelson
Te Manawa Museum, (formerly Manawatu Art Gallery),Palmerston North
The Rutherford Trust Collection, Wellington
The Todd Corporation Art Collection, Wellington
University of Otago Medical School, Auckland
University of Otago, Dunedin
Waikato Museum of Art and History, Hamilton
 © Alan Pearson 2009