Allen Maddox

ABOUT ALLEN MADDOX

1948 – 2000

Allen Maddox’s oeuvre stands as one of the most thorough and impassioned instances of Abstract Expressionist art produced in this country. Experimenting with paint, ink, crayon and pastel, his paintings combine free gesture and vibrant colour with a persistent structural element – the cross.

Maddox was born in England in 1948, but came to New Zealand at the age of 15. Attending Ilam Art School in Christchurch in 1967, Maddox did not stay beyond the following year when, asked to submit a ‘passive painting’, he handed in a blank sheet, was failed and left. Along with Tony Fomison and Phillip Clairmont (both of whom he met in Christchurch), Maddox was a strong presence in the New Zealand art scene, particularly in the 1970’s and 80’s. Known as ‘The Militant Artists,’ these three painters represented the dark, critical and ever-challenging underbelly of the New Zealand artworld, each of them chasing a passionate commitment to art, and an exploration of life itself.

After being selected as a finalist in the Benson and Hedges Art Award, Maddox had his first solo exhibition in 1977 and participated in a number of solo and group exhibitions throughout his career, including a solo exhibition at the Wellington City Gallery in 2000. This period also saw the emergence of Maddox’s characteristic ‘X’ motif, when, in 1976, he allegedly crossed out one of his earlier failed paintings. This act of cancellation became a device through which Maddox could explore a new territory – one that became increasingly experimental and abstract.

Seizing on symbolic associations of the cross, Maddox was able to merge this motif with the direct expressionism and intuitive marking encouraged by theorists of the movement. Although the cross remains consistent throughout, various moods are captured – some ominous, as in Death (diptych), others more playful such as Roll me over in the Clover (diptych). It is significant that Maddox uses not the shape of the cross which signifies Christianity but the ‘X’ form used to mark off or cross out. As art historian Michael Dunn explains, the use of this signature motif was far from a restriction and instead functioned as a trigger for constant reinvention. “By emphatically repeating the diagonal cris-crosses Maddox was able to generate an almost infinite number of variations of the motif in diverse colours, sizes and combinations.” (Militant Artists Reunion, Hawke’s Bay Cultural Trust: 2004, p21)

Unlike his close contemporaries, Maddox was an abstract expressionist who never painted figurative subjects. Maddox’s works explore the actual process of mark making and the physical action of painting itself. His strokes of colour thrive and dance across the surface with a gestural application of pigment that the viewer can see, touch and feel as it lies on the surface. In a style similar to that of Jackson Pollock or Wassily Kandinsky, Maddox builds a surface that is both physically aggressive and aesthetically vibrant. As writer Martin Edmond describes, “Maddox’s works are a veil between him and the world: ravelling, torn, fragmentary, they look both ways, in to the mind of the artist and out to the mind of the viewer.” (Militant Artists Reunion, p7)

Tegan Dunn, 2008

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2002
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

2000
Allen Maddox: At Tribute, Works from Wellington Collections, City Gallery, Wellington
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

1999
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

1998
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

1997
Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch

1996
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

1994
Janne Land Gallery, Wellington
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

1993
Centre for Contemporary Art, Hamilton
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

1992
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

1991
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

1990
Gregory Flint Gallery, Wellington
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

1989
Allen Maddox: A Selection of Works on Paper, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

1988
Southern Cross Gallery, Wellington

1987
Hawke’s Bay Art Gallery and Museum, Napier

1986
Maddox at Muka, Muka Studio, Auckland

1985
Peter McCleavey Gallery, Wellington
New Paintings and Works on Paper, Denis Cohn Gallery, Auckland

1984
Denis Cohn Gallery, Auckland

1983
Peter McCleavey Gallery, Wellington
Denis Cohn Gallery, Auckland

1982
Denis Cohn Gallery, Auckland

1981
Denis Cohn Gallery, Auckland

1980
Allen Maddox: A Survey 1975-1980, Denis Cohn Gallery, Auckland

1979
Denis Cohn Gallery, Auckland

1978
Peter Webb Gallery, Auckland
Barry Lett Gallery, Auckland
Peter McCleavey Gallery, Wellington

1977
New Works on Paper, Peter Webb Gallery, Auckland
Peter McCleavey Gallery, Wellington
Denis Cohn Gallery, Auckland

1976
Peter Webb Gallery, Auckland

1975
Bett / Duncan Gallery, Wellington

1974
Elva Bett Hallery, Wellington

1973
Collage Paintings, Bett / Duncan Gallery, Wellington

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2004-2005
Militant Artists Reunion: Three Neo-Expressionist Painters, Tony Fomison, Philip Clairmont and Allen Maddox, Hawke’s Bay Exhibition Centre, Hastings

1998
Marshal Seifert Gallery, Dunedin (with Jeffrey Harris)

1996
20th Century New Zealand Art, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland

1995
Works on Paper, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

1991
Black and White Show, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

1988
Ruth Watson and Allen Maddox, Southern Cross Gallery, Wellington
Jeffrey Harris: Aquatings / Allen Maddox: Paintings, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

1987
Allen Maddox and Tony Lane: Lithographs and Paintings, Southern Cross Gallery, Wellington

1983
Aspects of Recent New Zealand Art: The Grid, Lattice, and Network, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland

1982
The Great Deassession Exhibition, Govett Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth

1981
Permanent Collection Exhibition, Govett Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth
Permanent Collection Exhibition, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland

1980
Hangings: New Zealand Painting from the 70s from the Permanent Collection, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland

1979
Recent Acquistions, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland

1977
Peter McCleavey Gallery, Wellington
Young Contemporaries, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland

1975
Wellington Painters: Allen Maddox, Tony Lane and Robert McLeod, Peter McCleavey Gallery, Wellington

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Warwick Brown, 100 New Zealand Paintings (Godwit Publishing, 1995).
Hamish Keith, Allen Maddox (Gow Langsford Gallery, 1996).
Michael Dunn, A Concise History of New Zealand Paintings (David Bateman and Craftsman House, 1991).
Elizabeth Caughey and John Gow, Contemporary New Zealand Art 3 (David Bateman, 2002).
Francis Pound, Forty Modern New Zealand Paintings (Penguin Books, 1985).
Andrew Bogle, The Grid, Lattice and Network: Aspects of Recent New Zealand Art (Auckland Art Gallery, 1983).
Elva Bett, New Zealand Art: A Modern Perspective (Reed Methuen, 1986).
Michael Dunn, New Zealand Painting: A Concise History (Auckland University Press, 2003).

SLECTED COLLECTIONS

Bank of New Zealand, Wellington
Fletcher Challenge, Auckland
Chartwell Collection, Auckland
James Wallace Collection, Auckland
Russel McVeigh, McKenzie Bartlett & Co., Auckland
Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington
Govett Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth
Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui
Suter Gallery, Nelson