Max Gimblett


Max Gimblett has been at the forefront of New Zealand painting for over two decades. With philosophies and practices that encompass influences as varied as Abstract Expressionism, Modernism, Eastern and Western spiritual beliefs, Jungian psychology, and ancient cultures – Gimblett’s work holds a special place in recent New Zealand art history.

Born in New Zealand, Gimblett has been primarily based in New York since 1972, and continues to exhibit regularly in both places. This ‘straddling’ of countries, and the travel that goes along with it, is of great significance to Gimblett’s ideology. “The influence of Zen seems natural to Gimblett, and carries with it an echo of Asia’s proximity to New Zealand, but also can be traced partly to American artists with West Coast connections such as Clyfford Still and Mark Tobey. Gimblett has made a harmonious post-war synthesis of America and Japan.” (Thomas McEvilley, ‘The Transition from Three to Four,’ Max Gimblett: The Brush of All Things, Auckland Art Gallery, 2004, p.9)

This mix of cultures and aesthetics is evident in Gimblett’s work, which consists largely of object based paintings. His range of shaped canvases convey various associations and meanings connected to the oval, rectangle, tondo, keystone, and quatrefoil (of which Gimblett is most recognised). It is Gimblett’s intention in these works to explore the multiplicity of meaning attached to such revered objects. The quatrefoil shape dates back to pre-Christian times and is found in both Western and Eastern religions symbolising such objects as a rose window, cross, and lotus. “By choosing to work on quatrefoils, Gimblett moves away from pure or non-referential geometry towards a geometry that is loaded with symbolic associations. At the same time, in the realm of physics, the quatrefoil can suggest the existence of a fourth or unattainable dimension. It also indicates a stable form undergoing transformation, both expansion and contraction, like a flower.” (John Yau, ‘Going Forth’, Max Gimblett, Craig Potton, 2002, p. 107)

Gimblett steps further into exploring spiritual beliefs through his use of precious metals. Materials such as gold and silver are religiously associated with honour, wisdom, enlightenment and spiritual energies. “Gimblett is not the first post-war artist to use gold or to be interested in shaped canvases, icons and iconicity. Within this context one must consider Frank Stella, Yves Klein, and Andy Warhol. Gimblett’s interest, however, is in the spiritual rather than the earthly. He rejects Stella’s coldly cerebral literalism, Klein’s arch ironies, and Warhol’s sly incorporation of Hollywood stars. In contrast to Klein, Gimblett uses gold in a way that is neither tawdry nor purely about visual pleasure. Rather, gold and silver are transmitters of light.” (John Yau, ibid, p. 107-108)

The use of such materials brings a seductive quality to these paintings. Surfaces combine gold, silver, copper, bronze, epoxy, resin, plaster, paint and pigments. “Through a complex process that involves diluting epoxy resin in the paint, the artist has achieved a quality of surface that may be unique in modern painting. It looks like porcelain, glowing from within while still shining on the surface. This technique seems somehow to emphasize both surface and depth; the drawn elements acquire a new sharpness and stand out more assertively against the ground.” (Thomas McEvilley, ‘The Shape of Energy,’ Art in America, October 2005, p. 167) These extremely delicate surfaces are carefully prepared and cured, but are only one part of Gimblett’s diverse practice. These serene surfaces are often disturbed by bold gestural brush marks in acrylic polymers and paints.

Gimblett has an extensive collection of brushes, mops, and rollers with which he makes his marks. “I work fast. De Kooning said he painted fast to get to the other side of the street. I work in bursts of one point, very sharp concentration and then rest and then have another burst or set of gestures.”(Max Gimblett, artist statement, 2002) These gestural paintings with their drips, splatters and swipes of paint strongly ground Gimblett in the tradition of American Abstract Expressionism; yet at the same time maintain a link to Eastern calligraphic practices. There is a performance aspect to the creation of work. “I am committed to the Buddhist idea of the ‘not self’ and in that sense, I try to suspend judgement, and ‘float’. As an intuitive thinker, my imagery comes to me as I command, as a whole unit – the mind is cleared, an image arrives and I execute this quickly.” (Max Gimblett, Eyeline, Summer 1997/98)

Alongside his paintings Gimblett produces an ongoing series of works on paper. In 2002 a survey of these works were exhibited at the Queensland Art Gallery in Australia. “Gimblett views his drawings as a major aspect of his oeuvre, and few artists of his generation have produced works on paper so regularly with so much commitment. They have spiritual and metaphysical connotations, combining both Eastern and Western impulses, and represent either a slow, layered approach to building up an image – which is often a geometric symbol – or they are what Gimblett terms ‘quick, with no mind'”(Anne Kirker, Max Gimblett: The Language of Drawing, Queensland Art Gallery, 2002)

Limited edition books, often produced in collaboration with writers, are also a passion for Gimblett. In 2006 he released Searchings (published by Holloway Press, The University of Auckland), highlighting drawings and writings from the archives of Gimblett’s journals, with each volume bound with two original ink drawings. Other publications include Mondrian’s Flowers (published by Granary Books, New York, 2002), and The Dogs of Auckland in 2000 (published by Holloway Press, Auckland University). These collaborations are important to Gimblett for both the new medium presented, as well as the ongoing cross discipline dialogue. Other artists’ books include projects with John Yau, Lewis Hyde, and Chris Martin.

New Zealand jeweller Warwick Freeman is also a long time collaborator, working with Gimblett on such significant pieces such as Spirit Box (1998). Gimblett worked with renowned furniture makers Jim Cooper and Humphrey Ikin to create this cabinet of drawers. Minimal and sculptural when closed, when opened they revealed a series of skulls in a range of materials – paua shell, felt, cow bone, glass, wood, shell, and mother of pearl. “This is an exhibition in a box, a show in the shape of a display case. Because the box itself is so unadorned – an embodiment you could say of self containment – the shock of entry, of pulling open the first drawer, is all the greater. There in the tray, staring you in the face, in silhouette, is a grinning death’s head, exquisitely finished in polished paua shell. Close it up and open the next drawer and there it is again – no getting away from it… it’s a treasure… its success arises from Gimblett’s continuing renegotiations of the margin between sculpture and painting. (Wystan Curnow, Art Asia Pacific, No. 23, 1999)

In 2002 a major monograph on Gimblett’s work was published providing insight into various aspects of Gimblett’s practice. With over 100 full colour reproductions this book maps the development of his exceptional career, from the rarely seen geometric paintings of the 1970s, through a myriad of shapes and techniques, to his current works that are just as stylistically diverse.

In 2004 Gimblett’s standing as a senior New Zealand artist was affirmed by the survey exhibition, The Brush of All Things, curated by Wystan Curnow. The exhibition toured two of the country’s major public galleries – the Auckland Art Gallery and the City Gallery Wellington, and included over forty major works from public and private collections. In 2005 Gimblett was appointed to the honorary position of Visiting Professor at the National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries, Auckland University.

Gimblett continues to exhibit widely in the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. His work is represented in major public and private collections around the world, including the Art Gallery of NSW, Queensland Art Gallery, Auckland Art Gallery, San Francisco Art Institute and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Text courtesy of Gow Langsford Gallery.

Max Gimblett was born in Auckland in 1935. He now lives and works in New York and Auckland.


The Garden of Delights, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

50 Years of Drawing, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
The Art of Remembrance, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand
One Day in the Afternoon of the Gods, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
New Paintings, Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown, New Zealand
The Universe: Max Gimblett, Tauranga Art Gallery, Tauranga, New Zealand

The Rising Sun, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
The Art of Remembrance, St. David’s Church, Auckland, New Zealand
Sea of Dragons, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Paradise Valley, Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown, New Zealand

The Gold Thread, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Universe, Calder & Lawson Gallery, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
Heavenly Creatures, Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown, New Zealand
Celebration, Aesthete Gallery, Hamilton, New Zealand
Love Conquers All, Kashya Hildebrand, London, United Kingdom
Boundless Way, New York Zen Centre for Contemplative Care, New York, United States

On a Clear Day, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington
All That Is, Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown

Ballad of the South Pacific, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
Max Gimblett: The Holy Grail, Gary Snyder Gallery, New York, USA
Max Gimblett: New Works on Paper, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
Max Gimblett: New York, New York, Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown
Damien Hirst / Max Gimblett – The Beauty and Brutality of Fact, Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown

The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
On the Shores of Infinity, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington
Perfect Mirror, Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown
Graceland, Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, USA
Pacific Shrine, Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown

The Night Sun, Haines Gallery, San Francisco, California, USA
Full Fathom Five, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
White Stone Clear Water, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington

Max Gimblet – Everlastingness, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington

Max Gimblett: Recent Paintings, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
Always in These Lands: Recent Paintings and in the New Zealand Room Selected Works on Paper 1965-2007, Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown
Monotypes, Smith Anderson Edition, Palo Alto, California, USA

Banquet, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
Zen Reality, Gus Fisher Gallery, University of Auckland, Auckland

Zen Beat, Cushman & Wakfield, New York, USA

Max Gimblett: The Brush of All Things, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland; and City Gallery, Wellington
A Very Decided Bright Line, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
The Rose of Paracelsus, Bartley Nees Gallery, Wellington

True Mirror, Haines Gallery, San Francisco, California, USA
Silent Waters, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
The Dawn of Beauty, Gow Langsford Gallery, Sydney, Australia
Myth, Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, USA

Max Gimblett: The Language of Drawing, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia

The Silent Music, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

The Painted Promise, Haines Gallery, San Francisco, California, USA


Icons in Ash: Death in Art, Central Booking, New York, USA

Just Another F***ing Art Gallery, Gow Langsford Gallery, Christchurch

Wunderruma, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

Dark Arts: Twenty Years of the Halloway Press, Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand

Miami Project, Gary Snyder Gallery, Miami Beach, Florida, USA
Unbound: An Exhibition in Three Chapters, Dalhousle Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
The Final Frontier, The Atlantic Conference, Brooklyn, New York, USA
Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington

Permanent Collection, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland
One of a Kind – An Exhibition of Unique Artist’s Books, Pierre Menard Gallery, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
The Green Bicycle, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

Poems & Pictures: A Renaissance in the Art of the Book, Centre for Book Arts, New York, USA
New Zealand Masters: Cotton, Goldie, Gimblett, Walters, Hotere, Woollaston, Frizzell, Angus, and Wero Taroi, John Leech Gallery, Auckland
Zen to Kawaii: The Japanese Affect, QUT Art Museum, Brisbane, Australia
West East, The Suter Gallery, Nelson

The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia 1860-1989, Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA
The New Zealand Room, Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown

Fundamental Abstraction II – In Memory of Kim Wauson, Haines Gallery, San Francisco, California, USA
Maui, The Suter Gallery, Nelson
Drawings, Sue Crockford Gallery, Auckland
Edges of Darkness (Black in Art), Hamish Morrison Galerie, Berlin, Germany
Clock the Ton, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
Limited Edition, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

Simulasian, Contemporary Asian Art Fair, New York, USA
On Paper, Haines Gallery, San Francisco, California, USA
Art Miami, Haines Gallery, Miami, Florida, USA
Editions, Tinakori Gallery, Wellington

Contemporary Collections, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia
Director’s Choice: Consumption Junction, Haines Gallery, San Francisco, California, USA
Line and Surface, John Leech Gallery, Auckland

MGM – McCahon, Gimblett, Motherwell, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
Gulgoleth, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
Blair Street Opening, Bartley Nees Gallery, Wellington

Toi Te Papa: Art of the Nation 1940 – Today, Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, Wellington
35K, ArtSpace, Auckland

Signs and Wonders: He Tohu He Ohorere, Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, Wellington
The Invisible Thread: Buddhist Spirit in Contemporary Art, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Staten Island, New York, USA
Either/Or, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
Thinking in Line: A Survey of Contemporary Drawing, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA
Publishing Granary’s Books: A Conversation in the Margins, University of California, San Diego, California, USA
All That Glitters, Islip Art Museum, East Islip, New York, USA

Documenta USA, Museum of New Art, Detroit, USA
New Paintings, Kevin Bruk Gallery, Miami, Florida, USA
Leaping Boundaries: A Century of New Zealand Artists in Australia, Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney, Australia

Conceptual Link, Ethan Cohen Fine Art, New York, USA
Simple Statements, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island, USA
The Full Spectrum, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland
Collector’s Choice, Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, Wellington
Think Colour, New Zealand travelling exhibition
Works on Paper, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland
Auckland City Library, Auckland
Auckland War Memorial Museum Te Papa Whakihiku, Auckland
University of Auckland, Auckland
Bank of Texas, Houston, Texas, USA
Bodleian Library, Oxford University, Oxford, England
British Library, London, England
Chartwell Collection, Auckland
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch
Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin
The Getty Research Institute for the History of Art & Humanities, Los Angeles, California, USA
Govett-Bewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA
Harris Collection, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Ministry of External Relations, Wellington
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA
New York Public Library, New York, USA
New Zealand Embassy in Indonesia, Japan, and USA
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Phildadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California, USA
San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California, USA
Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua, Whanganui
Green Library, Stanford University, Standford, California, USA
The Suter Art Gallery, Nelson
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington
University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington
Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA
Beinecke Rare Book Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA


Wystan Curnow, An Exhiliaration of Spirit (Craig Potton Publishing and Gow Langsford Gallery, 2002).
– , “The Brush of All Things,” Max Gimblett: The Brush of All Things (Auckland Art Gallery, 2002).
Tony Green, “The Brush of All Things – A Mirror for Max”, Art New Zealand, Spring 2004.
Dorita Hannah, “The Mad Monk of Manhattan”, Urbis New Zealand, Summer 2001/2.
Anne Kirker, “A Minimalist with a Passion”, Max Gimblett: The Language of Drawing (Queensland Art Gallery, 2002)
– , “Max Gimblett: A Mjor Gift of Contemporary Drawings”, Artlines (Queensland Art Gallery, 1999).
Thomas McEvilley, “The Shape of Energy”, Art in America, October 2005.
Alexandra Munroe, Lewis Hyde, and Max Gimblett, Max Gimblett (Charta, 2013).
Jenni Quilter, Max Gimblett: Workspace (Charta, 2010).
Ian Wedde, “Action Man”, New Zealand Listener, 11-17 December 2004
John Yau, Going Forth (Craig Potton Publishing and Gow Langsford Gallery, 2002).