The Portrait Writer, with Jill Trevelyan

The Portrait Writer – Jill Trevelyan, chaired by Megan Dunn
Wednesday 12 March, 3.15pm

Jill Trevelyan (right) is an art writer on the rise, having written twopp_jill_trevelyan biographies, of artist Rita Angus, and art dealer Peter McLeavey, and curated/edited a book of letters by Toss Woolaston. While I haven’t read her, I was still entertained by this session, which focussed mainly on the popular Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer.

Trevelyan’s work on McLeavey’s biography could very easily have been complicated – he fell out with a lot of artists, he is still alive and so is his family – so it was with a little trepidation that she began.  When Trevelyan presented McLeavey himself with the finished book, he said ‘so, have you found the real Peter McLeavey’? She later admitted that he sent her a note saying ‘thank you for finding Peter’ – so clearly she wasn’t too far off the mark with her portrait. The family were directly involved in the process, as she read each chapter to them as it was finished. This seems an incredibly generous way to work, and something I’d imagine not every biographer would be comfortable with.

cv_peter_mcleavey_life_and_timesMcLeavey sounds like an incredible person, dedicated fully to his vocation, and driven to constantly seek out new artists. But he didn’t ‘jump into bed with them’ straight away, Trevelyan said, but instead flirted for many years before offering to sell their work. The most impressive thing that Trevelyan found when researching was the volume and intensity of letters that McLeavey exchanged with the artists in his stable. He cultured their deep friendships by giving a lot of himself. This was also a way of keeping them close to him, while most art dealers were in Auckland, often closer to the artists geographically.

The biography of Rita Angus was much simplercv_rita_angus_an_artists_life in some ways, as the holder of her estate is her nephew. The fascination with the Angus book was how much her letters informed her art – showed the area in which she was thinking as she painted. Angus was a pure artist, painting her passions, rather than for money, such as Toss Woollaston. Amusingly, she would often borrow the paintings she had sold to somebody back, and sometimes even add to them, as she was never ready to let go.

Trevelyan loves how artists think and work in their world, and her job as an art writer is the most fun thing she can think of doing. While she doesn’t enjoy the production side as much, she acknowledged her brilliant team at Te Papa Press for leading her through it so expertly, as well as  being able to see what needs to be done from a very early stage of her work.

Jill Trevelyan is certainly somebody to watch if you are interested in the world of art in New Zealand. A perfectly pitched and wonderfully chaired session.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster, Web Editor, Booksellers NZ.

Free events, with Writers Week guests popping up all over Wellington

Book fans will be spoilt for choice withNZF_WritersWeek_front free events this Writers Week, including the 2014 Janet Frame Memorial Lecture.

Celebrated author and illustrator Gavin Bishop will deliver a literary “state of the nation” at the New Zealand Society of Authors 2014 Janet Frame Memorial Lecture (6.15pm, 10 March, City Gallery) as part of 2014 Writers Week. This annual lecture is free, and will discuss the current state of literature and writing in New Zealand. For over 30 years, the lives of children and grown-up children have been shaped by the books of Gavin Bishop. Introduced by Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Bishop’s lecture will focus on the value, standing and role of illustration in children’s literature.

As a picture book author and artist, Gavin Bishop has published more than 40 books and won numerous awards, including the Margaret Mahy Medal for Services to Children’s Literature in 2000. He has also written for television and the libretti for two children’s ballets for the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Another free event, First Published (6.15pm, 11 March, Meow Café), will feature four exciting new voices on the local literary scene in a session chaired by New Zealand Post Book Award winner Steve Braunias. Fall in love together with the protagonist of Sebastian Hampson’s novel The Train to Paris; marvel at the influence of that extraordinary instrument, the theremin, in Tracy Farr’s fictional biography The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt; and relish the poetry and insights of Irish-born Caoilinn Hughes and recent Michael King Writers’ Centre resident Alice Miller

Local visual art fans and aficionados can enjoy a special screening of The Man in the Hat (7.30pm, 11 March, Film Archive, koha), the documentary portrait of influential Wellington art dealer Peter McLeavey, directed by Luit Beiringa. The film explores McLeavey’s early life and the more than 500 exhibitions he went on to curate from his history-making Cuba Street gallery. Beiringa will introduce the screening and be available afterwards to talk about this extraordinarily influential character.

Other free events during Writers Week, 7-12 March 2014, include:

  • The launch of Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings by Tina Makereti (Random House), 6pm, 6 March, Unity Books
  • Big Ideas for Breakfast: half an hour of lively discussion between Writers Week guests, from 7.45am, 10-12 March, Westpac Festival Club, St James Theatre
  • Many events for Collected Stories of the Odd and Marvellous edited by Adrienne Jansen (Te Papa Press) with stories and workshops for children inspired by weird and wonderful museum objects, 8-9 March, Te Papa
  • A Victoria University Press party and book launch for Gathering Evidence by Caoilinn Hughes and Incomplete Works by Dylan Horrocks, 7.30pm, 8 March, Exchange Atrium
  • A Gecko Press party for visiting authors and book launch for Dappled Annie and the Tigrish by Mary McCallum, 6pm, 9 March, Westpac Festival Hub, St James Theatre
  • The book launch for The Train to Paris by Sebastian Hampson (Text Publishing), 6.15pm, 10 March,The Library Bar

For more details about these events and more visit the New Zealand Festival website:\

Writers Week is supported by Asia New Zealand, Australia Council for the Arts, Canada Council for the Arts, Creative New Zealand, Flemish Literature Fund, Goethe-Institut, Institut Ramon Llull, Lion Foundation, Museum Art Hotel, National Library of New Zealand, New Zealand Book Council, New Zealand Listener, Royal Society of New Zealand, Swedish Arts Council, Unity Books and Victoria University of Wellington.