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Aaron Waghorn "Whatever happened to my Rock and Roll"

Dates: 14 Jul, 2015 - 1 Aug, 2015 In the true tradition of “Pop Artist” and the “Pop Art Movement” Aaron Waghorn draws inspiration from popular culture su ...

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Dates: 14 Jul, 2015 – 1 Aug, 2015

In the true tradition of “Pop Artist” and the “Pop Art Movement” Aaron Waghorn draws inspiration from popular culture such as the internet, movies, and other imagery such as books and magazines.

The genesis of Pop Art was born out of the unprecedented mass production, marketing and consumerism of manufactures in the 1950’s, but its relevance as an art movement remains as strong, if not stronger today.  Sweeping changes in media and communication placed many artists at the forefront of graphic design, associated visual imagery and telecommunications, and now it could be said, this is gradually, almost frighteningly, superseding the written word. Iconic pop artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein painted artworks which assumed the properties or guise of comic pages, screenprints or photographs-essentially art imitating life – but throughout their references a sense of irony was ever present. A strong use of primary colours also added to the impact and decorative nature of these often large scale works which shifted even the colourfield and abstract expressionist movements into a different albeit clearer perspective.

The dynamics of communication and visual display are progressive and ever changing and here in the 21st century much of the technology in use was not around when Warhol was at the forefront and cutting edge of “Factory” art. Nevertheless it is probably fair to speculate Warhol would have been the first artist to make productive use of a selfie stick given the opportunity and these iconic and ground-breaking popular culture artists have left a legacy which remains firmly entrenched in artistic endeavours today.

 Waghorn’s paintings are notable for the juxtaposition of monochromatic and two colour imagery, a technique which also recalls 2nd or 3rd state silk screens or woodcuts. The artist also employs a consistent use of primary colours which are variously worked up on a large scale such as in the show title painting “What ever happened to my rock and Roll” and “The Sound of Silence” which are over 2 metres in length. Figurative aspects of painting were also a feature of international Pop art and in the same way, Waghorn has introduced dominant figures into “London” and “The Day is my Enemy”. “I draw inspiration from books, movies, internet, and magazines. When working with the diptychs I play around with the negative and positive spaces within the painting usually offsetting one against the other. The colour circles and rays that feature throughout my work are I call abstract interruptions….” [1] These rays, circles and rectangles feature prominently in “And it Rained all Night”, Everything in its right place”, “One more cup of coffee”, “The sounds of Silence”, and “What happened to my rock and roll”. “I have also started using Squares/Rectangles of colour in the work which represent windows and doors of abandoned houses and buildings”. [2]

Popular music became a catalyst and established a significant level of engagement with visual artists in the late 20th century and Waghorn’s titles refer to the names of songs written by popular balladeers of this era such as Paul Simon and Bob Dylan. Celebrated New Zealand painter Bill Hammond said his earlier compositions are “… Like an instrument – laid out flat”. [3] Unlike Hammonds’ more immediate references to song titles in his earlier imagery, Waghorn’s references are more obscure. An anomalistic reference is apparent in the diptych “The Sounds of Silence” where a mountain recalling the shape of Mt Taranaki or Rangitoto appears in a state of volcanic eruption. Concentric rings also appear on the top of the vent which as the artist previously states, are employed as “abstract interruptions”.  Other imagery and the links to the titles are less obvious. “The titles for the works come from what I have been listening to or what grabs me when looking at track listings of albums particularly by some of my favourite bands like Radiohead, The Prodigy, Chemical brothers, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Blur and many others…”.[4]

 As artistic movements and genres endure it is fair to say apart all culture, including music and the arts, are inextricably linked. Such is surely the case with Waghorn’s latest series “Whatever Happened to my Rock and Roll”


1 Email from the artist to Warwick Henderson Gallery 6th July 2015

2. ibid

3. “Jingle Jangle Morning” essay J Hay p17 pub Christchurch Art gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu 2007 and 2008

4. Email from the artist to Warwick Henderson Gallery 6th July 2015

Text Warwick Henderson July 2015



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