Ian Scott (1945 - 2013) was a significant and celebrated New Zealand painter who worked as a full-time artist from the 1960s until his death in 2013. “From the late 1960s, Scott’s work was notable for its international vision within a local context that had been previously dominated by regional and national concerns.” (1) Working in both the fields of abstraction and representation, Ian Scott continually pushed the boundaries of painting through his often controversial painting processes, themes and varied subject matter.
After immigrating to New Zealand from the United Kingdom in 1952, Ian Scott grew up in West Auckland and knew from early on that he was going to be an artist. Prior to enrolling in the Elam School of Fine Arts in 1964, Scott went to Kelston Boys’ High School where his teachers included Rex Head and Garth Tapper, and also attended Colin McCahon’s evening art classes at the Auckland Art Gallery. In 1968 he began training as a secondary school teacher and spent a brief time teaching in Nelson before moving back to Auckland.
Scott had painted landscapes from an early age but once he started art school developed an interest in the works of US abstract artists such as Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski, as well as New Zealand painters Milan Mrkusich, Don Binney and Gordon Walters. (2) The influence of these artists can be seen in Scott’s 1960’s Girlie paintings, which feature flattened landscapes full of saturated colour, strong forms and stylised young women.
Scott began to experiment with abstraction in the 1970s; by the end of the decade this had developed into what came to be known as his Lattice paintings. Featuring alternating colour bands, these works play with optical illusions of depth and movement, exploring the advancing and recessive aspects of colour as well as modernist concepts of surface, medium and abstraction. Scott never abandoned his interest in abstraction and continued to produce Lattice works in parallel to other strands of his art practice through to the end of his career.
Figurative painting was never entirely left behind by Scott, and through the 80s and 90s he created comprehensive series of works looking at the role of art and artists in a post-modern world. Works from this period often feature appropriated imagery from popular culture, advertising and historical sources. Questioning the act of painting itself, Scott’s own paintings often contained references to the tools of his ‘trade’ (brushes, colour palettes, frames) and a number utilise instantly recognisable works of art by Colin McCahon, Rita Angus, and other well-known New Zealand artists.
From his early landscapes and Pop-Art influenced paintings of the 1960s, the complex abstraction of his Lattice works to the controversial Playboy-type, lingerie-clad women in his 1990’s Model series, Ian Scott revealed control and mastery of his medium as well as a sustained interest in the concepts and theories of art. With works held in every major public institution in New Zealand, Ian Scott’s investigation into and engagement with the raison d’être of painting has ensured his place in any discussion of New Zealand art. After his death in 2013 the Auckland Art Gallery concluded in a tribute, “Few other local painters have been as prolific as he was, even fewer as determined to explore such diverse and, sometimes, divisive content.” (3)
1. Francis Pound,The Invention of New Zealand: Art and National Identity 1930-1970, Auckland University Press, 2009, p. 375.
2. Warwick Brown, Ian Scott, Marsden Press, Auckland, 1998, p. 9
3. Ron Brownson, Ian Scott (1945-2013), Outpost Blog, Auckland Art Gallery, 11 July 2013, http://aucklandartgallery.blogspot.co.nz/2013/07/ian-scott-19452013.html.