A Modest Modernism: Roy Cowan & Juliet Peter
31 May – 02 Nov 2014
A Modest Modernism: Roy Cowan & Juliet Peter celebrates the creative lives of Wellington artist couple. Painters, printmakers, potters and illustrators, both artists placed aesthetics at the heart of all their work, and approached life with the idea that all artistic activity is connected.
Roy Cowan (Ngāpuhi, Te Atiawa 1918–2006) and Juliet Peter (1915–2010) created a holistic life at their home in Heke Street, Ngaio, in a bungalow overflowing with books, pots and entertaining. Heke Street was a hub for an artistic community that included the architect Ernst Plischke and artist Rita Angus.
A Modest Modernism: Roy Cowan & Juliet Peter showcases a selection of their work across many genres, from sculpture to painting, printmaking and pottery, in the context of their shared life together. The core of the show is the generous bequest of artwork and ephemera gifted to The Dowse in 2004 by Juliet, by which time both Roy and Juliet had left their Ngaio home to go into care. In addition, photo albums and drawings by Juliet were gifted to us by a long-time friend after Juliet’s death in 2010. Other artworks and items on show have been lent by collectors with connections to Roy and Juliet and their stories and reminiscences have contributed to making this exhibition.
We hope this show gives you a glimpse into the extraordinary lives of a couple who were deeply committed to their work as artists.
Juliet and Roy’s decision to make a living from art: to, in fact, be professionals, was very brave at that time. That Juliet and Roy persisted, that they made an honest living out of making art was remarkable and that their example motivated younger artists is beyond doubt. They were our trail blazers showing us all the way. Demonstrating how living as artists could be so much more fun than nine to five. —Jacqui Fahey