Tanya Ashken displays the watercolour from John Drawbridge’s 1949 Aspiring Suite, which is to be auctioned along with several other works by her late husband on November 12.


Charity auction to celebrate rich arts heritage


John Drawbridge photographed in 1971.

Works by renowned mid 20th century New Zealand artist John Drawbridge and photographer Brian Brake, go under the hammer at a fundraising auction on November 12 that also celebrates New Zealand’s film, literary and musical heritage- and benefits an aspiring Massey University creative arts student.

The Massey University College of Creative Arts John Drawbridge Ambassadorial Scholarship, worth $2500, is awarded annually to a student to experience art and life overseas through its international exchange programmes. It is named for the late visual artist John Drawbridge, who enjoyed a 50-year career working in a variety of media, including intaglio prints, oils, watercolours and large-scale murals. The scholarship will be presented at a function on Monday November 12, which includes the reading of James K Baxter’s poetry by his great grandson James Tautokai McDonald, and music by composer by Douglas Lilburn. Drawbridge, Brake, Baxter and Lilburn were all involved in the Aspiring movie project of 1949.

The film, depicting a climbing expedition to Mt Aspiring in Central Otago, was directed by Brake, scored by Lilburn, scripted by Baxter and storyboarded by Drawbridge. Following the death of one of the climbers in a plane crash the film was never completed though footage was later incorporated into another movie about the project by director Yvonne Mackay. It will be screened at the auction being held as part of the BLOW creative arts festival.

Drawbridge’s wife Tanya Ashken says the event, which also includes a piano recital by Emma Sayers from the New Zealand School of Music, features the auction of two Brian Brake silver gelatin photographs taken of Pablo Picasso at a bullfight, and up to six of her late husband’s artworks, one of which will be raffled, All proceeds go to the John Drawbridge Trust which administers the student scholarship.

“Our dream is that one day this scholarship will grow into a full scholarship, covering all costs, including course fees, ” Ms Ashken says expressing a hope such an experience will have a transforming experience on the recipient the way a National Art Gallery Travelling Scholarship to London in 1957 did for her husband.

John Drawbridge went on to create distinctive New Zealand artworks including the Expo ’70 mural for Osaka, Japan and the three-dimensional aluminium mural in Parliament’s Beehive.  In the 1960s he designed and created the 15-metre mural on ten large canvas panels for New Zealand House in London, with which generations of New Zealanders have become familiar. Drawbridge’s passion for art and education drew him home in 1964 to teach printmaking and design at a forerunner institution to the College of Creative Arts, the Wellington School of Design.  He retired in 1990. Massey University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2002 and he died in 2005. Four years later Drawbridge was posthumously inducted into the College of Creative Arts Hall of Fame.

The John Drawbridge Scholarship Fundraising Auction is at 6.30pm, on Monday November 12, at Te Ara Hihiko, the new College of Creative Arts building, Entrance E, Tasman St, Massey University Wellington.  Tickets are $45 and available through Tanya Ashken or telephone 0064-4-971-8151.


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