Genre: Contemporary Art
Country of Origin: New Zealand
Don Driver has been described as a “mythographer of the fetishes of a farming people” and his art described as “like one massive bulimic hurl filled with half-digested bits of 20th century art history”. Straddling the traditional boundaries between painting and sculpture his works appeal due to their formal composition and visual effect, their dig at the ‘throw-away’ mentality of consumer society, and their references to New Zealand’s everyday life. While there is often no clear narrative, meaning “permeates the works through association and suggestion”.
Born in Hastings in 1930, Driver moved with his family to New Plymouth in 1943, where he lived and worked for most of his career. In 1945 he started work as a dental technician, taking night classes in drawing and later in woodwork, welding and pottery.
He began exhibiting work in 1951 and continued showing regularly throughout the 1950s. He worked for a paint company for most of the1960s, joining the staff of New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery at the end of the decade. All the while he continued to produce and exhibit works. In 1965 he made a trip to the US; a trip that proved to be influential to his artistic development.
Numerous exhibitions, both nationally and internationally, and various awards and grants followed. In 1976, Driver had a stroke which paralysed his right side, forcing him to again learn to speak, walk and use his right hand. His stroke didn’t have a marked effect on his output and further solo and group shows at public and dealer galleries followed throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
In 2000 he was the subject of a major retrospective exhibition, With Spirit, which toured New Zealand’s leading public galleries. In recent years there has been resurgence in enthusiasm for Driver’s work as interest in his ideas gains renewed momentum and a younger audience.
Driver died in December 2011 after a long illness.
- image courtesy of Govett-Brewster Art Gallery