Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
The cross was a kind of self-portrait for Allen Maddox, a signature mark that apparently he arrived at in the mid-1970s by cancelling out a failed painting. Something positive emerged from this act of negation, and it would sustain Maddox's work over twenty-five years. Born in Liverpool, he came to New Zealand as a child and studied briefly at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts, dropping out to pursue a career in advertising. Fortunately he abandoned this to return to painting, finding fellowship with Tony Fomison and Philip Clairmont. For a time the three banded together as members of the Militant Artists Union, living hard and painting harder. ‘Painting was “dancing” for him,' a friend recalled of Maddox. ‘[I]t was a kind of calculated spontaneity…'1 Looking at the looping, curvilinear forms of Purple triptych, it is easy to imagine this metaphor played out. Maddox sets down the basic rhythm of the dance with the painting's initial grid of crosses, working quickly wi...