Artist Profile

Dennis Knight Turner

Born 1924

Dennis Knight Turner followed in his father's footsteps and ran away at the early age of fourteen. Unlike his father, who was trying to get away from London, Turner ran away from his birthplace in Wanganui, to Wellington, to become an artist

Although largely self-taught, Turner worked in the commercial art sector and attended evening art classes at Wellington Technical College. In the 1940s and early 1950s he had close contact with Gordon Walters and Theo Schoon, both of whom were pivotal in introducing modernist oceanic influences into New Zealand art.

Turner began exhibiting in the mid 1940s, and was one of the fifteen artists who contributed to an exhibition Helen Hitchings organized for London in 1952.

Primarily recognised as a pioneer abstractionist, Turner also defined the New Zealand landscape in abstract forms, developing a new art of multicultural influences – art that spoke of the social and industrial rights of ordinary people in an easily accessible style.

A member of the Contemporary Artists Group – which brought together architects, photographers, printmakers, painters and ceramicists – Turner exhibited at the ACAG in 1950 and 1951, becoming the country's first exhibitor of collages.

Major shows include the Centre Gallery in Wellington in September 1956, the Ikon Gallery 1961, the touring exhibition New Zealand Painting 1940-1960 Conformity and Dissension (selected by Gordon Brown and James Mack), Art and Organised Labour, Headlands and The 1950s Show.

Despite calling himself an "unrepentant New Zealander", Dennis Knight Turner has lived in London since 1964, but in the latter half of 1992, Turner accepted the invitation to return to his place of birth to take up the position of Artist-in-Residence at the Sarjeant Gallery's Tylee Cottage.

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