Allen Maddox

X-69

1976
oil on canvas
580mm x 520mm

signed am, dated 4.76 and inscribed X 69 in brushpoint verso

Provenance

Estate of Philip Clairmont, Auckland.

Essay

The mid-1970s were a tumultuous time for New Zealand. Norman Kirk rose to power amidst anti-war protests, precipitating the country’s withdrawal from the Vietnam War. His unti...

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Estimate $7,000 - $12,000
Achieved $8,793.75

Allen Maddox

X-69

1976

oil on canvas

signed am, dated 4.76 and inscribed X 69 in brushpoint verso

580mm x 520mm

Auction N˚3

Estimate $7,000 - $12,000

Achieved $8,793.75

Maddox and Clairmont: X-69

by Julian McKinnon

The mid-1970s were a tumultuous time for New Zealand. Norman Kirk rose to power amidst anti-war protests, precipitating the country’s withdrawal from the Vietnam War. His untimely death then paved the way for the big-thinking, dawn-raiding Muldoon. The All Blacks toured South Africa, leading to a boycott of the Montreal Olympics by twenty-six nations. Bastion Point was occupied, and the Waitangi Tribunal was established.

Against this stormy backdrop, in a paint-splattered and smoke-filled garage in Waikanae, two of New Zealand’s most notable painters engaged in a series of individual and collaborative art-making benders. Droning Krautrock thumped out of a worn set of speakers as Allen Maddox and Philip Clairmont painted furiously. The two found inspiration in art making, each other, and occasionally whiskey, weed, and LSD. They would work tirelessly for days, whilst a cassette of Can played on endless repeat. Maddox gifted this work, X-69, to Clairmont during this time. Given its palette, it’s likely to have been painted with Clairmont’s paints in the Waikanae garage.

The two artists had met in their first year at Ilam School of Fine Arts in 1967, although Maddox didn’t continue, leaving Christchurch to pursue advertising work in Wellington instead. The two met again in the early ‘70s and Clairmont convinced Maddox to leave the advertising industry to pursue painting. After an LSD session in Waikanae, Maddox had an epiphany of some sort. Clairmont’s partner Rachel Power, who grew to know Maddox well in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, said of that moment: “Overnight, he kissed goodbye the white shoes and the white tie. Advertising was finished for him.” This “revelation” in Waikanae, tied as it was to the use of psychedelic drugs, may demonstrate an early manifestation of Maddox’s troubled, ambivalent position, caught between artistic insight and psychological instability.

This grey area between creativity and mental illness was an aspect of Maddox’s life and painting career. At times, medication inhibited his ability to paint, and at times his painting inspiration crossed over into psychosis. Pharmaceutical treatments for the treatment of the schizophrenia he suffered from were still the early stages of their development, presenting Maddox with a dilemma: he couldn’t paint whilst on the medication, and he couldn’t stay entirely sane without it. There were times when he would shun sanity for the sake of his art.