Much like Noah, this exhibition has arrived via a long and complicated journey. Despite Noah’s immense talents as a painter, craftsman and teacher, critical acknowledgement and sales never came easy to him in New Zealand.
Partly because his paintings could be challenging and their meaning obscure. However, few ever doubted his skills as a colourist. Noah always lived on the edge of normality. But I expect the strangeness people find in his work to evaporate in coming years.
The price that Noah paid for his uncompromising attitude was a lack of huge success while alive. However, he consistently found popularity among individuals, usually not particularly conversant with the visual arts tradition. But they knew Noah and had faith in him. Likewise, those that knew him well were lucky enough to enjoy the presence of his work in their lives.
The paintings in this exhibition come from Noah’s estate. Like Noah, their journey hasn’t always been an easy one but fate has conspired in positive way to finally present an opportunity to present them publicly.
They were painted at different times since Noah arrived in New Zealand and nearly all date from the early 1990s onwards although an exact date is not always known for individual works.
Noah’s painting continued to evolve through all the time I knew him from the mid-1990s and reflected the changes in his spirit through different relationships and locations including Northland, Wellington, Wairarapa and South Taranaki.
Noah was still producing some of his best works only months before he died from a probable heart attack. Many of the works in this exhibition were paintings that didn’t sell at exhibitions but this doesn’t mean they are inferior. Rather, they are amongst some of his most interesting works.
In all Noah’s paintings you can enjoy his huge skill with colour. He was adept at landscapes but also had a rare talent to capture the colours of water and the sea, as can be seen in his self portrait Lost Soul, painted when he was living at Patea, along with his brilliant view of the cliffs at Patea in Now Say Goodbye.
Noah was an environmentalist who served on the Rainbow Warrior and this theme runs through much of his work. He was also a spiritual person.
Although he wasn’t a practicing Jew Noah had the personality of a Rabbi but channelled through his profound relationship with the visual arts.
He was a free thinker with a strong empathy for Eastern religious thought such as Buddhism. He never met the Dalai Lama but his painting of the Dalai Lama in this exhibition captures a unique psychological description of the Tibetan leader.
Noah was also acutely aware of the dark side of human nature, which is not surprising given as a child he and his mother had to flee to the United States.
Noah was a gifted raconteur and one of his many riveting stories was of how he, his mother, and all the passengers on the ship they were travelling to the United States on, had to stand on deck so a U-Boat captain could see that it wasn’t a military vessel. Noah perceived the dark side of New Zealand culture as well and environmental degradation as well.
Noah was very much in contact with of the unexplainable side of life and had many a good ghost story to tell. His perspective extended beyond the terrestrial world to encompass possibilities of extra-terrestrial engagement.
Just as fascinating and entertaining were his stories of personally meeting and often making friendships with many of Europe’s leading artists and musicians.
While sales never came easy to Noah, those who bought his paintings consider them among their prized possessions and so they only rarely come up for sale.
So it is with pleasure that I am able to present this exhibition as an opportunity to purchase and appreciate these paintings and engage with Noah through his art.
David Famularo, Director Mazzola Jewellery & Gallery, October 2015