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Celebrating the centenary of Len Lye's birth

4 July 2001 2 Pages Media Statement

Celebrating the centenary of Len Lye's birth – "one of New Zealand's most important international artists of the Twentieth Century"

Tomorrow, 5 July, marks what would have been the 100th birthday of one of New Zealand's best-known international artists, Len Lye.

"Len Lye was a man far ahead of his time," says Associate Arts Minister Judith Tizard. "His work in experimental film and kinetic sculpture was incredibly innovative. I believe he was New Zealand's Leonardo da Vinci."

Len Lye pioneered direct film-making (film made without a camera by painting and scratching images directly onto celluloid). He worked in painting, sculpture, photography and writing, and became a leading figure in the kinetic art movement of the 1950s and 60s.

"Len Lye was one of New Zealand's most important international artists of the 20th Century," says Judith Tizard. "And despite living overseas for much of his life, Lye was an artist for whom being a New Zealander was vital to what he did."

"His connection with home was such that he returned his work to New Zealand through the Len Lye Foundation, based at the Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth, because he knew that it offered him the best chance of having his work preserved and kept in working order.

Judith Tizard says Len Lye's work contains important lessons for the way art and technology can combine in the 21st Century. "It took a collaboration with John Matthews – a talented engineer and the principal founding member of the Len Lye Foundation - to be able to produce his giant kinetic sculptures such as Universe."

"Len Lye taught us that there are no boundaries to being a New Zealander – we take it as our right to think, to do and to be anything we want.

"I have been engrossed in Roger Horrocks' very accessible biography of Len Lye, published recently by Auckland University Press. I have to agree with the words of poet Alistair Reid, who called Lye 'the least boring person who ever lived'.

Tomorrow the Govett-Brewster Gallery is holding a birthday party for Len Lye, and the "Len Lye – Colour Box" exhibition of Lye's film work continues at the Film Centre in Wellington through July before heading to Auckland. Meanwhile, Judith Tizard will be starting another chapter of the Len Lye biography.

Len Lye was born in Christchurch on 5 July, 1901 and died in New York in 1980.

More Information on Len Lye is available on the following websites:
Len Lye – Colour Box Exhibition:
Len Lye Foundation at Govett-Brewster:

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