Len Lye is one of New Zealand’s most internationally respected contemporary artists, yet many kiwis are unaware of just how ground breaking and innovative he was.
Lye was born in Christchurch in 1901 and spent the early part of his career travelling extensively through Australia and the South Pacific which had an enormous influence on his early work.
In 1926, he arrived in London and joined a creative collective, The Seven and Five Society, made up of modern painters and sculptors including Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Frances Hodgkins (also a New Zealander).
He was also a prolific writer and very good friends with two famous authors, Dylan Thomas and Robert Graves. They spent much time collaborating on works, including political ideologies.
In the 1930’s, he began to exhibit his experimental films, winning commissions from government departures which helped fund his more artistic work. Having said that, the commercial animated films he produced are today considered works of art.
He became fascinated with movement as a result of this work, and began concepting and designing large scale kinetic works. Many of his concepts were so ahead of their time, it took decades before engineers were able to find a way to create them.
In 1950, he became a naturalised US citizen, but retained his strong ties to New Zealand, in particular, the Taranaki region.
As a man firmly focussed on the future, he had the foresight to create a perpetual trust to help protect his artworks and ideas, and ensure the ongoing production of his kinetic sculptures and continual innovation of his designs.
After his death in 1980, his collection was shipped back to New Plymouth and now housed in the stunning Len Lye Centre.
For arts lovers, no trip to New Zealand is complete without a visit to this world-class arts centre.