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A Micronaut in the Wide World: The Imaginative Life and Times of Graham Percy

ISBN: 9781869404703
AUTHOR: Gregory O'Brien   
PUBLISHED BY: Auckland University Press   May 2011
COVER: Hardcover
FORMAT: 24.88x20.00cms
PAGES: 184
LANGUAGE: English
PRICE: $59.95

This is the story of a micronaut. Artist, designer and illustrator Graham Percy travelled far and built a career on the closely observed detail. Born in Taranaki in 1938, Percy spent apprentice years in Auckland before moving to London, where with his photographer-partner Mari Mahr he created a workshop-home, a microcosm of the outside world. Here fellow-venturer Gregory O’Brien presents an account of Graham Percy’s life and art, by way of motorbike and hot-air balloon, through sketches and bookshelves, touching on childhood losses and adult nostalgia. Including some of Percy’s most compelling drawings, A Micronaut in the Wide World showcases his early design work, vivid children’s book illustration and thriving mature art. The drawings reveal Percy’s passion for the small and hand-drawn; convey quirky remembered and imagined histories; and feature a cast of curious characters, from storks and trainee running targets to Commedia dell’Arte characters and illustrious composers. In its vivid, exuberant detail — alphabets and elephants, red lettuces and homesick kiwi, the Hungarian navy and the starry skies of the southern hemisphere — A Micronaut in the Wide World is a stimulating rediscovery of a remarkable artist. Graham Percy was an artist and illustrator, designer and typographer. Born in Stratford, Taranaki, in 1938, he grew up there and in Auckland. After studying at the Elam School of Fine Arts and working as a designer/illustrator for the School Journal, Percy was offered a scholarship from the Royal College of Art and moved to London to study in 1964. On graduation, he worked as a graphic designer and freelance artist, eventually specialising in children’s book illustration. By the end of his career, he had over 100 books to his credit, including editions of The Wind in the Willows, the Arabian Nights and Aesop’s fables. He also published two books of drawings, Arthouse with Chronicle Books in 1994 and Imagined Histories in 2007. Percy died early in 2008. A major exhibition of his art, curated by Gregory O’Brien, is touring across New Zealand in 2011-13. Gregory O’Brien was born in Matamata in 1961. As a poet, anthologist, essayist and art critic, he has published widely in New Zealand, Australia and England. Between 1997 and 2009 he worked at City Gallery Wellington, curating major exhibitions by artists including Ralph Hotere, John Drawbridge, Rosalie Gascoigne and Laurence Aberhart. His recent publications include News of the Swimmer Reaches Shore (2007), Back and Beyond: New Zealand Art for the Young and Curious (2008) and Euan Macleod: The Painter in the Painting (2010). A collaborative book project with photographer Mari Mahr, Two Walk in Edinburgh, is forthcoming in 2011.
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