David Woodings was born in Auckland New Zealand in 1956. His upbringing was ordinary or traditional in a 1960’s New Zealand. He attended Edendale Primary School in Sandringham and Balmoral Intermediate before secondary education was commenced at Mt Albert Grammar and completed at Kelston Boys High School. During his time in secondary school the family shifted to Laingholm, a (then) rural community on the coast of the Manukau Harbour.

This shift of schools resulted in him focusing more on art activities and making the acquaintance of Geoff Thornley who was tutoring painting part time at Kelston Boys High School at that time, and it was during this period (1972-4) that Woodings was able to view international touring art shows and dealer gallery shows in Auckland through class organised trips by Thornley. Woodings was accepted into Elam School of Fine Art in 1975 finding that the painting tutors there included Don Binney, Robert Ellis and Garth Tapper.

David Woodings connection to the Photo Realist painting style of the American East Coast artists had its genesis in seeing the show American Photo Realism shown at the Barrington Gallery in Auckland in the early 1970’s, although the influence of the work was not reproduced by him until 1978 during his last years at the Elam School of Fine Art. The photo-realist style has permeated his work since that date with underlying realist and social realist agendas affecting his work output in 1990 when his series Rangiaowhia one day in 150 years broke from the strong regimen of the photo-realist style with a series based on historical and social history story telling in word and image, and again in 1996 when his series Horizons: Landscape as a state of mind had a stronger traditional realist style of representation of skylines.

The years at art school had enabled Woodings to generate a vast portfolio of photographs as during this time he was rarely without his camera on excursions throughout the city of Auckland, and the reflective surfaces began to seduce him. Woodings’s first works in the photo-realist style were mostly of buildings reflected in windows with Bonaparte Restaurant and Barristers window also depicting reflected streetscapes with vehicles and clutter. From 1978 through to his first one person show Interiors in 1981 at the Denis Cohn Gallery in Auckland, Woodings’s work was associated with the fast food industry with numerous works depicting the McDonalds franchise as in the late 1970’s the introduction of the fast food industry in some way accentuated the gloss and plastic so essential to the themes of the photo-realist painters Robert Bechtle, Ralph Goings and Tom Blackwell, and it felt right to Woodings to utilise the newness of his own works with that of the changes he saw in his immediate environment. Other works during this period acknowledge the franchising of New Zealand’s business both in the fast-food industry and outside it with works Homestead Fried Chicken and Oasis depicting new New Zealand fast-food providers and in New Zealand Drycleaners a company that re-branded in a glossy American style to capture new clientele.

The Interiors exhibition in some way captures the cityscape of a fast developing Auckland in the late ‘70’s, and when the exhibition was toured to ten other venues in New Zealand thanks to the Art Society touring arm, it was received with a level of indifference particularly outside the main cities galleries.

About this time Woodings took a position as an exhibitions assistant at the Waikato Art Museum, (now the Waikato Museum of Art and History) moving to Cambridge in the Waikato and his painting output diminished although works continued to focus on cityscapes and the activities of the fast food industry, with more charged social agenda and titles. A series entitled The McDonalds works were exhibited at the Rotorua Museum of Art and History in the late 1980’s and then at Lopdell House where the artist was called to task by the McDonalds franchise for the work. This recalled for the artist an earlier incident in 1977 when he had been asked to leave a McDonalds restaurant for taking photographs.

During the 1980’s Woodings works were seen mostly in art awards and he won the J P Morgan Real Estate Art Award in Palmerston North 1986 with 453 depicting children playing on an arcade machine train, along with the mixed media award at the Lion Breweries Art Award in Cambridge, with 15% off all stock (except sale lines) an arcade machine tractor.

After a number of years when his production of art was limited by his commitment to his new role as Registrar and the activities related to the relocation of the Waikato Museum of Art and History to a new purpose built facility, Woodings exhibited Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends which included two connected series of works; Whakaatu i nga taonga o te iwi Maori and Decorative Arts at the Waikato Society of Arts gallery and then Proba Gallery in Auckland. The series were a reaction to having been so closeted within a museum art gallery situation without being able to paint and each highlighted his reactions to exhibitions in galleries, the first to the Te Maori exhibition specifically whilst Decorative Arts commented on a number of exhibitions both real and imaginary. The work Exxon Valdez Exhibition, an imaginary gallery exhibition featuring oil soaked birds was selected for the Suter Biennale exhibition in Nelson about this time.

Later Woodings became interested in the powerful effects of symbols his Rangiaowhia (one day in 150 years) series in 1990 depicted the physical traces of New Zealand’s history, recording the gravesites and memorials of the bloody campaign by the Forest Rangers against the indigenous people of the area on the 21st February 1864. The harsh urban babble of his earlier works was replaced by a sense of meditative silence.

During the 1990’s, the landscape backdrops of these still symbolic images became the primary focus of Woodings’s works. The symbolic landscapes exhibited in Horizons and Beyond: Landscape as a state of mind at Waikato Museum of Art and History in 1996, revealed an intense resolution of his earlier practice. Here Woodings’s skill as a photo-realist was combined with his power to create quiet, brooding images charged with emotional content. Woodings’s variations on a theme – the panoramic views from his (then) Cambridge studio – are sites of personal contemplation. An examination of the titles, wistful, melodramatic, allusive, reveals Woodings’s concern with personal and cultural history. His unpopulated landscape with its dramatic tension between earth and sky, owed much to the tradition of metaphysical New Zealand landscape painting of Colin McCahon and Tony Fomison. Like these artists, Woodings created settings for symbolic dramas of the human spirit.

Major works from this period can be found in the Waikato University, Waikato Polytechnic, Waikato District Council and Hamilton High Court collections.

Woodings moved to Southland in 1999 to take up the position of Director of the regional museum and art gallery

Woodings has returned to full-time painting in 2005 where the new work has groundings in works done over the past 20 years with arcade machines now the focus, where earlier they appeared as part features, as the cowboy horse in Walkway or the arcade donkey in Donkey Rides and Rooftop Restaurant, they are now in the forefront of your relationship with the picture plane, connected both through scale and detail in such a way that you can’t help but consider the confrontational intrusion the object has into your personal space. The handling of the painting subjects invites active rapport and interchange between the spectator and the work. Though not likely to be taken as actual, their life scale presence gives a particular poignancy.

Since 2010 David’s work has found connections to the Christchurch earthquakes. Having lived through both major (and a significant number of lesser) earthquakes in the house and connected studio there have been three separate, but related, series of works with the earthquakes at their core. In 2010/11 the series ‘Out of order’ featured relocated arcade machines within damaged Christchurch spaces, this was followed in 2012 by an entire year painting the same image of an arcade horse which eventuated in the exhibition ‘Winners/Losers’ and then in early 2013 the series ‘Still Lives’ which utilised broken one-off objects to take the guise of insurance photographs (these works are discussed elsewhere on this site).

David Woodings Gallery is now at 109 Mackenzie Avenue, Opawa, Christchurch.