A talk by Roger Horrocks, illustrated with images and films

Len Lye, born in New Zealand in 1901, was an extraordinary creative figure who made an international reputation not only in film-making but in kinetic sculpture. He also did unique work in painting, photography and poetry.  He was a friend and contemporary of artists such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth and poets such as Dylan Thomas and Robert Graves.

Len was famous for his colourful personality. He was described by fellow artist Kenneth Snelson as a “crazy, excited and exciting guy” and by poet Alastair Reid as “the least boring person who ever existed”.

Roger Horrocks worked as Len Lye’s assistant in New York in the last year of his life, wrote his biography,  and has now published Zizz!: The Life and Art of Len Lye, a book that  weaves together Lye’s writings, many not previously published,  into the  story of the artist’s life in his own words. 

“Zizz” was Lye’s favourite word for the power of good art. He wrote: “When I’m working, the main thing is to find something that looks kind of magical, that keeps fascinating me. I’m interested in the business of energy and getting a feeling of zizz!”

The book, published by Awa Press with the Govett-Brewster Gallery, has become an instant best-seller as people all over the country rediscover the life and work of this artist, acclaimed by some as one of the most important of the 20th century. Len bequeathed his work to the people of New Zealand to be administered by the Len Lye Foundation, and it has been held in the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth. On July 24, 2015 the gallery opens a stunning new ten-million-dollar building to house the Len Lye Centre – the first gallery in New Zealand to be devoted to a single artist.

Roger Horrocks is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Auckland. He is also a film-maker and poet, whose collection Song of the Ghost in the Machine was published this year by Victoria University Press.  He wrote the libretto for Len Lye, an opera based on theartist’s colourful life, with music by Eve de Castro-Robinson, which had a sell-out season in Auckland.