Discover New Zealand's most famous artist Len Lye

An experimental film-maker, poet, painter, kinetic sculptor, eccentric and ebullient personality, Len Lye is New Zealand's most widely-known artist

A visionary New Zealander, an inspirational artist, a pioneer of film; Len Lye (1901-1980) is one of the most important and influential artists to emerge from New Zealand.

Legendary among experimental filmmakers, his 'direct films' made by painting and scratching on celluloid were part of Lye's prescient vision for a new 'art of movement'. His dynamic and innovative motorised stainless steel sculptures of the 1960s express a creative energy that Lye also brought to film, painting, photography and poetry.

Lye chose to make Taranaki the home of his works and since 1980 the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, has housed and cared for the Len Lye Collection and Archive, including more than 18,000 items.

A pioneer experimental filmmaker, sculptor, painter, writer and innovator, Lye’s interests were in the possibilities of light and movement. Lye was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, his family had little money and he educated himself about art in public libraries in New Zealand. He trained early in graphic design in Wellington, New Zealand and worked his way via Australia and Samoa to London in the 1920s where he made short direct (hand-made) films through scratching and painting directly onto film leader and film stock. Lye then moved to New York in 1944 to work in television and it was there he developed his kinetic or moving sculptures. Today, his hand-made films and kinetic sculptures continue to receive expanding interest and acclaim and offer inspiration across many creative fields throughout the world.

Lye’s work is held in numerous international collections and in New Zealand, Water Whirler 2006, a public sculpture realised by the Len Lye Foundation and based on Lye’s concept and designs, is located on the Wellington waterfront, while Wind Wand 2000 has become a popular landmark on New Plymouth's foreshore.

“Lye inspires artists to dream, to innovate and to push boundaries. He also proves that an artist from New Zealand can not only be ahead of the times but can also engage the international art world and help mould the course of art history globally in a profound way.” FRANCIS UPRITCHARD, ARTIST, LONDON

“Len Lye is a unique creative force in twentieth century art [and] the artist for the 21st century.” BARBARA ROSE, US ART HISTORIAN

“Len Lye is not only a key figure in the development of experimental film in the 20th century but a significant contributor to the development of 21st century art.” JENNIFER L. ROBERTS, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY OF ART AND ARCHITECTURE, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, US

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