Described as realist and surrealist, Alvin Pankhurst has a career that has spanned some four decades. Highlights if this career include winning the prestigious Benson & Hedges Art Award in 1974 and having his work selected for the Royal Academy of London’s Summer Exhibition of 2001. Maybe Tomorrow, the surrealist, hyperreal depiction of the interior of a room in a dingy Wellington villa, is now in the collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. It remains alongside works by Brent Wong, one of the strongest examples of surrealism by a New Zealand painter. International judge James W. Foster said at the time: “Maybe Tomorrow is a tour de force in its immaculate technique, exquisitely detailed composition, eerie colour and compelling Sense of time and place.”
Thirty years have passed since then and Pankhurst has continued his unique vision, Rough Crossing depicts Gillespies Beach on the windswept West Coast with its crashing surf and piles of debris thrown up by the massive tides. Amidst the chaos of nature floats an ornately carved fire surround and mantle; on the foreshore are the delicate remains of crockery, still remarkably intact given the conditions. These items are so bizarre in this context, they compel the viewer to muse on how they got there: what great tragedy has befallen a vessel somewhere out to sea and has carried these items to shore? The fantastical impossibility of the image is something that Pankhurst has returned to again and again.