A course of painting classes from Peter Brown, former Elam University tutor, led to Ion pursuing painting as a career. Success with painting exhibitions encouraged Ion to concentrate on a full time painting career. For more than 30 years Ion has developed his painting skills to produce many sucessful solo exhibitions.
In 1987 Ion was privileged to be appointed Official artist to the New Zealand Army. This commission continued until 1997. During this decade Ion was fortunate to travel widely with the Army to record its History in many of its fields of operation, and to record the 75th Anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign and also the 50th Anniversaries of many of the Second World War battles. The Major work during his commission was The Battle of Chunuk Bair which now hangs in the Parliament building.
Ion has continued to pursue his own style, and passionately enjoys painting New Zealand's people going about their work and leisure, and capturing the special light and atmosphere that our New Zealand landscape provides.
1987 - 1997
At the beginning of my service as New Zealand Army Artist my knowledge of New Zealand's history was very thin. My father died in the Second World War near Florence when I was not yet 2 years old. My Mother re-married and not a lot was spoken about WW2, it seemed like that for many families.
I remember the ANZAC days as a holiday, when old men marched down the main street (I being but a boy), and as I grew older so did they ... always older men, marching down the street.
It was not until I was given the honour and opportunity to paint for the New Zealand Army, and in particular the painting of 'The Battle of Chunuk Bair' at Gallipoli that my ignorance of New Zealand's history became apparent to me. It was decided that to mark the occasion of New Zealand's Sesquicentennial and the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Chunuk Bair, a painting should be commissioned by N.Z. Defence Force as a gift to the Nation, and I was asked to paint it. This started a learning curve for me that has not stopped - who are we - where we came from - and where we are going ?
During my ten years as Army Artist I had the opportunity to travel to Greece, Crete, Egypt, Turkey and Italy to depict the commemorations of the 50th anniversaries of New Zealands involvements during WW2.
The withdrawal of our base from Singapore gave the opportunity to portray the many aspects of the life of New Zealand soldiers, their official functions and the everyday association with the people of Singapore and Malaysia. Painting New Zealand Army's presence in Bosnia and Antarctica; exercises around New Zealand; portraits, banner parades and ceremonies; the diversity and challenge of these subjects; meeting, living and working among the wide family of the Army was an experience that most Artists can only dream of.
I always had the utmost assistance and support from all ranks and well informed historians, their knowledge and expertise was invaluable and I could not have done without them.
The New Zealand Army's history is New Zealand's history and I am proud to have been part of it. Subjects that I have painted have already been relegated to history, and as this process continues it is important for a lasting record to be produced.