Artists respond to the Turnbull collections
Runs from 25 May – 14 August 2015 | 10am – 5pm, Monday – Saturday | Level one
Tell tails, the trailing feathered wind indicators known to Māori as puhi (on canoes) or pūhihi (on kites), are the inspiration for these artworks. They allude to the winds of change that swept Oceania following contact with other nations.
L-R: Christine Hellyar's Red cloud; Maureen Lander's Hariata’s war garb; Jo Torr's Moemoeā (dreaming).
Three prominent New Zealand artists have come together in this exhibition, their remarkable works a response to original early paintings, drawings, letters and printed works held in the Turnbull.
Their artworks in flax, fabric and feathers represent the layered and textured cultural exchanges between Europeans and Oceanic peoples.
L-R: Christine Hellyar, Maureen Lander and Jo Torr.
Christine Hellyar’s Red cloud was inspired by her observation that in William Ellis’s portraits, he shows the Tahitian people wearing European neckerchiefs. Red cloud is made of dozens of handkerchiefs, neckerchiefs, serviettes and ribbons, all used as items of exchange. Not all exchanges were beneficial, however. James Cook’s interpreter Omai was given several handkerchiefs and serviettes when he returned to Tahiti, perhaps contributing to his death and that of his two Māori servants from lung infections. The colour red is the most valuable dye in the Pacific – it is also the colour of spilt blood.
Maureen Lander’s Hariata’s war garb re-creates the woven sash worn by Hongi’s daughter Hariata Rongo in Merrett’s The warrior chieftains of New Zealand. Lander draws on the manuscript letters of her great-great-grandfather J. J. Fergusson to enhance and illustrate Hariata’s ‘warrior chieftain’ status – and highlights her penchant for wearing a sash and bonnet when leading her troops.
Part of Maureen Lander’s Hariata’s war garb.
Jo Torr’s coat in Moemoeā (dreaming) is similar in design to those worn by Tuai and Titere in their portraits, painted by James Barry in London in 1818. The young men were sponsored by Rev. Samuel Marsden to sail to England and help formulate a Māori–English grammar and vocabulary. It was thought both cultures would benefit from this exchange. The embroidered birdman kite is taken from a letter Titere wrote home, and suggests his yearning to travel back to his people.
Part of Jo Torr’s Moemoeā (dreaming).