The encounters between people of different cultural backgrounds always provides opportunities for ongoing critical engagement. In Aotearoa/New Zealand such early encounters had repercussions that remain with us today. Artists brought, innocently or not, their own cultural baggage to their subject matter. One such example is Francis Dillon Bell’s New Zealand Bush c.1845 which turns out to be far more than a mere botanical record. This, like so many other paintings included in TE HURINGA/TURNING POINTS, can be seen to have multiple and sometimes unexpected additional meanings.
A great many of the works have their origin in deep contention. This resulted from disputes over land that were the inevitable consequence of colonialism. In our time these disputes gave rise to protests including Land Rights hikoi and, more recently, have prompted hopeful participation in partnership deals between Maori and Pakeha. This exhibition provides a huringa, a turning point in our ability to view art critically. It offers an ideal opportunity to give some emphasis to a Maori viewpoint without excluding non-Maori points of view. This is reflected in our two different curatorial approaches, one Maori, the other Pakeha.
If this is seen as controversial we make no apology. It mirrors the complex, convoluted history of race relations in this country. Curatorially, we offer it as a koha towards a more thoughtful engagement with various, in many cases iconic, works held in the Fletcher and Sarjeant Gallery collections.
Each work is arranged in a thematic framework, not in an effort to fit it into a rigid category but to suggest pathways for consideration and to provide sometimes unexpected links between paintings which might not otherwise be thought of as connected.
Peter Shaw is a New Zealand writer on the arts and architecture. He has been curator of the Fletcher Trust Collection since 1991. He curated the exhibition Representation & Reaction: Modernism and the New Zealand Landscape Tradition 1956-77 which toured nine public art galleries from 2003-2005. In 2001, at the Gus Fisher Gallery, University of Auckland, he curated The Colonial View, an exhibition of historic watercolours from The Fletcher Trust Collection and also Henry Kulka; Images by Marti Friedlander as part of the University’s conference Displacement and Creativity: Refugees and the Arts in New Zealand. In 2004 he contributed to John Kinder’s New Zealand published in association with Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki’s touring exhibition of the same name. Peter Shaw’s published work includes A History of New Zealand Architecture as well as Rainbow over Mt Eden: Images of Auckland and Why go to the Riviera: Images of Wellington.
Dr Jo Diamond is of Ngapuhi Maori descent and is currently a lecturer in Maori Art History at the University of Canterbury. Her postgraduate study
was undertaken at the Australian National University Centre for Cross-cultural Research in Canberra. She has a research background in Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Australian Studies, Gender Relations, Art History and Anthropology. She has published work in her particular area of interest: indigenous societies and their arts, spiritualities and philosophies. She currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Institution of Signifying Scriptures at Claremont University, California and has presented conference papers there as well as in other international tertiary institutions.