Haymaker V2.0 and He Tangata, He Tangata

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Monday 24 March 2014
Ngahiraka Mason

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Arnold Manaaki Wilson: Pou Ihi | Pou Whenua | Pou Tangata 2014

I recently curated a tribute exhibition to Arnold Manaaki Wilson (1928–2012) entitled Arnold Manaaki Wilson: Pou Ihi | Pou Whenua | Pou Tangata.

The exhibition features sculpture and painting. Fine arts trained Wilson experimented extensively with traditional Māori imagery blending Māori aesthetics and form with European approaches to fashioning art which he produced in the early period of his art practice from 1954–1964.

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Arnold Manaaki Wilson, Ode to Waikaremoana 1976

Underpinning Wilson’s art is his Tuhoe epistemology, which values the process of self-knowledge and the production of cultural understanding. With this in mind, Wilson developed an impactful yet modest body of work shaped by his upbringing, the wisdom of forebears and the influences of a changing contemporary world. A correlation between his legacy and how this aligns with the way his art practice functioned more widely across all strata’s of society is a focus in the exhibition. The specificity of his making produced a discourse that helped the local development of contemporary Māori art and the universality of his practice was to communicate this experience to the world. In this way, his legacy cuts a clear pathway to the realities of contemporary art practice today.

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Arnold Manaaki Wilson, He Tangata, He Tangata 1956

Among the first group of sculptures by the artist to enter the Gallery’s collection in 1992 was his 1956 sculpture He Tangata, He Tangata.

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Shane Cotton The Haymaker Series I-V 2012

He Tangata, He Tangata is the subject of a painting by Ngapuhi painter Shane Cotton in a five-part, nine-meter long painting entitled The Haymaker Series I–V. Made in 2012 during a time of reflection by Cotton who has pictured through one component of the painting a tribute to a beloved kaumatua and contemporary forebear. The series title literally refers to Wilson as someone who made the most of his opportunities while he had the chance – which he did. Philosophically the title also references a time when everything one did was important to ones survival and timing was everything.

As a mid career artist Cotton possesses canniness regarding timing and survival. He gathers to his series a collection of signature images that has brought him to this point in time. His starting point is Haymaker V2.0 in which He Tangata, He Tangata stands erect at the centre of the picture plane.

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Shane Cotton, Haymaker V 2.0 2012

Painted wooden rods penetrate the body of the painted sculpture attached to these are iconic images positioned at the tips of the rods. The range of iconography include the apex of another Wilson sculpture Ringatu (1958), a backward tumbling bird, a rock skull, a manaia figure, a framed nineteen century landscape – at once perched on a plinth of Jasper Johns targets.

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Arnold Manaaki Wilson, Ringatu 1958

One could say that Cotton is expanding his painting footprint to comment and reflect on several generations of contemporary art practitioners local and international while simultaneously historicising the moments he has chosen to highlight. He has mapped a terrain that supports the proposition that he too has made the most of his opportunities – and he has. We can speculate also that Haymaker V2.0 allows the artist to turn things around many times over tossing ideas to flummox and draw forward alternative ways of relating to contemporary Māori art practice today. His base point of reference regarding Haymaker V2.0 is to pay tribute to a senior Maori artist.

Further reading: 

Wilson was a pioneer for contemporary art and he chronicled this part of his life in the book Te Mauri Pakeaka: A Journey Into The Third Space published in 2006.

Image credits:
Arnold Manaaki Wilson
Pou Ihi | Pou Whenua | Pou Tangata 2014
Installation view, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Arnold Manaaki Wilson
Ode to Waikaremoana 1976
acrylic on canvas
Courtey of Wilson Estate, Auckland

Arnold Manaaki Wilson
He Tangata, He Tangata 1956
totara 
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki 
purchased 1993

Shane Cotton
The Haymaker Series I-V 2012
acrylic on linen
2400 x 9000mm
Courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett, Auckland

Shane Cotton
Haymaker V 2.0 2012
acrylic on linen
2400 x 1800mm
Courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett, Auckland

Arnold Manaaki Wilson
Ringatu 1958
kauri
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki 
purchased 1992