Richard Lewer

New Zealand Disasters

New Zealand Disasters by Richard Lewer

Artwork Detail

Lewer’s practice frequently explores how places can become repositories for the psychic residue of extreme events, painful activities or our deepest fears. In this painting he fractures re-works the panorama format of landscape paintings to visualise the indelible psychological marks left on the New Zealand landscape through historical and recent traumatic events. In doing so, Lewer explores how our relationships to and readings of landscapes might be influenced by “imaginative geographies” formed out of experiences and memories.

Read from left to right, the 7 sections chronologically chart a series of disasters in New Zealand’s history : first the Napier Earthquake in 1931; then the Tangiwai train crash (1953); Wahine Ferry disaster (1968); Erebus Plane Crash (1979), Christchurch Earthquake; and the recent Whakaari Volcanic eruption (2019).

In doing so, New Zealand Disasters proffers an alternative, contemporary conceptualisation of the ‘sublime’, in which the landscape is awe-inspiring, terrifying, and outside of our control.

Painted as a series of fragments, it is likely that only people closely connected to New Zealand and its history would understand the meaning and significance of this paintings narratives. As such the painting relies upon, and is activated by, the subjective experiences and readings of an Oceanic audience.

New Zealand Disasters
Richard Lewer
Production date
oil and epoxy coated steel, copper and brass
1400 x 5600 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2020
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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