Enduring Nature: Hoki Atu Hoki Mai looks at the particular character of Aotearoa New Zealand's flora and fauna and the resilience of its people. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman visited here in 1642 and subsequent voyagers such as James Cook and Jules Durmont d'Urville stayed for periods, recording what they saw and who they encountered. As draftsmen their accounts were more scientifically driven, recording ecological and botanical findings for political and economic ends.
New Zealand's majestic beauty was recognised early in its history, as demonstrated by the interest shown in two tableaux depicting Milford Sound and Lake Wakatipu by the Melbourne based artist Eugene Von Guérard. These works toured Paris, Sydney, Melbourne and London from the late-1870s through to the mid-1880s. What makes Von Guérard's painting of Lake Wakatipu with Mount Ernslaw, Middle Island New Zealand unique from a scene of the Swiss or Italian Alps is not only the canoe crossing the waterway but also his faithful portrayal of toetoe, flax and cabbage trees which line the near shore.
Through the paintings of John Hoyte and Albin Martin we are offered an idealised view of the land. In contrast Alfred Sharpe's paintings show some of the harsher realities of what it was actually like to live here in the mid-to-late 19th century; a hand-to-mouth existence isn't hard to imagine. The scenery is typically portrayed as 'waiting to be occupied' and a range of locations illustrate what settlers might expect to see, including settlements and the burgeoning gold mining and logging industries, with its consequent environmental damage. European dwellings, imported flora and animals start to appear in paintings as Maori and native flora and fauna progressively disappear. Material progress and nation building were ideals that settlers brought with them to New Zealand and early artists were influential in advancing these foundational notions.
At the same time books such as Walter Buller's A History of the Birds of New Zealandand Joseph Dalton's The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage, on loan to this exhibition from Auckland City Library's Special Collections, catalogued New Zealand's inimitable flora and fauna. As later generations of artists, such as Percy Bagnall and Trevor Lloyd, were born and raised in New Zealand they turned to these subjects in an effort to establish a New Zealand identity, distinctly separate from England. These subjects have been further explored in works of later artists such as Gordon Walters and Richard Killeen.
Visual records draw us back to accounts of our ancestors and their involvement in New Zealand history. They capture the relationships our forbears had with nature and each other, providing us with knowledge and positive legacies of who we are and where we came from. They are a source to return to generation after generation, hoki mai hoki atu.
- Curated by
- Ngahiraka Mason
- Main Gallery
- Free entry