Robert Ellis was born in 1929 in Northampton, England. From 1949 to 1952 he studied at London's Royal College of Art, arriving in New Zealand in 1957 to be Senior Lecturer at The University of Auckland Elam School of Fine Arts, where he taught until 1994 when he retired as Emeritus Professor Robert Ellis.
During the 1960s, Ellis created his Motorway City series in response to the topographic transformation made to inner city Auckland by the construction of a motorway network stretching across the isthmus. These arteries mapping urban transport symbolise new ways of city life.
Robert Ellis has long considered his art and life in Aotearoa New Zealand as entirely bicultural and he was one of the first Pākehā artists of his generation to affirm this perspective. During the 1970s and 1980s his focus shifted to the rural community of his family's marae at Te Rāwhiti in the Bay of Islands. Over many years he participated in the restoration of the Te Rāwhiti Marae and contributed to the whānau community, learning from local elders.
During the 1990s and 2000s, the symbolism in Robert Ellis's painting developed further by the placement of diverse emblems from different cultures into visual conversations. Motifs and signs from Māori and Pākehā traditions were juxtaposed in ways not previously seen in New Zealand art.
- Curated by
- Ron Brownson
- Ground level
- Free entry