Sculp­tor wins supreme art prize

Iconic stat­ues through­out Auck­land the work of 88-year-old Te Waka Toi win­ner.

Herald on Sunday - - ON THE TRAIL - By Dionne Chris­tian

If you’re in Auck­land city, chances are you won’t be far from one of Fred Gra­ham’s sculp­tures. Gra­ham’s work is in the court­yard of the High Court at Auck­land (Jus­tice), on the wall out­side Auck­land Art Gallery (Te Waka Toi o Ta­maki), in the Auck­land Do­main (Kaiti­aki) and where Short­land St meets Queen St (Kaiti­aki II).

Head fur­ther out and the metal bird that soars across Mis­sion Bay is one of Gra­ham’s, and at the Auck­land Botanic Gar­dens, his Manu Torino takes pride of place.

Along with the likes of Dr Cliff Whit­ing and Ralph Hotere, he helped found the 1960s Maori arts move­ment and is now one of New Zealand’s most in­flu­en­tial art fig­ures.

So it amuses the 88-year-old peo­ple want to talk about his stint in the NZ Maori Rugby team in 1955.

“I only played three games but I’ve been a sculp­tor for, well, about 80 years.”

He played wing, so he could “keep as far away from the for­wards as pos­si­ble”.

Last night, in front of fam­ily, friends and wife of

60 years, Norma, Gra­ham re­ceived the 2017 Cre­ative New Zealand Te Waka Toi supreme award.

Held since 1986, the an­nual awards recog­nise achieve­ment and con­tri­bu­tions to pre­serv­ing high qual­ity nga toi Maori (Maori arts).

Al­though chuffed about the pre­sen­ta­tion, at his Waiuku home ear­lier in the week, he was tak­ing it in his stride and says he’s grate­ful to have had the op­por­tu­nity to ex­press ideas through art for so many years. Of­ten in­spired by Maori tra­di­tions and leg­ends, he fo­cuses on is­sues that af­fect Maori, loss of cul­ture and the en­vi­ron­ment. Gra­ham was born in the Waikato set­tle­ment of Ho­ra­hora and ed­u­cated in Hamil­ton. He couldn’t sup­port a fam­ily as an artist so he be­came a school teacher and en­cour­aged his pupils to look at the world in new ways and ques­tion what they saw. “I look at the grand­kids to­day, all

HWatch the video at nzher­ on their phones, and I say, ‘Read a book’ and ‘Look around you’, be­cause it feeds your own imag­i­na­tion.”

He re­calls telling one par­ent his son showed great artis­tic prom­ise: “His fa­ther looked at me and said, ‘That’s all very well, but how’s he go­ing to earn a liv­ing?’ ”

That boy was Nigel Brown, now one of our most highly re­garded painters and print­mak­ers. In his bi­og­ra­phy, Brown notes he was for­tu­nate to have Gra­ham as a teacher.

Hav­ing spent the past 30 years mak­ing art and trav­el­ling the world, Gra­ham is con­tent to stay home but is not re­tir­ing any time soon.

“What would I do if I stopped carv­ing?”

Michael Craig

Sculp­tor Fred Gra­ham.

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