Iconic artworks converge in Pataka
An extraordinary exhibition of iconic New Zealand art has come to Pataka under extraordinary circumstances.
Never before has Kiwi art giant Pat Hanly’s ‘‘ Seven Ages of Man’’ collection been shown alongside his ‘‘Blast’’ anti-nuclear paintings and his photographer wife Gil Hanly’s photos of nuclear protests.
The three collections will likely never be seen together again, Pataka curator Bob Maysmor says.
What’s more, ‘‘Seven Ages of Man’’, which belongs to Auckland’s School of Medicine, had never been shown publicly before this year, and Pataka was one of only three galleries in the country to exhibit it.
But February’s Christchurch earthquake nearly prevented this significant exhibition from coming together.
The seven large-format ‘‘ Seven Ages of Man’’ paintings had just been shown at Christchurch’s Arts Centre and were packed up to be shipped to Pataka when the earthquake hit, Mr Maysmor says.
‘‘The art centre building collapsed around them.’’
The crate holding the paintings was badly damaged, but the paintings were miraculously unscathed, he says.
However, the crate was inaccessible after the quake, and sat for weeks among rubble until a crane rescued it.
Despite the holdup, Pataka’s exhibition did not have to be postponed, and has attracted plenty of visitors and positive feedback, Mr Maysmor says.
Pat Hanly, who died in 2004, painted bright, abstract pieces which often contained a political message about nuclear disarmament, a cause Hanly was passionate about.
‘‘I think people readily identify with the bold, bright colours of Hanly’s work but also the message,’’ Mr Maysmor says.
‘‘He’s an iconic New Zealand artist.’’
Hanly lived in Auckland most of his life but a stint painting in England in the late 1950s shaped his politics and his art.
Many Britons at the time were convinced nuclear war was imminent, and Hanly and his wife Gil became involved with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Pataka senior curator of contemporary art Helen Kedgley says.
‘‘They thought the nuclear bomb was about to drop,’’ she says.
‘‘That helped them to come back to New Zealand and get them into that mode of protest.’’
When the Hanlys returned to New Zealand in 1962 they continued as activists, both in their art and personally.
One of Gil Hanly’s photos at Pataka documents the Pintado protest, where a group including Pat Hanly mounted American nuclear submarine USS Pintado in Auckland Harbour in 1978.
New Zealand naval helicopters flew just metres above the water in an attempt to deter and frighten protesters, and Pat Hanly’s sketch and later painting of this protest shows his experi- ence in the thick of the action.
‘‘Pat’s paintings in a way are so joyous and bold and vibrant and colourful and full of life but he was concerned with these issues all the way through,’’ Ms Kedgley says.
Many young New Zealanders have no idea about this part of New Zealand history, but interest is being reawakened with the recent 30th anniversary of another turbulent protest period, the Springbok tour.
Prime Minister John Key’s meeting with US president Barack Obama has raised further interest in New Zealand’s antinuclear history.