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.

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