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Freefall Art Exhibition


Tue 27 Jun 2017, 10:00am–5:00pm
Wed 28 Jun 2017, 10:00am–5:00pm
Thu 29 Jun 2017, 10:00am–5:00pm
Fri 30 Jun 2017, 10:00am–5:00pm
Sat 1 Jul 2017, 10:00am–5:00pm

Where: Hocken Collections, 90 Anzac Ave, Dunedin, Otago

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Admission: Free

Curated to coincide with the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival (9–14 May), Freefall is an exhibition featuring important works of art from the Hocken Pictorial collections, combined with gems from the Hocken’s holdings of archives, books, ephemera, maps and music, and significant works of art from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Special Collections at the University of Otago Library. Freefall offers an opportunity to explore connections between these collections, the creative relationships between artists and writers, and to investigate notions about the look, use and role of image, narrative, words and text in art and print based media.

Predominantly an art exhibition, Freefall features paintings by some of New Zealand’s most important artists, such as Colin McCahon, Ralph Hotere and Joanna Paul, whose friendships and artistic collaborations with writers, spurred an interest in incorporating text and text references in their artworks, and fed into their thinking about the ‘look of the word’, and the use of words in art.

Hocken pictures such as McCahon’s ‘The Wake’ (1958), a series of 16 loose canvases depicting his friend John Caselberg’s poetic lament for his beloved dog, the Great Dane ‘Thor’, will be fully installed for the first time in at least a decade, in keeping with the visual experience the artist intended to create with this work. Other examples of cross disciplinary practice, such as ‘Untitled’ [The stillness of the rose…] 1974-1980, by poet and former Burn’s Fellow Cilla McQueen, and artist Joanna Paul, and works Ralph Hotere whose collaborations with Robert Burns Fellows such as O. E. Middleton, and authors such as Bill Manhire, which culminated in works of art and writing of great sophistication and beauty, will also be in Freefall.

While the Hocken’s rich archive collection contains material, such as diaries, letters and documents, further amplifying the life-worlds, relationships and creative processes between artists and writers, there are too striking examples of unique historic texts, the result of a meeting of cultures, such as Maori Chief Hongi Hika’s writing sample, and the hand-crossed school roll of Maori attending the church missionary society school at Rangihoua in 1816. Although primarily of historical significance, when considered aesthetically, these documents are not only beautiful objects in their own right, but also prompt visual connections that would otherwise not necessarily be made between them, as exampled in the refined use of te tuhi (line) in Hongi Hika’s alphabet lettering, and in Ralph Hotere’s linear works, such as his drawings for Middleton’s ‘The Loners’. Seen together these works show that both Hika and Hotere were masters of the freely drawn line.

Other striking historic documents include Hone Tuhawaiki’s ‘Declaration of ownership of Robucka [Ruapuke] Island’ (28 March 1840) in which the Chief has hand drawn his moko as his signature, the Rev James Watkin’s ‘Vocabulary of Maori words’, compiled at Waikouaiti 1840–1844, and Munshi Abdullah’s Hikayat Abdullah, c.1843, an early Malay account of Singapore. There is too Frederick Tuckett’s Otago Block Map of 1844, and the original sketch for the map in surveyor J.W. Barnicoat’s notebook.

The exhibition’s curator is Robyn Notman (Head Curator, Pictorial Collections), with curatorial support from Andrea Bell (Curator, Art), and advice from Anna Blackman (Head Curator, Archives), Peter Sime, (Head Curator, Publications), Karen Craw (Curator, Maps) Katherine Milburn (Liaison Librarian, Curator Ephemera) Amanda Mills (Liaison Librarian, Curator Music and AV), Dr Anna Petersen (Curator, Photographs) and Dr Donald Kerr (Special Collections Librarian, University of Otago).

Image: Ralph Hotere, Drawing for O.E. Middleton’s The Loners. No 10 (1972), pen & ink on paper, 305 x 193mm, Hocken Collections, Te Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago. Image reproduction by permission of the Hotere Foundation Trust.

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