10 Famous New Zealand Paintings and their significance.

Though we seldom celebrate it, New Zealand has a rich history of art. It’s one that has had impacts culturally, politically, and has managed to change the landscape of art itself around the world.

The names of artists like Hammond and McCahon may draw recognition, but what about the artworks themselves? In this article, I’m going to take a look at 10 of the most famous New Zealand paintings, what’s the meaning behind them, and the significance they have.

1.   Fall of Icarus by Bill Hammond

This painting is a celebration of colours and paint. It depicts birds watching from a high perch in several colours with a streaming background. The birds that are perched high probably represent the view that birds have of the world. Bill Hammond borrows from Maori myth and legend in his art pieces, and this is no different. The birds look like characters out of Maori folk tales and may represent the fact that modernity has robbed many cultures of their beauty and values. Bill Hammond was born in New Zealand and is a toymaker who derives great joy from painting.

2.   Figure in LandScape by John Badcock

Figure in Landscape is an oil on board painting that captures the human silhouette in various colours. The painting includes a variety of textures that give it a sculptural look. It challenges every person to question who they are and their place in the world. It is essential to note that the artist colours the subject in similar tones as the background as if they will disappear in it. The fact that the person is faceless makes you think of your identity in a world that only seeks to assimilate you and make you disappear. John Baddock is from a very artistic family and uses paints to create unbelievable textures.

3.   The Fools End by Kushana Bush

The Fools’ End is as thought-provoking as it is shocking. Kushana employs a variety of colours and symbols to create dynamic and loose-limbed bush characters. Her use of simple figures in motion brings out a complex message. She uses both stylized line and graphic layering to create paintings similar to those of famous Scottish painters. Her works are loud, seeking to be heard just like the subjects that seem ready to fly off the canvas. It is the final painting in her series Song of Silence and has gained her a huge following in New Zealand and Scotland.

4.   Must We Feel Pain by Jason Grieg

Jason Grieg uses gothic motifs in his prints. They are dark and evoke dark feelings of pain and death. Must We Feel Pain depicts a woman looking up, probably trying to escape her pain? That is something that most people can identify with, having faced very challenging times. The woman in this print looks trapped alone, where nothing can touch or change her fate. You will notice the lack of light in these prints and the sadness on the subject’s face. Most of Grieg’s paintings are dark and are in black and white with few bright colours.

5.   The End by John Walsh

The end portrays a female subject on the edge of a waterfall. It could be that she is contemplating suicide or has come a long way and stopped where the road ended. The painting evokes feelings of loneliness and sadness as the woman is alone at the edge of the world. There is nothing but darkness around her and darkness in the abyss below. John Walsh uses dark and light in equal measure in this painting to giving it an otherworldly feel. It is essential to note that this piece and so many of Walsh’s pieces express what it feels like to be human. John Walsh is a well established New Zealand artist with deep Maori roots.

6.   Cass by Rita Angus

Cass was the most famous painting in New Zealand in 2006, and it is beautiful. It features an old railway station in the mountains with a solitary figure sitting outside. It is idyllic, and the choice of earth colours makes the print very memorable. It looks like something out of a storybook that you want to see one day. Her choice of colours and simple lines make her subjects more real and alive.

7.   All ‘e Same t’e Pakeha By Charles Goldie

Charles Goldie painted this Portrait of Te Aho o te Rangi Wharepu when the Waikato warrior was 90years old. The old warrior was full of life. He captures the markings on his face beautifully and somehow shows you who the old warrior was. His choice of colour is incredible and gives you the feeling that Te Aho o te Rangi Wharepu is still alive in his portrait. This painting is referred to as “A good joke.”

8.   Mother and Child By Frances Hodgkins

This painting is a watercolour on paper done in 1906. It depicts a mother and her child. The mother is looking off to the distance, probably watching out for trouble while the baby sleeps. The painter uses dark colours and evokes emotions of love and maternal care.

9.   Cook House by Grahame Sydney

This painting has been described as timeless and depicts a tiny house in the mountains with a smoking chimney. It speaks of loneliness but also the hearth and home. It resonates with everyone whether you grew up in the mountains or out in the big city. The work is simple and employs colours to make the cook house seem welcoming.

10.  Hongi By Robyn Kahukiwa

Hongi is the Maori way of greeting where two people touch foreheads. It is a painting of two Maori people greeting each other. One is female, and the other is male, and it gives the impression of a budding romance. Kahukiwa is very minimalist and employs simple lines to create her very emotive pieces. She is generous in her use of colour, and this painting is very eye-catching.

These are some of the best paintings from New Zealand artists. The artists employ different styles to create works that evoke emotions and send out a deeply moving message. They express their feelings about the human situation and also their personal feelings on culture and the world.

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