remembering Ralph

Black Phoenix Ralph Hotere, Black Phoenix. Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa.

“And it should be said of Ralph Hotere that he was a great warrior artist and he fought with his art for great causes. When a great person dies we are left with the changes they made to our world – time to reflect on that.”
(Hamish Keith in Hotere let art speak for itself NZ Herald.).

I first knew of Hotere when I was in Dunedin. Many people in Dunedin have a signed Hotere with their names on it. I was lucky to visit his former studio, used by a friend of mine in the early 1990s before the short-sighted council tore it down to make way for wharves or shipping lanes. It’s a memory to treasure.

When I was finally able to afford a longed for print, his work had moved out of my price range, so I took comfort from seeing his many works in public galleries.

Black Phoenix (see above) which was shown at Shed 11 in the 1980s. My reaction was a kind of stupefied awe as his work seemed to capture a sense of the sea and all the history and mystery of ships – a spiritual note linked with Christian and pre-Christian references to re-life, perhaps through a form of transcendent reuse.

Pathway to the sea- Aramoana with Bill Culbert. Such a simple. evocative piece of light and shell. Many of his works about Aramoana sing of his love for the place.

Sangro Litany An homage to his brother who was killed during the war. Simple, understated, heartfelt.

The many collaborations with Cilla McQueen, Bill Manhire and Hone Tuwhare.

And of course the many windows, black canvases, hearts and circles of light.

His art helped change the way I saw the world. It seemed to express a feeling I had. Or at times called me to feel something I had not known. Spiritual. Humourous (who can forget The land of the wrong white crowd). Provoking. Healing. Inspiring. Intelligent.

Haere ra. E moe ra e te rangatira. And thanks heaps.

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