B.

Another nor’wester descends on Canterbury

Behind the scenes

Some people fear them, others revel in the unforgiving dry heat – love them or hate them the legendary Canterbury nor'wester is one of the defining features of this region in the summer months and there is a real doozy blowing outside at the moment.

Juliet Peter Nor'west 1939. Linocut. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, gift of William Sutton 1983

Juliet Peter Nor'west 1939. Linocut. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, gift of William Sutton 1983

As one of my colleagues described them, it's like entering a small room, closing the door and windows and switching on 20 fan heaters – hot and dry as hell.

Bill Sutton loved Canterbury's nor'westers. He found them energising and, as long as it's not a headwind biking home, I'd have to agree with him. These two works by Juliet Peter and Bill Sutton both have the distinctive cloud formations that go hand in hand with the nor'west winds.

Willaim Sutton Hills and Plains, Waikari 1956. Oil on canvas board. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, purchased 1989

Willaim Sutton Hills and Plains, Waikari 1956. Oil on canvas board. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, purchased 1989

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William (Bill) Sutton spent most of his life in Christchurch, apart from two years from 1947–49 studying and painting in Britain and Europe. This time away helped attune his eyes to the distinctive qualities of the local regional landscape. Teaching full-time at the Canterbury College School of Art from that time, Sutton lived in a rented studio flat overlooking Victoria Square and became the owner of a Matchless motorbike – upgraded to a 500cc BSA Golden Flash in 1956 – on which he’d leave the city on his weekends in pursuit of countryside to paint.

Human presence has reshaped this landscape, with its bending macrocarpa windbreaks, simple corrugated iron structures and undulating patchwork fields. A palette of subtle ochres, greys and gold presents a characteristically Canterbury scene and typifies the work for which Sutton became appreciated and known.

(Beneath the ranges 18 February – 23 October 2017)

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Juliet Peter Nor’west

According to Kāi Tahu, within the story of the creation of Te Waipounamu (the South Island), Aoraki was an atua, or demi-god, who left the home of his father, Raki, in the heavens and voyaged with his brothers to visit Raki’s first wife Poharora o Te Po. They set out to return to his father, but there was a fault in the karakia (prayer) for their return. Aoraki’s canoe – Te Waka o Aoraki – was stranded, and Aoraki and his brothers turned to stone, becoming the mountains of Kā Tiritiri o Te Moana, the Southern Alps.

'This work is interesting because it offers an unusual perspective on Aoraki [Mount Cook] – but Aoraki is full of different perspectives in Kāi Tahu culture. The mountain is, above all, a symbol of our tribal and regional identity. That’s got nothing much to do with its location – although that obviously commands cultural attention – but mainly because of its centrality in the Te Waipounamu creation story. And it is a distinctive creation story, part of a creation myth which has survived here in the remote outskirts of Polynesia while it has been lost at the centre where it came from. Aoraki made us distinctive, and it makes all people distinctive that live under its span. Juliet Peter’s depiction of it is unusual, but every way you look at Aoraki you’ve got a different perspective.' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

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