Wainui, Akaroa by Rita Angus


This article first appeared as 'On view' in The Press on 15 June 2012.

Rita Angus Wainui, Akaroa  Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū; N Barrett Bequest Collection. Purchased 2010

Rita Angus Wainui, Akaroa 

Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū; N Barrett Bequest Collection. Purchased 2010

Wainui is a popular destination for visitors to Akaroa harbour seeking to enjoy one of Canterbury's most beautiful coastal landscapes while at the same time avoid the tourist bustle that can at times overrun Akaroa township. It's one of my favourite spots in Akaroa harbour and provides a relaxed, laid back destination for day trippers from Christchurch with wonderfully broad views across the harbour and out to the spectacularly sheer cliff face of Timutimu Head at the harbour's entrance. Wainui is perhaps more well-known to generations of Canterbury school kids who have attended the seemingly obligatory school camp at the Wainui YMCA.

Wainui was also a place of respite for the Canterbury artist Rita Angus when she spent several weeks based at a friend's bach at the bay in early 1943. The resultant watercolurs produced during her stay, including the watercolour Wainui, Akaroa in the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū's collection, are amongst her best.

Wainui, Akaroa is one of the smallest watercolours in the collection (it measures a mere 192 x 182 mm) and yet it easily punches above its weight due to its jewel like presence and the remarkably detailed rendering of the scene by the artist. Angus's view, taken from above Wainui looking down towards the northern end of the bay with the road leading back towards French Farm and Barrys Bay, is one of high definition, almost as if the artist is viewing the landscape through a telescope. With its intense detail Wainui, Akaroa must have been a laborious process for the artist to complete and would have required much patience and focus to complete. It is perhaps of no surprise that she only painted in this manner for a short period around 1943 before giving way for a slightly more spontaneous approach.

Angus's move to Wainui from Christchurch in early 1943 was essentially to avoid the Industrial Manpower Committee who had contacted her about reporting for war work. She found Wainui charming and no doubt her experiences were enhanced by the warm summer weather and the bach she stayed in which was built on a rise overlooking the harbour opposite Akaroa, a relaxing and idyllic environment for anyone to work in.

Angus enjoyed sketching trips to Banks Peninsula and the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū owns no fewer than five watercolours by the artist depicting Akaroa Harbour which you can view on the Gallery's collection on-line website: http://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/collection/