From CASS to <del>CASS</del> - Iterations of New Zealand's 'greatest painting'


Over 50 iterations of Rita Angus's 1936 painting Cass are collated in André Hemer's new exhibition CASS, which considers ideas of distance, deletion and dislocation.

André Hemer CASS 2012

André Hemer CASS 2012

CASS is the latest exhibition in the Gallery's Rolling Maul series, and part of the Outer Spaces programme.

Gallery director, Jenny Harper says the exhibition invites us to consider what happens to the idea of a painting, in a world where it is constantly reproduced, responded to and altered by others.

'Cass, a very well-known work in our collection, has become deeply entwined with both our national and artistic identity. This was evident when it was voted New Zealand's greatest painting in a television poll in 2006.

'In addition to this public acclaim, Cass has also generated responses from a number of New Zealand artists, such as Dane Mitchell, Peter Peryer and Julian Dashper, who have created works that reference Angus's work, either representing the scene she painted or responding directly to Cass.

Curator Felicity Milburn says that Hemer's installation examines the constantly multiplying presence of Cass in the virtual world by sampling the many and varied images available through a Google image search for the work. He contrasts this with the inaccessibility of the original painting, currently in storage inside the temporarily closed Gallery building,

'The images of Cass throughout the real and virtual worlds seem endless, ranging from high-quality, 'legitimate', reproductions to cropped, blurred and otherwise corrupted versions.

'Hemer's exhibition presents us with a question: do the countless copies and versions of Cass that exist simultaneously across old and new media dilute the importance of the original - or do they reinforce it?'

CASS opens in the Gallery's offsite space above NG boutique and The National at 212 Madras Street 29 September – 22 October 2012.


André Hemer: <del>CASS</del>

André Hemer: <del>CASS</del>

André Hemer's many-dimensioned installation for the Rolling Maul series combines painting with a range of secondary outputs to play with ideas of distance and deletion – with particular reference to a well known work from the Gallery's collection.

Peter Peryer Cass

APOSTROPHE: ' Rita Angus's painting ‘Cass’ has become one of New Zealand’s most iconic paintings. Here, Peter Peryer brings the subject firmly into the present with a contemporary photograph of the small railway shed at Cass. Like other contemporary artists who have visited Cass, Peryer does not set out to create a photographic documentary record of an unknown landscape, rather he consciously visits a landscape that has been made famous by art. Interestingly the Cass railway shed was painted white during the 1980s. In the late 1990s it was repainted its original red in a deliberate reference to Angus’s famous painting – a clear case of life imitating art. (Brought to light, November 2009)

Rita Angus Cass

'The word for a pass or saddle in Māori is nonoti or noti; Noti Raureka is the Browning Pass, not that far from Cass, which is closer in proximity to Arthur’s Pass. There’s a story about a woman named Raureka of the Ngāti Wairaki tribe on the West Coast. Raureka travelled to the east coast carrying a piece of pounamu [greenstone], which is a traditional story of how the eastern migrants found out about pounamu. I often doubt that explanation. By the seventeenth century, when Kāi Tahu were coming here, they knew about pounamu but not of the routes required to reach it. Finding a route to the West Coast was important. The man who becomes significant in that story is Te Rakitāmau, who features in the traditional accounts of the routes across the Alps. In later years, the Noti Raureka route was reserved for war parties and for freighting pounamu back to Kaiapoi. The Lewis Pass was preferred because it’s an easier walk with freight, and Browning is quite stiff.' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

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