Buck Nin

b.1942, d.1996

The Mamakus

  • Purchased 2002
  • Acrylic and fluorescent paint on board
  • 835 x 1065mm
  • 2002/214
  • c. 1975

For the exhibition Untitled #1050 (25 November 2017 – 14 October 2018) this work was displayed with the following label:

“Land is essential to the Māori people because it’s been used by the ancestors for centuries. I believe that during that time, of centuries past, there has been a spiritual content left in the land. This spiritual content infuses and gives soul to the land and in turn the land gives it back to us and humanises our soul because of our ancestors.”

In this painting Nin’s inspiration is the Mamaku Range lying just West of Rotorua. Landforms have been simplified while an abstract pattern based on the traditional prow and stern carvings of the famous 200 year old Māori war canoe, Te Winika, has been overlaid.

Nin said, “I’ve taken that whole aspect of the canoe prow and the stern post and looked at it and planted it on my painting so that you look through the lattice-work, as it were, into the land, through into the soul of the land.”

Studying art at Ilam Art School here in Christchurch during the 1960s, Nin emerged as a modernist painter interested in abstraction which he combined with Māori culture. His time at Ilam “opened the door for me to bridge the gap between the Pākehā world […] and the Māori world. My paintings are a synthesis of the bi-cultural situation that we have here in New Zealand.”

—Buck Nin, 1981

earlier labels about this work
  • Kōwhaiwhai 3 September 2016 – 6 February 2017

    By the 1970s, Buck Nin was at his zenith, producing such distinctive work not seen anywhere before and yet absolutely New Zealand in its presence. Looking at this painting, we can see three horizontal elements at work: the purple and lavender skyline; the hills that speak strongly of Colin McCahon’s awesome influence upon the cultural and emotional view of the New Zealand landscape; and then, seemingly floating out from that same landscape, or perhaps beneath it, a cloud-like presence that suggests a body. We might assume this body to be Papatūānuku, earth mother, the entity that is landscape. The markings upon this figure work in complex ways. The artist said of the work, “I have taken that whole aspect of the canoe prow and sternpost and … planted it on my painting so that you look through the lattice-work … into the soul of the land.”