- Purchased, 1982
- Reproduced courtesy of the Gordon Walters Estate
- Acrylic on canvas
- 1020 x 820mm
Many opinions have been offered on the remarkable ‘koru’ paintings made by Gordon Walters. Merging the geometry of modernist abstract painting with the unfurling fern motif from Maori art, these paintings are meditations on the theme of exchange – the way forms and ideas move from one place to another and change along the way. In the 1990s the koru works found themselves caught up in a debate about the rights and wrongs of cross-cultural borrowing. More recently, writers have argued that the powerfully visual qualities of these works have yet to be fully explored.
In 1947 Gordon Walters visited Theo Schoon in South Canterbury, where Schoon was recording Māori rock drawings. It was one of many occasions on which Walters drew inspiration from traditional Māori art. When he travelled to Europe in 1950, Walters realised that modern art had learned important lessons from the arts of the Pacific. Soon after, he began working with the koru, or fern bud, motif – a Māori decorative form used on rafter paintings, incised gourds and in tattooing. In the extraordinary series of abstract paintings that resulted, this simple form expresses a vast range of dynamic relationships.