Gordon Walters

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1919, d.1995


  • 1985
  • PVA/acrylic on canvas
  • Purchased, 1987
  • Reproduced courtesy of the Gordon Walters Estate
  • 915 x 585mm
  • 87/22

New Zealand painter Gordon Walters started making his optically charged paintings in 1956, four years before the British painter Bridget Riley, op art’s principal exponent, began working with similar ideas. Walters’ explorations owed much to his study of Māori and Papua New Guinean art and their positive/ negative treatment of space, and to the abstract modernist painting he had seen while in Europe in 1950–51. Although best-known for his koru (fern bud motif ) paintings, his later, more simplified works remained equally visually challenging.

(Op + Pop, 6 February – 19 June 2016)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • In this work Gordon Walters invites the viewer to consider the relationship between colours and shapes, without the distraction of textured surfaces and visible brushstrokes.

    In the Op Art tradition, the colour introduces an element of ambiguity, as the rectangles seem to hover or retreat, creating dynamic movement and space. The Minimalist Geometric puzzle creates perceptual tensions within the picture plane. This is an exercise of intellect, knowledge and technique. Remarkably, the lines were created without using masking tape or a ruler. Walters is seen as one of New Zealand’s leading Abstractionist painters. His technical skills, and his continued development of the minimalist abstract idiom, are exemplified in Untitled.

    Walters was born in Wellington and began studying art at Wellington Technical College in 1935. He began painting full-time in 1966. He moved to Christchurch in 1976 where he lived until his death. He exhibited extensively nationally and internationally and is represented in all the major art institutions of New Zealand. (Label date unknown)