Robin White

Aotearoa New Zealand / Kiribati, b.1946
Ngāti Awa, Māori

Saying goodbye to Florence

  • 1988
  • Relief print
  • Purchased 1989
  • 285 x 215mm
  • 89/125:3-12

Absence is felt keenly in these embossed photo-etchings made by Robin White in response to the death of her mother. They began as photographs she took in Florence’s Te Puke home on Christmas Day, the morning after her funeral. The subtitle, Te Puke – time to go, echoes the way Florence would often end her letters. The rooms shown in White’s images are intensely empty, bereft of that familiar, expected presence. Yet a strong sense of character emerges from the objects Florence left behind. Capturing these everyday details with a tender precision that resembles a ritual of farewell, White resurrects the fullness of a life that exists now only in memory.

(Absence, May 2023)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • We do this, 12 May 2018 - 26 May 2019

    When Robin White’s mother, Florence, died suddenly at her Te Puke home in 1979, she left everything in its usual place “as if she had just gone out to do the shopping”. Robin and her husband drove up from Dunedin and stayed in her mother’s spare room. “Her funeral was held on December 24. On Christmas morning, I woke very early and went about the house making drawings of things that spoke to me about my mother.” Borrowing a camera, White lined up photographs based on her drawings. “All these images are full of traces of my mother, her character and her beliefs.” Later, White – then living on Tarawa atoll in the Republic of Kiribati – made a set of accompanying screenprints. Following an order determined by the ebbing tide, they show the view across the lagoon towards Makin, a path the locals believed was taken by the spirits of their ancestors.