Bill Hammond

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1947

The Fall of Icarus

  • Purchased 1996
  • Acrylic on canvas
  • 2005 x 2165 x 36mm
  • 96/19
  • 1995

In Greek mythology, Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting the wax that bound his wings and causing him to plunge into the sea. Bill Hammond uses this legend to suggest the threat posed to the natural environment by humans. Hammond’s birds look on dispassionately, their own wings emphasising the absurdity of Icarus’s fatal desire. The Fall of Icarus takes a work by Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1558) as a pivotal reference. The same compositional format – elevated viewpoint, figures in the foreground and the tiny body of the fallen Icarus disappearing into the sea – are seen in the original painting. Hammond was born in Christchurch and studied at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts between 1966 and 1968. In 1989 he joined a number of other New Zealand artists on an expedition to Antarctica and the Auckland Islands.’Bill Hammond: Jingle Jangle Morning’ (2007) is the most recent survey of Hammond’s work to date, organised by Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu.

earlier labels about this work
  • In 1989 Bill Hammond joined a number of other New Zealand artists on an expedition to Antarctica and the Auckland Islands. The following year in response to this trip he completed a series of works which illustrated his reawakened interest in the land, in New Zealand bird life and in the nineteenth century ornithologist Sir Walter Buller. His lavishly illustrated volumes on New Zealand birds document many species that have not survived into the twentieth century and others that may not survive into the next. This threat to New Zealand wildlife is the theme explored in The Fall of Icarus.

    Icarus, the young man in Greek mythology who flew too close to the sun with this feather and wax wings, is seen plunging headfirst into the earth watched by the still and silent birds. The world is a primitive zone, an eery green space where volcanic cones errupt onto a barren land and into a lifeless sea. A strange green 'rain' falls into the scene as the stronger birds, painted in uneasy anthropomorphic forms, watch silently. Those which have already been defeated by the destruction of the environment hang as lifeless skins.

    Bill Hammond was born in Christchurch and is a graduate of the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts. He had his first solo exhibition in 1981 and has been exhibiting nationally since that time. (lLabel from before 2003)

    In a green, almost primordial, world of dripping forests and smouldering volcanoes, bird-like creatures stand as sentinels, looking out to sea. Sleek and enigmatic, wearing lustrous fabrics rather than feathers, they suggest New Zealand's early history as a land occupied almost solely by birds, before the arrival of humans. The threat posed to the natural environment through use by humans is suggested by Hammond using the Greek legend of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun, melting his wax and feather wings and plunging to his death in the sea. Hammond has developed this work from a 1558 painting by the Dutch artist Pieter Brueghel (active 1551-1569).

    Hammond was born in Christchurch and studied at the University of Canterbury. For a period after leaving art school he designed and manufactured wooden toys. He held his first solo exhibition in 1979 and has since exhibited regularly. Hammond has won a number of awards and fellowships and is represented in private and public collections throughout New Zealand. (Label from 2005)

Related

Exhibition
De Lautour / Greig / Hammond

De Lautour / Greig / Hammond

An exciting opportunity to see new work by leading Canterbury artists Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond

Exhibition
Bill Hammond: Jingle Jangle Morning

Bill Hammond: Jingle Jangle Morning

The long-awaited exhibition is a spectacular survey of more than two decades of work by one of New Zealand's leading contemporary painters.

Article
A miscellany of observable illustrations

A miscellany of observable illustrations

Romantic notions of gothic leanings, the legacy of Tony Fomison, devotion to rock sub-genres and an eye to the past are familiar and sound reasons to group Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond together in one exhibition, but De Lautour / Greig / Hammond is to feature new and recent work. Could all this change? What nuances will be developed or abandoned? Will rich veins be further mined? We can only speculate and accept that even the artists concerned can't answer these questions. For the artist, every work is a new endeavour, a new beginning. What may appear to the public, the critic or the art historian as a smooth, seamless flow of images is for them an unpredictable process where the only boundaries are those that they choose to invent.

Exhibition
Coming Home in the Dark

Coming Home in the Dark

Fourteen artists with connections to the Mainland are represented in an exhibition that explores the dark underbelly of the region's genteel appearance.

Exhibition

Canterbury Painting in the 1990s

A major exhibition celebrating the breadth and diversity of Canterbury painting between 1990 and 2000.

Collection
A Reading from Plato
Gertrude Demain Hammond A Reading from Plato

Gertrude Demain Hammond was a prolific London illustrator who was also active in exhibiting her watercolours. A Reading from Plato was shown at the Royal Academy in London in 1903 before coming to Christchurch for the 1906–07 New Zealand International Exhibition. There it was purchased by the avid local art collector James Jamieson, who with his brother William, ran one of the city’s largest construction companies.

Following his death in 1927, James’s family presented many works of art from his collection to become part of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery’s founding collection, which at its opening in 1932 consisted of 160 paintings and sculptures.

(Treasury: A Generous Legacy 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)

Collection
Mr Hargraves, Discoverer Of Gold In Australia
William Macleod Mr Hargraves, Discoverer Of Gold In Australia

This print appears as 'Edward Hammond Hargraves. The discoverer of gold in Australia.' on page 740 of the 'Picturesque Atlas of Australasia.'