Bill Hammond

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1947, d.2021

Watching for Buller. 2

  • 1993
  • Acrylic on canvas
  • On loan to the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū
  • 999 x 1199mm
  • L07/2004

This work was displayed with this label to mark the artist's death in 2021:

All of us at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū were very saddened to hear of the death of Bill Hammond in late January, and our thoughts are with Bill’s family and friends. Bill’s contribution to the art of Aotearoa New Zealand was original and unforgettable, and he occupied a special, beloved place within the arts communities of Ōtautahi Christchurch and Whakaraupō Lyttelton.

Bill was raised in Christchurch and attended the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts in the late 1960s. In 1989, he joined a number of other New Zealand artists on an expedition to the sub-Antarctic and the Auckland Islands. This trip had a profound effect on the artist; it was from this point that his highly regarded bird paintings emerged in his practice.

Bill’s paintings are favourites for many of our visitors – works they return to over and over again. His wry sense of humour and generosity of spirit (once you got past that famous reserve) will be missed by many here at the Gallery. Recently, we had been working closely with Bill on a new publication focussed on his paintings from the past 15 years, which includes numerous tributes by artists to Bill and his work. Bill had that rare quality in an artist – someone who is highly regarded by his peers, and whose works appeal to people from all walks of life. We were honoured to have the opportunity to work with him this one last time.

Bill will be missed. We mark his passing with the deepest of respect.

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Bill Hammond: Playing the Drums 3 August 2019 – 19 January 2020

    In 1989 Bill and several other New Zealand artists travelled to the remote sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands, a trip that was to have a profound effect on his art. Here, he encountered what he called “paradise for birds”, a place he imagined Aotearoa was like before humans arrived. In his words: [In the Auckland Islands] I saw a New Zealand before there were men and women and dogs and possums. You could see what New Zealand was like, a land of birds. In the Auckland Islands you can stand by 20,000 birds and they don’t take fright, they think they are hallucinating … you can pass by hundreds of yellow-eyed penguins staring out at the horizon in a Zen-like trance. We’d become freakish apparitions. …You feel like a time traveller … as if you have just stumbled upon it – primeval forests, rātās like Walt Disney would make. It’s a beautiful place, but it’s also full of ghosts, shipwrecks, death.

  • Watching for Buller is part of a series of work by Bill Hammond that brings together his interests in the land, New Zealand bird-life and 19th century ornithologist Sir Walter Buller. Painted soon after a journey to the Auckland Islands, it references the extinction of native bird species – ironically, as Buller himself contributed to their demise, killing then mounting specimens in glass cases.

    In this work, finely decorated birds stand in profile upon a sheer coastal landscape, anxiously awaiting Buller’s arrival. The scene hints at the ways the natural environment and its inhabitants have been exploited, destroyed and driven out.

    Hammond was born in Christchurch and studied at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts between 1966 and 1968. For a period following his graduation he designed and manufactured wooden toys. He had his first solo exhibition in 1979 and has since exhibited widely in group and solo exhibitions. In 1989 he joined a number of other New Zealand artists on an expedition to Antarctica and the Auckland Islands. He won the James Wallace Award in 1993 and the Visa Gold Art Award in 1994.

    (Label date unknown)