Hotere: Out The Black Window

5 February – 19 April 1998

Taking its title from a poem by Cilla McQueen, Hotere: Out The Black Window is a touring exhibition organised by City Gallery, Wellington, which surveys Hotere's work, examines his significant contribution to contemporary New Zealand art, and outlines the central threads in his development as a painter.

Since returning to New Zealand in the mid-1960s, after several years in England and Europe, Ralph Hotere has consistently painted challenging and complex art works, many of them incorporating poems by such highly regarded writers as Bill Manhire, Hone Tuwhare, Cilla McQueen and Ian Wedde. Hotere's works however are not just illustrations of the poems. Instead the poetry has become an integral part of his style and method, has influenced the formal development of his work and has expanded both its emotional breadth and sphere of influence.

This aspect of Hotere's painting will be illustrated in this show by wall-mounted texts. Tuwhare's poem We who live in darkness is seen alongside a Requiem painting and Cilla McQueen's out the black window is juxtaposed with a Black Window work, adding rich layers to this artist's verbal/ visual conversation with the viewer. Drawn from a vast body of work, Out the Black Window demonstrates how Hotere has worked with a great range of materials ‒ with paper, stainless steel, corrugated iron and unstretched canvas on which he has variously written using a pencil, paintbrush, stencil and even a blow torch. At times sections of the works are reminiscent of graffiti, and at other times of calligraphy, but within them all is a lively and purposeful diversity. Stencilled letters of the alphabet emerge from the darkness, as do suggestions of land, sea and sky. In the black windows we see language elements merging with the world of nature, representing light, shadow, growth and decay.

Curated by the Wellington based poet, writer and artist Gregory O'Brien, the touring show includes some of Hotere's important works of protest. The Dawn/Water Poem paintings of the mid 1980s are a reaction against French nuclear testing at Mururoa. Corrugated iron works such as Aramoana Pathway to the Sea were produced in the late 1970s and early 1980s in opposition to the proposed aluminium smelter at Aramoana, near the mouth of Otago harbour. Here found or salvaged materials provide the ground upon which the assertive marks of Hotere's statement are laid. Often Hotere's works transform weather-worn base materials into stunning objects of reflection and meditation.

This exhibition toured with the assistance of Creative New Zealand, will broaden the public perception of the wide scope of Hotere's work and provide a strategic point of access into the work of one of New Zealand's most significant and dynamic senior artists.

Principal Sponsors Ernst and Young. Local Sponsors Montana.

This exhibition was held at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in the Botanic Gardens.