Exposition Art Blog: Ralph Hotere - Black Paintings

Ralph Hotere - Black Paintings

"Ralph Hotere was an important Maori painter and sculptor. Known for his minimal Black paintings, composed of simple bands or crosses of color laid over dark backgrounds. “There are very few things I can say about my work that are better than saying nothing,” the artist said. Born Hone Papita Rakura Hotere in 1931 in the Northland Region of New Zealand, he was very politically active and used his paintings as a platform for his message. A documentary, called Hotere, about his art and work, was released in 2001. The artist died on February 24, 2013 in Dunedin, New Zealand."(artnet.com)
The themes of the black paintings extended to later works, notably the colossal Black Phoenix (1984–88), constructed out of the burnt remains of a fishing boat. This major installation incorporates the prow of the boat flanked by burnt planks of wood. Other planks form a pathway leading the prow. Each plank has had a strip laid bare to reveal the natural wood underneath beneath. Several of the boards are inscribed with a traditional Maori proverb, Ka hinga atu he tete-kura haramai he tete-kura ("As one fern frond (person) dies - one is born to take its place"). A slight change has been made in the wording of the proverb, replacing haramai (transfer, pass over) to ara mai (the path forward), possibly indicating the cleared pathway of bare wood in front of the boat's burnt prow. The work measures 5m by 13m by 5.5m. Politics were entwined in the subject matter of Hotere's art from an early stage. Alongside the Black Paintings series, which continued until not long before his death. Hotere's political works also continued. When Aramoana, a wetland near his Port Chalmers home, was proposed as the site for an aluminium smelter, Hotere was vocal in his opposition, and produced the Aramoana series of paintings. Similarly, he produced series protesting against a controversial rugby tour by New Zealand of apartheid-era South Africa (Black Union Jack) in 1981, and the sinking of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior (Black rainbow) in 1985. More recently, his reactions to Middle-East politics resulted in works such as Jerusalem, Jerusalem and This might be a double cross jack. Wikipedia

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