6 May - 1 July 2017
90 Anzac Avenue
Monday-Saturday 10am to 5pm
Curated to coincide with the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival, Freefall includes important works of art from the Hocken Pictorial collections, combined with gems from the Hocken’s holdings of archives, books, ephemera, maps and music, and significant works of art from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Special Collections at the University of Otago Library.
Freefall offers an opportunity to explore connections between these collections, the creative relationships between artists and writers, and to investigate notions about the look, use and role of image, narrative, words and text in art and print-based media.
Predominantly an art exhibition, Freefall features paintings by some of New Zealand’s most important artists, including Colin McCahon, Ralph Hotere and Joanna Paul.
Their friendships and artistic collaborations with writers spurred an interest in incorporating text and text references in their artworks and fed into their thinking about the “look of the word” and the use of words in art.
Hocken pictures such as McCahon’s The Wake (1958) - a series of 16 loose canvases depicting his friend John Caselberg’s poetic lament for his beloved Great Dane “Thor” - will be fully installed for the first time in at least a decade, in keeping with the visual experience the artist intended to create with this work.
Other examples of cross-disciplinary practice in Freefall include Untitled [The stillness of the rose…], 1974-1980, by Joanna Paul, and works by Ralph Hotere. Whose collaborations with Robert Burns Fellows such as O. E. Middleton and authors such as Bill Manhire culminated in works of art and writing of great sophistication and beauty.
The Hocken’s rich archive collection contains diaries, letters and documents, and striking examples of unique historic texts, such as Ngāpuhi Chief Hongi Hika’s writing sample, and the hand-crossed school roll of young Maori attending the Church Missionary Society school at Rangihoua in 1816.
Although primarily of historical significance, these documents prompt visual connections that would otherwise not necessarily be made between them, as exampled in the refined use of te tuhi (line) in Hongi Hika’s alphabet lettering, and in Ralph Hotere’s linear works, such as his drawings for Middleton’s The Loners.
Other striking historic linear and text-based documents include Hone Tuhawaiki’s Declaration of ownership of Robucka [Ruapuke] Island (28 March 1840) in which the Chief has hand drawn his moko as his signature, the Rev James Watkin’s Vocabulary of Maori words, compiled at Waikouaiti 1840-1844, and Munshi Abdullah’s Hikayat Abdullah, c.1843, an autobiographical account of life in early Singapore, written in Malay using Arabic-derived Jawi script.
Frederick Tuckett’s Otago Block Map of 1844 is accompanied by the original sketch for the map in surveyor J.W. Barnicoat’s notebook.
Documents such as Emily Siedeberg’s 1891 Letter to the Chancellor of the University of Otago, requesting admission to the Medical School, and sheets of passionate handwritten notes by Lawyer Alfred Hanlon, drafted for his 1895 defence of Minnie Dean, the only woman to receive the death penalty in New Zealand, illustrate the power of the word.
The work of Janet Frame is represented by her bold and beautiful letter to James K Baxter (1947), praising his first book Beyond the Palisade and Frame’s original manuscript of The Pocket Mirror (1967), the only volume of poetry published during the author’s life-time.
Dunedin’s vibrant 1980’s music scene is represented by some rare hand- produced posters and the album cover for Look Blue Go Purple’s Bewitched, featuring lyrics and comic-strip insert.
A handful of examples of important and extraordinary books from the Hocken and the University Library’s Special Collections will also sit alongside European works of art dating from the 14th-19th century, drawn from the collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. These were predominantly donated by Mary Dora and Esmond de Beer who, along with their cousin Charles Brasch, were among Dunedin’s most significant benefactors to the arts.
Freefall will be on display at the Hocken Collections Exhibition Gallery, Hocken Library, 90 Anzac Avenue, Monday – Saturday 10am-5pm from Saturday 6 May- Saturday 1 July.
The exhibition’s curator is Robyn Notman (Head Curator, Pictorial Collections), with curatorial support from Andrea Bell (Curator, Art), and advice from Anna Blackman (Head Curator, Archives), Peter Sime (Head Curator, Publications), Karen Craw (Curator, Maps), Katherine Milburn (Liaison Librarian, Curator Ephemera), Amanda Mills (Liaison Librarian, Curator Music and AV), Dr Anna Petersen (Curator, Photographs) and Dr Donald Kerr (Special Collections Librarian, University of Otago).
Image: Ralph Hotere, Drawing for O.E. Middleton’s The Loners. No 10 (1972), pen & ink on paper, 305 x 193mm, Hocken Collections, Te Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago. Image reproduction by permission of the Hotere Foundation Trust