Waterfall

Waterfall (Waterfall series), 1964, enamel on plywood, 2133 x 908 mm. Collection of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Courtesy McCahon Research and Publication Trust

None

Te Koha – New Zealand Pavilion – Biennale Architettura di Venezia 2016

None

Te Koha – New Zealand Pavilion – Biennale Architettura di Venezia 2016
Photographer, Mary Gaudin

None

Te Koha – New Zealand Pavilion – Biennale Architettura di Venezia 2016
Photographer, Mary Gaudin

Rufus Knight

Interior Designer

Panta Rei – All Flows. Heraclitus’ 6th Century aphorism on impermanence speaks to one never stepping in the same river twice. The prismatic qualities of constant change saturate McCahon’s Waterfall works and provide fertile ground that exists somewhere between abstraction and landscape, between melancholy and emboldened expression.

Borne of the mud, the bark, the whenua, the stewed palette of the Waterfall works speak distinctly of our place in the South Pacific and McCahon delivers a weight and sophistication despite the absence of written word or overt symbol. What continues to register with me about the Waterfall series is the unwavering vitality within the purity of his gesture – the paintings are always fresh, somewhat rapturous, and reveal a fragment of the ‘layered and orderly but not yet communicated’ environment we have inherited because of his unwavering vision.

The enamel on hardboard exhibits a primitive and colloquial universality. Typical of our national psyche, McCahon prioritizes performance over aesthetics while capturing the exposure and power of our natural environment. McCahon’s journeys into the Waitākere Ranges that influenced the works are symbolic of his intrepid unearthing of the Waterfall’s spiritual and romantic trope in which he is able to distil and exhibit a uniquely South Pacific ‘sublime’ as the works range from graphic abstraction to lucid atmosphere.

According to Paton, the ‘constant flow’1 of the Waterfall works represent a philosophical shift in the Western monotheism of McCahon’s work to date, introducing notions of Eastern region and the representation of light as ‘enlightenment… not just the redemptive light of Christianity’.2 This sentiment has always given me some hope that despite the vast solemnity of McCahon’s canon there existed an exploration into our unique geography and relationship to nature that was gleaming and transcendent.

I have no early connection to McCahon or his work. My first impression of his work was finding the Marja Bloem and Martin Browne publication that accompanied the Stedelijk’s 2002 ‘Question of Faith’ exhibition at the Wellington City Library in my second year of university and a conversation with a close friend where he described McCahon’s episodic and religious works as ‘a man’s faith dissolving in front of your eyes’. I was curious but not swayed by these questions of faith; not until I saw the landscapes.

I feel I have immersed myself in McCahon’s New Zealand ever since; looking for the layers, looking for the order, finding my own way to communicate it. In 2016, after a working term abroad in Belgium, I was invited by the New Zealand Institute of Architects to participate in the New Zealand exhibition at Biennale Architettura di Venezia. The commission was a discreet space to sit alongside the ‘Future Islands’ exhibition, curated by Kathy Waghorn and Charles Walker, that would present contemporary New Zealand design practice on the world stage.  

The space, named Te Koha, provided an area for visitors to the Biennale interested in learning more about New Zealand’s Architecture and Design industry and hosted events organised by event patrons, partners, and supporters. Over the six-month duration it was also a base for cultural events, including symposia on architecture, innovation, and the sciences. Te Koha was supported by Te Mātau, a small informal reading room, in which visitors to the New Zealand pavilion could discover more about our creative industries through selected publications and writings.

The design strategy for both spaces was to work with innovative Aotearoa-based suppliers and locally source materials in order to develop an identity for the room that was sympathetic to the cultural depth, richness, and tactility of New Zealand’s landscape. Central to this approach was upholding and celebrating Mauri – the essence which binds and animates all things in the physical world – developed under the guidance of Rau Hoskins and with a whakatuwhera ceremony performed by representatives from Ngāi Tūhoe. Tacit explorations within Te Koha were the woven Muka floor-covering, Rewa Rewa timber furniture, and the wool fabric drops from a Perendale breed located in Akaroa. This project, although small, established for me a way to work that honoured the indigenous materiality and traditional craft of our place in Aotearoa and presented it to the world within a modern vocabulary.   

 

[1] Paton, McCahon Country. Auckland: Penguin, 139. 

[2] Ibid

CONNECTING CULTURAL LEGACY WITH CONTEMPORARY PRACTICE

Index
Person image/svg+xml Group Copy 2 Group Copy 2 Created with Sketch.
Artwork image/svg+xml Group Copy 2 Group Copy 2 Created with Sketch.
Bridget Riggir-Cuddy
The House Protects the Dreamer
Naomi McCleary
Kauri
Séraphine Pick
Northland Panels
Brian Sweeney
View from the top of the cliff
Rudi Fuchs
North Otago Landscape
Rex Butler
I Considered All the Acts of Oppression
Donna McDonald
The Fourteen Stations of the Cross
Harold Jones
Muriwai no.7
Ted Spring
On Building Bridges
Areez Katki
The Three Marys at the Tomb
Rosanna Raymond
Jet Out
Rufus Knight
Waterfall
Megan Tamati-Quennell
Black Landscape
Nick Mitzevich
Victory over Death 2
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Victory over Death 2
The Governor-General, The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy
Gate III
Grant Banbury
I Paul
Sir Bob Harvey
Dark Landscape
Young Old Girls (Christchurch Girls’ High)
North Otago Landscape 19
Sophie Bannan
Van Gogh - poems by John Caselberg
Linda Tyler
Urewera Triptych
Emily Karaka
Tangi. Muriwai
Robert Gardiner
Are there not twelve hours of daylight
Thomas Crow
Are there not twelve hours of daylight
Jude Rae
Victory over death 2
Brent Harris
The Family
Cora-Allan Wickliffe
15 Drawings Dec '51 to May '52
Salome Tanuvasa
Landscape
Yona Lee
Landscape theme and variations (series B)
David Kirk
Kaipara
Priscilla Pitts
Fourteen Stations of the Cross
Ruth Watson
This day a man is
Tessa Laird
Keep New Zealand Green
Nell
East window
Nicola Farquhar
Kauri trees
Hon Grant Robertson
Otago Peninsula
Jane Macknight
Untitled (North Otago Landscape)
Karen Walker
Titirangi
Wystan Curnow
The Green Plain
Philip Clarke
Necessary Protection (IHS)
Mary Kisler
A candle in a dark room
Ayesha Green
I AM
Matthew O'Reilly
Muriwai
Bettina Bradbury and Kararaina Rangihau
A poster for the Urewera no. 2
Al Keating
A Grain of wheat
Cushla Dillon
Entombment (after Titian)
Hamish Coney
Here I give thanks to Mondrian
Stephen Wainwright
As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land
Sue Gardiner
Landscape theme and variations (series A)
Robert Leonard
Numerals
Judy Darragh
Clouds 1
John Coley
AS THERE IS A CONSTANT FLOW OF LIGHT WE ARE BORN INTO THE PURE LAND
Shannon Te Ao
Ka pōraruraru ahau. I am troubled.
Helen Beaglehole
GATE III
Ralph Paine
Jump E9
Judy Millar
Muriwai: Necessary Protection
Fiona Pardington
Waterfall
C.K. Stead
All mortals are like grass
Gretchen Albrecht
As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land
Martin Edmond
Cross (1959)
Lisa Reihana
Urewera mural
Peter Simpson
Jet out to Te Reinga
Christina Barton
Gate III
Dame Jenny Gibbs
I Considered All the Acts of Oppression
Zoe Black
Ruby Bay
Jim Barr and Mary Barr
Oaia and clouds
Vivienne Stone
Tomorrow will be the same but not as this is
Kate Sylvester
Northland Panels