As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land

Colin McCahon, As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land, 1965, enamel on hardboard, 598 x 1800mm. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu. Courtesy McCahon Research and Publication Trust.  

Wairarapa Plains 2019, Stephen Wainwright

Wairarapa Plains, 2019. Image courtesy of Stephen Wainwright

Stephen Wainwright

Chief Executive at Creative New Zealand

I have regularly admired this work on visits to the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetū. It draws me in every time. 
 
This work resonates with me for a few reasons. 
 
In particular because of the literal truth of the statement for us here in New Zealand and the ambiguity of the word a ‘pure land.’  
 
Artists notice light and they notice context. McCahon was drawn again and again to the ‘golden hour’ colours of Aotearoa. The combination of the text, the composition of the work and the palette proclaim ‘McCahon’ for me. 
 
This work was purchased for the public in 1982 with the assistance of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, an earlier iteration of the Arts Council, which is a nice legacy to note. 
 
My ancestors chose to settle here, initially in Petone in 1860, our whakapapa goes back to Ireland, the Northmen and England but here is home. 
 
McCahon's obsession with our landscape is one with which I absolutely relate. For my own enjoyment I like to document this. The golden hours, shadows and light amplify the images. Also, there is some ancient draw to awakening and seeing the sun rise or set. 

McCahon, back in 1965, was interested in Buddhist ideals and light as a metaphor for faith and enlightenment.  
 
This photo I took is of the Wairarapa plains, early, before the sun burns the cloud off. I would have sent it to a few people and whānau who would have appreciated the photo, and what it represents—a visceral love of the land that many of us share. This photo gives a perspective that will perhaps be new to many people and therefore hopefully stimulating. Both the elevation looking across to the distant Tararua Ranges and the agricultural plains being hidden by the low cloud provide visual interest. 

Sometimes our land offers us images that appear in broadly equal measure both abstract and representational. My eyes are delighted by images such as this one I captured on my trusty phone camera. More than this though the picture and palette are affirming. Our awa (hidden here), whenua, mountains and sky mark where we stand tall, as Colin well knew.
 
At some point I plan to pull my best images together in some way, although to be fair that is more a vague intention rather than an actual plan. Photography has always been an interest. When I was at college photography was ‘old school’. I spent a fair bit of time in the darkroom with those magical chemicals. Every frame from a film roll of 24 or 36 negatives required careful consideration before taking ‘the shot’, a caution born of scarcity. In the digital realm we have unlimited abundance, it is quite a different mindset.  
 
In Aotearoa, as Crowded House said, we can experience up to four seasons in one day, and sometimes several seasons several times. This gives the citizen, viewer and or photographer welcome visual variety. Moreover, we can often see a long way, at least in the countryside and so we get to see widely in landscape format. Certainly, relative to many places I have visited around the world, here we can see purely, unhindered by smog or haze. 
 
In my working life at Creative New Zealand I am fortunate to see the multitude of ways artists respond to our natural environment. For instance Bill Hammond’s practice was transformed by his visit to the Auckland Islands in 1991. In particular the impact of these islands—a land with birds but without people—contributed to his subsequent and iconic bird-people theme. The popularity of the residency opportunities we provide with the Department of Conservation are testament to the attractions of the natural environment for practitioners.  
 

CONNECTING CULTURAL LEGACY WITH CONTEMPORARY PRACTICE

Index
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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