Ruby Bay

Colin McCahon, Ruby Bay, 1945, oil on paper, 394 x 473mm. Collection of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellingto, courtesy McCahon Research and Publication Trust.  

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Lakiloko Keakea, Fafetu, 2018.  Installation shot from Objectspace, November 2018.  Lakiloko Keakea is a member of Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa. Image by Sam Hartnett.  

Zoe Black

Curator

I spent a summer holiday around the South Island a few years ago. My husband and I had a campervan and for three weeks we trekked across hills and countryside, stopping at small towns and beaches as we made our way up the west coast, across and around to Ōtautahi Christchurch. On New Year’s Eve we happened to be at Ruby Bay, just outside Nelson. Friends were in the area and, although the population swells at that time of year, we managed to find a quiet campsite on the shoreline of the idyllic bay. 
  
It was a quaint spot to celebrate the auspicious occasion. We lit a campfire, ate seafood and marvelled at the charming way the land seemed to protectively wrap around the beach and, as night fell, Ruby Bay lived up to its name with a dramatic crimson sunset. 
  
That particular area at the top of Te Wai Pounamu has prompted an emotive response in many artists who have spent time in and around the district. The lazy roll of the mountain ranges stretching across the horizon, the scrubby fields and the contrasting bolts of blue in the sky and the sea have been captured on canvas for decades. Toss Woollaston and Colin McCahon have done so most famously, both of whom continuously returned to the hills overlooking Tasman Bay. 
  
This work from 1945 uses that elevated vantage point to record McCahon’s feel for the little stretch of coastline. Now, it reads as a somewhat simple painting, far less assuming than others in his oeuvre, yet the pared back abstracted forms were daring for the time in regional New Zealand. We can see McCahon feeling out a new way of working with paint and shape, but still accurately capturing the sleepy seaside.  At this time, when he was only 24, he was starting to find his way to interpret the land, still looking to formal ways of working but taking on the ideas coming from overseas that sought something more than just realistic depiction.  Playing off new concepts mulled over with friends, dramatic forms of moody browns, muted yellows, and deep greens became his preferred vocabulary as he found his voice to illustrate the whenua. 
  
In my role at Objectspace I work with artists and communities who are creating artworks that also reflect their place in Aotearoa New Zealand. For most, here is their second or sometimes third home. These artists are making objects referencing what has come before, but they are also embracing new materials, colours and forms to create in ways that interpret these discrepant surroundings and show how their making has inescapably changed as they have settled into their new environment. Many are women who work collectively, at home or in community spaces. Creating together means learning from each other and problem solving as a group to try out different things. Much of the investigation comes from necessity, as access to materials that they are used to working with is difficult. For example, the woman’s collective from Tuvalu, who we have been working with to realise a few projects, utilise recycled plastics and bright acrylic wool in some of their making as a substitute for pandanus leaves, as pandanus aren’t able to be cultivated here. These new materials are delicately stitched and woven into the most beautiful things, carefully upholding tradition but also infusing personal interpretation and innovation. 
  
It is this way of creating - respecting the past while moving ahead into the new - that echoes throughout art making in New Zealand. We have a history of working quietly together to progress and create artworks that more accurately defines our unique place in the world, while responding to the global currents that ebb and flow around us. Exhibition and notoriety is not always the end goal, it is about making because making is an intrinsic and undeniable part of life, using what is on hand, transforming humble materials to articulate a viewpoint and create something powerful, honest and appropriately beautiful. 
 

CONNECTING CULTURAL LEGACY WITH CONTEMPORARY PRACTICE

Index
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Artwork image/svg+xml Group Copy 2 Group Copy 2 Created with Sketch.
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.6
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