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Ralph Hotere

Ralph Hotere

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Hone Papita Raukura "Ralph" Hotere (1931) is a New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 artist of Māori descent (Te Aupōuri
Te Aupouri
Te Aupōuri is the northernmost Māori iwi , located north of Kaitaia, Northland, New Zealand, a region known as the Aupouri Peninsula.-The ancestral legend:...

In New Zealand society, iwi form the largest everyday social units in Māori culture. The word iwi means "'peoples' or 'nations'. In "the work of European writers which treat iwi and hapū as parts of a hierarchical structure", it has been used to mean "tribe" , or confederation of tribes,...

). He was born in Mitimiti, Northland and He is widely regarded as one of New Zealand's most important living artists. In 1994 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Otago
University of Otago
The University of Otago in Dunedin is New Zealand's oldest university with over 22,000 students enrolled during 2010.The university has New Zealand's highest average research quality and in New Zealand is second only to the University of Auckland in the number of A rated academic researchers it...

 and in 2003 received an Icon Award from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand
Arts Foundation of New Zealand
A facilitator of private philanthropy, the Arts Foundation of New Zealand supports artistic excellence through its permanent Endowment Fund. Legacies and donations help grow the Fund, with income generated enabling the Foundation to support the arts....


Early history

Hotere received his secondary education at St Peter's Maori College
Hato Petera College, Auckland
Hato Petera College is an integrated, boarding and day co-educational college in Northcote Central, Auckland, New Zealand for students in Year 9 to Year 13. The school has a strong Catholic and Māori character...

, Auckland. After early art training in Auckland
The Auckland metropolitan area , in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest and most populous urban area in the country with residents, percent of the country's population. Auckland also has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world...

, he moved to Dunedin
Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago Region. It is considered to be one of the four main urban centres of New Zealand for historic, cultural, and geographic reasons. Dunedin was the largest city by territorial land area until...

 in 1952, where he studied at King Edward Technical College
King Edward Technical College
King Edward Technical College is the former name for a school and technical college in Dunedin, New Zealand, which was established as the Dunedin Technical School in 1889. It renamed itself the King Edward Technical College after King Edward VII, and new buildings on Stuart Street officially opened...

. During the later 1950s, he worked as a schools art advisor for the Education Department in the Bay of Islands
Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is an area in the Northland Region of the North Island of New Zealand. Located 60 km north-west of Whangarei, it is close to the northern tip of the country....


In 1961 Hotere gained a fellowship and travelled to England where he studied at London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

’s Central School of Art. During 1962-4 he studied in France and travelled around Europe, during which time he saw the development of the Pop Art
Pop art
Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the mid 1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. Pop art challenged tradition by asserting that an artist's use of the mass-produced visual commodities of popular culture is contiguous with the perspective of fine art...

 and Op Art
Op art
Op art, also known as optical art, is a style of visual art that makes use of optical illusions."Optical art is a method of painting concerning the interaction between illusion and picture plane, between understanding and seeing." Op art works are abstract, with many of the better known pieces made...

 movements. His travels took him, among other places, to the war cemetery in Italy where his brother was buried. This event, and the politics of Europe during the 1960s, were to have a profound effect on Hotere’s work, notably in the Sangro and Polaris series of paintings.

Hotere returned to Otago
Otago is a region of New Zealand in the south of the South Island. The region covers an area of approximately making it the country's second largest region. The population of Otago is...

 in 1965, settling in the town of Port Chalmers
Port Chalmers
Port Chalmers is a suburb and the main port of the city of Dunedin, New Zealand, with a population of 3,000. Port Chalmers lies ten kilometres inside Otago Harbour, some 15 kilometres northeast from Dunedin's city centre....

 on the Otago Harbour
Otago Harbour
Otago Harbour is the natural harbour of Dunedin, New Zealand, consisting of a long, much-indented stretch of generally navigable water separating the Otago Peninsula from the mainland. They join at its southwest end, from the harbour mouth...

. In 1969, he became the University of Otago's Frances Hodgkins Fellow
Frances Hodgkins Fellowship
The Frances Hodgkins Fellowship, established in 1962, is one of New Zealand's premier arts residencies. The list of past fellows includes many of New Zealand's most notable artists.The position is based at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand...

, and at about that time he began to introduce literary elements to his work. He worked with poets such as Hone Tuwhare
Hone Tuwhare
Hone Tuwhare was a noted New Zealand poet of Māori ancestry. He is closely associated with The Catlins in the Otago region of New Zealand, where he lived for the latter part of his life.-Early years:...

 and Bill Manhire
Bill Manhire
William "Bill" Manhire, CNZM is an award-winning New Zealand poet, short story writer, and professor, New Zealand's inaugural Poet Laureate.-Biography:...

 to produce several strong paintings, and produced other works specifically for the New Zealand literary journal Landfall
Landfall (journal)
Landfall is New Zealand's oldest extant literary journal. First published in 1947 by Caxton Press, under the editorship of Charles Brasch, it features new fiction and poetry, biographical and critical essays, cultural commentary, and reviews of books, art, film, drama and dance.Additionally, the...


Black paintings

Also during the late 1960s, Hotere began the series of works with which he is perhaps best known, the Black Paintings. In these works, black is used almost exclusively. In some works, strips of colour are placed against stark black backgrounds in a style reminiscent of Barnett Newman
Barnett Newman
Barnett Newman was an American artist. He is seen as one of the major figures in abstract expressionism and one of the foremost of the color field painters.-Early life:...

. In other black paintings, stark simple crosses appear in the gloom, black on black. Though minimalist
Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is set out to expose the essence, essentials or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts...

, the works, as with those of most good abstractionists, have a redolent poetry of their own. The simple markings speak of transcendence, of religion, or peace. These themes have extended to more recent works, notably the colossal Black phoenix, constructed out of the burnt remains of a fishing boat.

Political art

Alongside the Black Paintings series, which still continues, Hotere's political works have also continued. When Aramoana
Aramoana, also known as "The Spit" to locals, is a small coastal settlement, 27 kilometres north of Dunedin city, in the South Island of New Zealand. The settlement's permanent population in 2001 Census was 261. Supplementing this are seasonal visitors from the city who occupy cribs...

, 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
Rugby union
Rugby union, often simply referred to as rugby, is a full contact team sport which originated in England in the early 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand...

 tour by New Zealand of apartheid-era South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 (Black Union Jack) in 1981, and the sinking of the
Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior
The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, codenamed Opération Satanique, was an operation by the "action" branch of the French foreign intelligence services, the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure , carried out on July 10, 1985...

Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, The Netherlands...

 flagship Rainbow Warrior
Rainbow Warrior (1978)
The Rainbow Warrior was a former UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food trawler later purchased by the environmental organisation Greenpeace...

(Black rainbow) in 1985. More recently, his reactions to Middle-East politics have resulted in works such as Jerusalem, Jerusalem and This might be a double cross jack.

Hotere's work in recent years has been slowed by ill health, but he still creates and exhibits regularly.

External links