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Object: Untitled

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Title Untitled
Production Illingworth, Michael (artist), 1971, Warkworth
Medium summary oil on canvas
Materials oil paint, canvas
Classification paintings
Dimensions Image: 500mm (Height) x 660mm (Width)
Frame: 622mm (Height) x 781mm (Width) x 55mm (Depth)
Credit line Gift of Hans and Martha Lachmann, 1995
Registration number 1995-0020-38

This oil painting by Michael Illingworth is a landscape painting and illustrates the particular hallucinatory quality that Illingworth achieved in his paintings of the early 1970s. The colours are vivid, the forms crisply outlined, and the paint is finely worked into dense and complex surfaces built up from layers of oil.

Classic motifs
Along with the landscape, Untitled features other elements common to Illingworth's art. The terraced hill, named and prominently featured in Pah Hill, another painting by Illingworth in the Te Papa collection, is repeated twice in this painting. This sign of Mäori presence in the landscape is joined by a spiral that nestles inside the pä site at the front of the image, and evokes the koru motif of Mäori art. Illingworth's own version of the koru is inscribed on the red rock that flows underneath the land, and therefore acts as another sign of the relationship between Mäori and the land. One of Illingworth's figures appears at the right of the painting, its face dissected by the edge of the canvas. We are given no clue as to the figure's identity, a mystery that is enhanced by the radical cropping of the face.

Paintings with no titles to obey
In 1967 Illingworth held an exhibition at the Barry Lett Galleries in Auckland called Paintings with no titles to obey. This marked a shift in how Illingworth presented his paintings, as he began to replace his earlier, more literary titles with matter of fact names. Untitled was first shown in an exhibition at the Barry Lett Galleries in 1971. This exhibition marked a kind of end-point in Illingworth's refusal to give the viewer hints about how to interpret his works. All the paintings in the exhibition were called untitled. Critic Hamish Keith commented on this 'stony literary silence' in his review in the Auckland Star newspaper, and the phrase is a good description of Untitled - a painting filled with signs that offer the viewer little interpretive guidance.

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