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Object: Pacific frigate bird I

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Title Pacific frigate bird I
Production Binney, Don (artist), 1968, Auckland
Medium summary oil and acrylic on canvas
Materials oil paint, acrylic paint, canvas
Classification paintings
Dimensions Image: 1833mm (Height) x 1520mm (Width)
Frame: 1870mm (Height) x 1558mm (Width) x 42mm (Width/Depth)
Credit line Gift of the Ministry of External Relations and Trade, 1990
Registration number 1990-0036-1

Painted at the height of Don Binney's critical acclaim in the 1960s, Pacific Frigate Bird I represents the artist's interest in the mythological potential of the bird, and flight. The image was created while Binney was travelling by ship to Mexico and Central America, which perhaps explains the absence of landscape. Yet in many ways, Binney's paintings of the late 1960s all strive towards a greater awareness of flight and space, with this painting capturing the freedom of flight most intensely, the landscape reduced to the light and dark blue of sky and sea, marked only by the horizon.

New Zealand identity
Binney's paintings were powerful signs of a local and unique identity, and they were quickly heralded as statements of the strong bond that many Päkehä felt towards New Zealand. The 1960s was a decade when art historians such as Peter Tomory, Hamish Keith, and Gordon Brown were attempting to write histories of art in New Zealand. Binney's clean lines, graphic style, and his interest in birds and nature carefully observedwere a contemporary example of a painterly tradition that stretched back to the watercolours of John Kinder or Alfred Sharpe in the nineteenth century.

Repetition and flight
In 1969, an almost identical image to Pacific Frigate Bird I was released as a screenprint in the Multiples, an initiative by Barry Lett Galleries to make art more affordable. Featuring prints by artists such as Colin McCahon, Milan Mrkusich, and Robert Ellis, Binney's image remains memorable, the graphic reproduction suiting not only the image's simplicity, but also the endless repetition of flight.

Related information

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