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Object: Untitled (koru panel)

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Title Untitled (koru panel)
Production Schoon, Theo (artist), circa 1959, Auckland
Medium summary tempera on cardboard
Materials tempera, cardboard
Classification paintings
Dimensions Image: 805mm (Height) x 1110mm (Length)
Frame: 841mm (Height) x 1149mm (Length) x 33mm (Width/Depth)
Credit line Purchased 1993 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
Registration number 1993-0008-1

This work by Theo Schoon was painted in the late 1950s, while Schoon was living in Home Street, Grey Lynn, Auckland. Schoon had begun growing and decorating gourds, and Untitled was painted as a backdrop against which the finished gourds could be photographed. This panel was one of two that were given by Schoon to Wanda Bidois-Edwards, a good friend of the artist and part of Schoon's bohemian circle of friends. Schoon never signed these works, which were created as backdrops for his carved gourds, and while the artist might not have intended Untitled and its companion to be viewed as works of art, both panels are excellent examples of Schoon's interest in Mäori art.

Repeated motifs
Untitled is organised according to a system of discrete elements that draw on the koru motif in Mäori art. Schoon has organised his spirals into bands that create an optical play between positive and negative, background and foreground. The large spirals that form the background of the image interact with the smaller bands of repeated koru-type forms that run across the surface of the work. They come together at certain points and the illusion of foreground and background is disrupted, only to be re-established elsewhere in the painting. The colours of Untitled - red, black, and white - establish a connection to Mäori köwhaiwhai patterns - the curvilinear patterns used on the heke (rafters) of whare whakairo (meeting houses).

Different styles
There are similarities between Untitled and other paintings by Schoon drawing on Mäori art. Colours, motifs, and a strong interest in positive and negative relations are some obvious points of comparison. But there are also some major differences between this image and others painted by Schoon in the 1950s. Other köwhaiwhai-style paintings, such as the companion panel for Untitled, tend to be more flowing and asymmetric, and as such closer to Mäori art. Untitled is constructed from repeated motifs and is more geometric, precise, and regular in its composition. The visual rhythm is quite different to other works, and pulls Untitled away from its Mäori sources and more towards European modernism.

Related information

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