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Schoon, Theo (artist), circa 1963, Auckland
|Medium summary||ink on paper|
|Classification||works of art, drawings, works on paper|
x 607mm (Length)
Support: 560mm (Height) x 760mm (Length)
Overall: 845mm (Height) x 1049mm (Length)
|Credit line||Purchased 1988 Special Projects in the Arts Fund|
This ink on paper drawing by Theo Schoon was created in the early 1960s while the artist was living in Auckland. It uses elements from Mäori köwhaiwhai (visual art) patterns, the curvilinear and organic designs that are painted onto the heke (rafters) in whare whakairo (decorated houses). Untitled was one of a number of drawings that Schoon made in the early 1960s exploring the possibility of köwhaiwhai-type patterns in creating abstract images.
Untitled has a close relationship to Schoon's other artistic activities. In the early 1960s he was growing and decorating gourds, and he would often carve patterns similar to the design of Untitled into their cured skins. He would also photograph his gourds against a backdrop of paintings like Untitled, encouraging the viewer to make connections between the gourds and the two-dimensional images. Schoon was fascinated by the shared motifs in different forms of Mäori art, and a work like Untitled draws from his analysis of moko (tattoo), as well as his interest in köwhaiwhai patterns.
Respect and appropriation
In köwhaiwhai-type images such as Untitled, Schoon reveals the sensitivity of his interest in Mäori design. His design eschews the standard repetition of köwhaiwhai in the 1950s and 1960s in favour of a way of creating a composition that is asymmetrical and visually complex. In this sense Untitled has more in common with early nineteenth century examples of köwhaiwhai than the simple, repeated patterns that decorated whare whakairo in the middle of the twentieth century. Yet Schoon's work is also an example of how he viewed Mäori art as a series of motifs and formal challenges that could be used however the artist wished. Schoon was not interested in the cultural dimensions of the motifs he used, but their potential to make abstract pattern.
Te Papa holds a number of paintings and photographs by Theo Schoon, which illustrate his interest in Mäori art, as well as the Theo Schoon Archive, a major collection of drawings, negatives, and plaster stamps.
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