This image has All Rights Reserved.
Please follow the Buy or license link under each image to apply to use this image. (Charges may apply)
Why you need to apply for the use of this image
Rights for this work may be:
- controlled by the artist, the artist's estate, or other rights holders; or
- unclear - Te Papa will do a more detailed analysis of the work’s rights history; or
- covered by Te Papa’s Mana Taonga principle which supports the rights of holders of traditional knowledge to determine how the image may be used.
You need to make sure you don’t infringe on the rights of third parties before you use this image. Our image request process helps with this. Te Papa does not authorise the use of this image beyond the uses allowed by the “fair dealing” provisions of the New Zealand Copyright Act, 1994.
More information about copyright
We recommend these resources for more information:
- Copyright in NZ - Ministry of Economic Development
- Copyright guidelines and resource - Lianza
- Enabling use and re-use - Digital NZ
Find more information about Te Papa's rights project on our blog, including how rights types are assigned.
Get in touch
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- if you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, or
- if you wish to contact the rights holder for this work. We will assist where we can.
Walters, Gordon (artist), 1977, Christchurch
|Medium summary||acrylic and PVA paint on canvas|
|Materials||acrylic paint, polyvinyl acetate, canvas|
x 1145mm (Width)
|Credit line||Purchased 1978 with Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand funds|
At just over a metre and a half high by a metre wide, Karakia is at the larger end of the scale at which Gordon Walters worked. It is a size that gives the optical pulse of the painting — the interplay of black and white, of circle and line — a kind of quiet grandeur. It also allows the painting to fill the viewer’s perceptual field in a way that turns the activity of seeing into a bodily experience. Scale is important in understanding Karakia in another way, too, given the intense labour Walters brought to his paintings. His working method began with rough sketches, from which possibilities would be developed and tested through numerous small collages and ink drawings. Once an idea for a painting had been satisfactorily resolved, Walters then completed a full-scale drawing and transferred this to an impeccably prepared canvas. The work would then be hand-painted with up to five successive coats of acrylic in order to achieve the final, pristine effect.
Karakia is a reworking of an earlier painting, Black on white, 1965 (private collection), which was among Walters’ first fully realised koru paintings. The gestation of the series began with a series of ink drawings in 1956, although its origins lay further back. Visiting Europe in 1950, Walters was deeply struck by the work of abstract artists such as Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Victor Vasarely. In Europe he also came to recognise the uniqueness and vitality of Oceanic art — especially Maori art — that he had first encountered as a child exploring the old Dominion Museum in Wellington. The combination of the two, Walters later noted, offered a solution to ‘the dilemma of what to paint in New Zealand’.(1)
Walters’ adaptation of aspects of Maori art was viewed as problematic by some commentators in the 1980s and 1990s, and the artist was accused of insensitive appropriation. Responding to this, Walters said, ‘In my case all I have done with the koru motif is make a reference to it and naturally, since I’m a contemporary Pakeha artist, the result is not Maori art. It’s not supposed to be. In my koru paintings I’ve been trying to make sense of my own, Pakeha, response to this tradition, which after all surrounds all New Zealanders. Traditional Maori art means a lot to me — it is the one distinctive art style that we have in this country… What I have done is a kind of tribute to this tradition’.(2)
This essay originally appeared in Art at Te Papa (Te Papa Press, 2009).
1. Gordon Walters, draft letter, [c.1989], Gordon Walters papers, CA37/1/1, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa archives.
2. Gordon Walters, to Michael Smythe, 10 February 1993, cited in William McAloon, Gordon Walters: Prints and design, Adam Art Gallery Te Pataka Toi, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, 2004, p. 11.
Results from DigitalNZ
Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.