HOTERE, Ralph

Untitled 1984

1984
Stainless Steel Corrugated Sheet On Hardboard
815 x 900mm

Ralph Hotere, with Milan Mrkusich and Gordon Walters, is one of New Zealand’s most eminent abstract painters. He was born at Mitimiti, Hokianga and trained at Auckland Teachers’ College and later at an art specialist course at King Edward High School in Dunedin. His first solo exhibition occurred in 1951 at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Hotere then returned to the north where from 1952–61 he was a school art advisor. Following overseas travel he returned to New Zealand in 1969 to take up the University of Otago’s Frances Hodgkins Fellowship.

Still painting prolifically and exhibiting, he lives at Port Chalmers. All of Hotere’s work can be described as minimalist abstraction; he frequently uses words, often in Maori. Much of his work has a political content: the Sangro series commemorates Second World War dead, among them Hotere’s brother who was buried at Sangro, Italy; his Algerie series was prompted by that country’s war of liberation against French colonial rule; the Polaris series was anti-nuclear; the Aramoana series, conservationist.

This untitled work is from the Aramoana series which came about as a result of the artist’s opposition to the proposal to build a second aluminium smelter at Lake Aramoana. As in much of his work during the years 1982–85, Hotere has made use of recycled elements, here the sash window frame which holds the whole construction together. While it has a formal value it also has a strongly associative one with the many old villas of the Otago area and is conservationist in its “waste-not” aspect.

Hotere’s preference is for strong colour, most often black, which gives his work a serious tone. He always avoids representation, but suggests a great deal by the use of splattered paint which has associative functions such as rain or lightning or an explosion. This work could perhaps be looked at as the view through a window — in which case its message is hardly one of unrelieved gloom. Like all good abstract painters, Hotere wishes the viewer to give as much attention to the formal (design) aspects of a painting as to any message conveyed.