GRAHAM, Fred;

Untitled (Te Ika-a-Māui)

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c.1965
Wood and copper
415 x 1470 x 65mm

Fred Graham drew and painted sporadically throughout the 1950s, while working as a teacher and ‘art adviser’ in Te Ika-a-Māui, or the North Island. His interest in sculpture was sparked while he was living in Manawatū, where he lectured in art at Palmerston North Teachers’ College between 1957 and 1962.[1] This carving was likely produced between 1963 and 1965, while Graham was working as an art teacher at Tauranga Boys’ College. During this time, he developed a strong interest in Māori histories and narratives, and these began to inform his work to a considerable extent.

Although this carving is untitled, its subject is known. It represents the fishing up of Te Ika-a-Māui by the eponymous demigod. Real-world elements are discernible: the tail of the fish (which is also fishhook-like), mountains, a bird. At the same time, there is considerable abstraction. The form on the right might refer to the fish or to Māui. A painting from 1970, titled Te Ika a Māui and featuring more immediately legible forms, is at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Wall-based carvings that also centre on narratives include Ngā Tamariki o Tangaroa (1970) and Māui Steals the Sun (1971), both in private collections.

 

[1] Maria de Jong and Fred Graham, Fred Graham: Creator of Forms: Te Tohunga Auaha (Te Whanganui-a-Tara: Huia Publishers, 2014), 30.

Provenance

Purchased from Gow Langsford Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau, November 2021. Formerly in a private collection, Australia, having been given to the previous owners by the artist as a wedding present in 1965.

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