Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Masks, Maori art and the human figure - 1960s

Drawn in England 69
It is obvious looking at the drawings I have uncovered that certain themes have appealed to me.

In the 60s the Education Board Advisers worked with the Taranaki Museum to run education weeks. This was well before education officers were established.  Most of our work was working with local Māori people to set up activities to engage classes that visited. I had always had an interest in local history but working in the museum allowed me to focus on the collection of Māori artifacts.

Search for class study 69
During this time I struck up a friendship with Maori artist John Bevan Ford who, after
Fish hooks and manaia figure
working in a local record shop, returned as an art adviser. Through John I gained some expertise in Māori art and design. I wish I was as competent with Māori language as with Māori design!

My first mask
When in England, like all colonial teachers, I introduced my class to Māori culture: taught them all the haka, made brown paper pui pui, and patu, mere, taiaha and tewhatawhata. My estate kids really enjoyed painting patterns on their faces and performing for the rest of the school. I don't think they had any idea about New Zealand let alone Maori culture but they sure enjoyed it all.

An interest in primitive art
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Also at the museum, through the then director Rigby Allen, I bought a mask carved by one of the prisoners at the local prison and this set me off collecting masks. The mask was based on a picture of an African mask and carved in Kauri.
Bought in England

I was also aware that artists like Picasso had discovered  African masks as  motivation for their own art.

Henry Moore figures.
The other theme in my drawings of the time was the female form arising out of my interest in Henry Moore. I guess I was not the first nor the last to become interested in such things.  I think I even went to life drawing classes at the time.

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