Monday, February 25, 2013

The Desire of the Line: Ralph Hotere Figurative Works

Ralph Hotere's death over the weekend reminded me of the 2005 AUP publication - The Desire of the Line.

Alongside the large abstract paintings for which he is so much admired, Ralph Hotere did throughout his career produce countless beautiful figurative works – drawings and paintings. In this book Kriselle Baker introduces these works and presents a rich selection of 142 images focusing especially on the gorgeous Woman series, a constant in Hotere’s work from the 1960s. These are wonderfully varied, many composed of the simplest lines effortlessly suggesting warmth, intimacy and pleasure; others have flashes of colour or denser lines. Also included are a smaller group of works from Song Cycle, originally drawn for a stage performance and evoking movement and sound. The introductory essay, in which Baker explores the history of these images, their distinctive qualities and their role in relation to Hotere’s better-known work, is followed by a catalogue of 112 full-page images and a list of works.

The drawings point in quite another direction. They are small and fragile, yet never tentative. They are where Ralph affirms, over and over, many of the things he values: the body and the body’s imperfections; beauty; movement and change and continuity; the earthiness and gracefulness – as in full of grace – of what it is to be human. – Bill Manhire, in the ‘Foreword’

Kriselle Baker is an art historian specialising in contemporary New Zealand art. She spent many years cataloguing the paintings and drawings of Ralph Hotere and has written two theses and several books on his work. The Desire of the Line was her first publication and was written to complement an exhibition, Ralph Hotere Figurative Works:  Carnival, Song Cycle and the Woman series, which she curated for the Dunedin Art Gallery. 

The elegant book is still in print - rrp $59.99

Bookseller Helen Parsons writes:

Ralph Hotere died yesterday aged 81. One of our greatest contemporary artists.
Many years ago I was a volunteer docent at the Auckland Art Gallery.
As part of my training I chose to give my very first presentation on Ralph Hotere’s Aurora Koputai…acrylic & enamel on corrugated iron and wood – held by Auckland Art Gallery.
Hotere’s political works included his Aramoana series protesting against proposed aluminuimum smelter near his home at Port Chalmers, right in the south of New Zealand.
I have heard a story about Sam Neil who was visiting Hotere and saw the sheets of old, rusty corrugated iron stacked up under the (macrocarpa?) trees on the bluff where Hotere worked. Sam apparently had the idea that a wind could whip up those metal sheets and chop off one’s head. I love the vigorousness of that tale.  
Roger and I  appreciated viewing Pathway to the Sea – Aramoana 1991 in two different galleries.  The old Robert McDougall Art Gallery and the Auckland Art Gallery.
Ralph Hotere and Bill Culbert worked together on this. Parallel rows of fluorescent tubes and paua shells stretched across the floors.
Each gallery gave a different mood to this work. The Christchurch exhibit flowed through the galleries, under arches; the Auckland show stretched through just the one rectangular gallery.
Ralph Hotere born 1931, died 2013. 

Helen Parsons Bookseller
Parsons Library Supply, The Alpine Hut, 10 Glade Lane, Birkenhead Point, Auckland 0626, New Zealand
Phone +649 419 0552     Mobile 021 248 3869

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