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Nigel Brown Urewera No 4 - Te Urewera Conversations

17 January 2014
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This post was written by one of our contributors and submitted to our blog.
The author's views below are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Tuhoe.
Te Urewera Conversations Exhibition runs form 19th November 2013 to 19th January 2014 at the Whakatane museum and features a range of artists, some of Tuhoe descent some not.

The diversity of experience within the exhibition explores what Te Urewera means on an emotional and connected level, and what it delivers may surprise. So lets take a closer look at one of the contributing pieces.

Urewera painting No.4, 1986, Nigel Brown.

Nigel Brown painting Urewera 4

I've heard somewhere that the best art invites conversation – read me, discuss me, allow me to broaden your view. As art spans the spectrum from the realistic to the obscure the ability to read can often be difficult. Fortunately for us Brown has written an artist statement it’s our semi-guide through the proverbial jungle, or bush as it may be.

Our ability to comprehend Brown's artwork is made a little clearer by first understanding his style of painting. With thick lines and odd movements Nigel Brown’s work is less about the perfect representation or replication and more to do with the placement of images as they relate and speak to one another – it’s refreshing to be asked ‘see beyond the way something looks and find the connectedness, that link or that path which resonates with you.’

So with that in mind let's explore the imagery of Urewera Painting No.4 with excerpts from Brown's artist statement as our guide to understanding.

“There was the feeling that this was the real New Zealand.”

What represents the real New Zealand is a matter of perspective because your view will no doubt differ from mine. So then, imbuing an image or reference point with as strong an association as the “real New Zealand” is no easy task. This is perhaps where iconography comes in. An icon holds for us a tonne of meaning, it’s an image which sums up a feeling and encapsulates a collective understanding – it makes something greater than it is.

The bush hut is an icon of New Zealand – it represents for many, an escape, an oasis, an ideal way of life or an ideal representation of New Zealand. It’s Brown asking us to make that connection - see the significant from the simple.

“Gradually I decided hunting was not for me, but I vividly remember orange huts, rivers and Maori on horses coming out of nowhere.”

The lone figure traversing a homeland as deep and broad in physical space as equally and deeply spiritually held, is out of the view of the tramper approaching the hut. Oblivious to his existence it allows us to see the work in two sections: the foreground of tramper, hut, companion and tool disconnected in sorts from the lone figure striding his path through river, trees and tracks. Or is he oblivious? Intertwining tracks bring the two closer together but no real connection is ever made. Our lives in general are disconnected from one another by some degree. Perhaps art simply magnifies for us what we would otherwise see walking down a simple city street?

“So to toast those hills, the sober lessons of history, the shadows in the mist.”

With an air of experience gained, sights seen, insights abound and more yet to be discovered Urewera painting No 4. is a depiction of Te Urewera which is personal yet relatable. It encourages me to pull meaning where I find it; it encourages me to conversate with ease and without force of meaning. It does as all good art does – it opens my view.


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Blog Post Nigel Brown Urewera No 4 - Te Urewera Conversations
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