Te Papa’s Hiahia Whenua, Landscape & Desire
Tony de Lautour, Send off, 1999, oil and varnish on board. Photo / Supplied.
Te Papa’s new art exhibition Hiahia Whenua, Landscape and Desire, opens Saturday, NZ Herald, 4 October 2022
A new exhibition at Te Papa this weekend will mark the first complete refresh since the art gallery opened in 2018.
Hiahia Whenua, Landscape and Desire, a display of 24 paintings, will showcase historical landscapes from the colonial period alongside contemporary works.
“Every picture of the landscape is also a picture of the person who created it,” said curator of historical art Rebecca Rice.
“There is no such thing as a ‘simple, realistic’ picture of land – beneath the surface of the most traditional painting is a hidden drama of power and politics.
“Who desires this land? Who is connected to it? What is missing from the picture?”
Placing historical works next to contemporary works raised those questions and helped viewers gain new insights “into our landscapes and ourselves”, she said.
The collection of historical landscapes covers the length of Aotearoa, from Kororareka in the Far North to Tamatea in Fiordland.
Included is Te Papa’s oldest landscape painting of Aotearoa: William Hodges’ Waterfall in Dusky Bay with Maori canoe, painted in 1776. It is on display for the second time since it was purchased in 2019.
Alongside historical landscapes, the exhibition features works from contemporary artists such as Emily Karaka, Wayne Youle and Tony de Lautour.
The exhibition takes its title from a triptych of photographic prints by Shane Cotton. The series Hiahia – meaning to want or desire – depicts a mountain, both nearby and receding, photographed from the window of a moving car.
Megan Tamati-Quennell, curator of modern and contemporary Māori and indigenous art, said the contemporary works complicated the image of Aotearoa found in the colonial landscapes.
“There are many ways to think about land – its value, its ownership and how it was lost, sold or stolen,” she said.
“During the colonial period, we often speak of Europeans as ‘settling’ the land. These contemporary works ‘unsettle’ the landscape revealing complexity and conflict below the surface.
“For example Wayne Youle’s ‘What Do You Say Savages’ is a series of prints listing items such as 100 red blankets, 120 muskets, 20 dozen red handkerchiefs – symbolic of land deals throughout the country.
“Tony de Lautour ‘restores’ amateur nineteenth-century paintings found in garage sales and junk shops, populating them with watchful beasts, surfacing a humorous critique and a hidden sense of menace.”
The most recent work is the 2020 painting by Emily Karaka Nga Tapuwae o Mataoho, which was inspired by the occupation of Ihumātao.
“Her painting expresses the whakapapa of Ihumātao, the history between Māori and the Crown, and the complex political landscape in contemporary Aotearoa.”
The 24 artworks will be on display until mid-2023 when a new hang will bring additional works into the exhibition.
The opening of Hiahia Whenua, Landscape and Desire is the first in a series of new art exhibitions opening at Te Papa in the coming months, marking the first complete refresh of Te Papa’s Toi Art gallery since it opened.
It will open on Saturday morning.