The Big Picture

The Big Picture Sunday 9 December, 9.50pm

This week on The Big Picture, Hamish Keith asks what went wrong after a promising start for New Zealand to finding its own identity and culture (tonight at 9.50pm on TV ONE). He traces the steps from when New Zealand turned its back on the Tasman world it had belonged to from the beginning of European settlement, and snuggled up to Britain instead.

While making a living filling the British with protein, New Zealand shamelessly filled its art galleries with British art, and reinvented itself as a bountiful, nationwide farmland, despite most Kiwis living in towns and cities. The ensuing struggle between town and country lasted for nearly 70 years.
Meanwhile, Pakeha New Zealand seized on Maori imagery to define its national identity, but at the same time, Maori were persuaded to give up their identity and become brown Pakeha. Hamish says Maori art continued to be smothered and a Maori Art School in Rotorua set out to impose a single traditional style on the richness and vigour of Maori art.

But two prophets, Rua Kenana and Wiremu Ratana, would carry a changing Maori art into the 20th century.

A small group of artists – Colin McCahon, Toss Woollaston and Rita Angus – found their own voice and cast a long shadow over what would happen next.

The Big Picture Sunday 2 December, 9.50pm

This week on The Big Picture, Hamish Keith asks if New Zealand’s Victorians were dull, grey, and repressed or were exciting innovators, laying the foundations for a flourishing and inventive metropolitan society (at 9.50pm on TV ONE).

During the Victorian era, art societies, art schools and public art galleries flourished, and architecture enjoyed a golden age.
Things weren’t so rosy for Maori art, however, as it vanished into museums and disappeared behind a sea of red paint. Colonial artists were presenting Maori as a dying race, while the museums consigned a flourishing 19th century Maori art to the past and invented a false history for it.

But on the East Coast, the brightly painted meeting houses provided a lively alternative – a way to carry Maori art into the 20th century and to fight the conservative views of official Maori culture. And soon, three European imports – none of them English – would transform New Zealand art.

The Big Picture Sunday 25 November, 9.50pm

This week on The Big Picture, art commentator Hamish Keith examines the collision of two cultures, the impact it had on their art, and the early beginnings of a style that reflected the New Zealand reality (tonight at 9.50pm on TV ONE).

Travelling artists like Augustus Earle and George French Angus were fascinated with Maori society and the difference between cultures. In turn, Maori art responded positively to European impact and flourished with new technologies and new challenges, such as the carved meeting-house.
The early art of settler artists saw the development of the empty landscape – if there is nobody in the landscape it could be up for colonising. Both Maori and settlers saw art and culture as laying a grid of meaning over mountains, plains and rivers.

Later, the land wars and the impact they had on Maori art produced brilliant and defiant images for the iwi but not much in European art. Yet over time, European art in our young land moved away from the English models of painting, and a style that reflected New Zealand reality began to emerge.