New Zealand High Commission Canberra, Australia

A New Zealand identity

Care has been taken in the public areas of the house to foster a New Zealand identity. For example, the carpet was imported from New Zealand when the house was extended in 1985/86.

The paintings, ceramics and weavings in the public areas are the work of New Zealanders, including a number of Maori artists. Although individual Heads of Mission often have privately owned artworks, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has its own collection of New Zealand art and craft works for display in overseas posts. The New Zealand Residence in Canberra has a number of paintings from the Ministry’s collection, and there are several worth mentioning.

Colin McCahon’s (1919 – 1987) oil on canvas, ‘Titiangi’, takes its place as one of the major art works. McCahon is, in the words of New Zealand critic Gordon Brown, “a powerful and unique force in New Zealand painting". Inspired by the landscape of the Auckland suburb of Titirangi, where he was living at the time, McCahon painted ‘Titirangi’ between September 1956 and January 1957 during the second of two cubist phases. This reflects the impact of the Australian painter, Mary Cockburn-Mercer, whom McCahon had met on a visit to Melbourne in 1951, and who instilled an awareness of both cubism and Cezanne derived from his own studies in Paris many years before. Characteristically of McCahon, ‘Titirangi’ reveals the tension of opposites: light and dark, rounded and angular, sacred and profane.

Charles Tole’s (1903-1988) 1972 acrylic on board ‘Northland Hills’. Tole was primarily a landscape artist. His ‘Northland Hills’ are monumental structures, a fusion of the land and man’s habitation within it. The painting has a brooding quality lifted slightly by the curious unreal light along the line of the hills. Drawings by John Bevan Ford in fine coloured ink are also part of the collection. The woven cloak floating like a flag over the landscape simultaneously warms and protects it, and symbolises the mana of the land just as cloak identify and announce the mana of great chiefs of Maori society.

Acclaimed Maori artist Sandy Adsett (born 1939) is represented with ‘Pohutu (Moemoea)’, which translates as the dream geyser. Adsett is influenced by traditional Maori work but continually modifies designs, patterns and colour contrasts.

There are a number of New Zealand landscapes in the house, including Nugents Welch’s (1881 – 1970) oil on canvas ‘Coastal Scene Near Wellington’, which offers a fine example of the work of this gentle New Zealand landscape artist.

The principal item in the foyer is the carved post or centrepiece pole ‘Poutokomanawa’, understood to be by Hemi Ranginui, of whom little is known.

Throughout the public area several very fine examples of the work of New Zealand potters and weavers, including Erenora Puketapu-Heter, Doreen Blumhardt and Julie Healey.

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