Flying Moas redux

Retrospective exhibition of works from 1986-1995 Gisborne arts collective opens at Tairawhiti Museum.

Retrospective exhibition of works from 1986-1995 Gisborne arts collective opens at Tairawhiti Museum.

FLYING MOA: Artist John Walsh’s painting captures the wit and exploration of new ideas that marked a Gisborne collective called the Flying Moas that formed late last century. Picture by Ryan McCauley
THE FLOCK: Members of the 1986-1995 Flying Moas artists’ collective at an exhibition of their work. Picture supplied
Flying Moas, September 1989.

ARTEFACTS from the age of the Flying Moas will fly again next month when a retrospective exhibition of works from the 1986-1995 Gisborne arts collective opens at Tairawhiti Museum.

The collective’s members were made up of Gisborne artists “swept up in the international contemporary art wave”, as Richard “Buck” Rogers describes the young Turks in Sheridan Gundry’s smart catalogue.

“It has been a cool thing to put the Flying Moas show together,” says former Gisborne man, artist, and Flying Moas curator, John Walsh.

“The idea to do a show came up at the museum. Damian Skinner suggested it. I thought ‘I’ll put my hand up for that’.”

Walsh and Tairawhiti Museum’s arts and exhibitions administrator, Jolene Douglas — also a former Flying Moa — “formed a small scrum” to round up artists and gather works produced by the collective.

“Most of the works were in private collections,” says Walsh. “It was a mission but there was a large team of supporters.”

The collective formed late last century when a group of like-minded artist mates got together and looked at available venues.

“There was nothing available for what we were doing. We were doing new work so we put together the Flying Moas. We were reacting to the environment as everybody else was. The Maori renaissance was in full sail at that point.

“Like all great movements, the Flying Moas were put together by a similar-minded group of people.”

Several buildings were still untenanted in the recently established Treble Court plaza so the collective was able set up its first gallery in one of the shops.

The artists' shared desire

No “group style” characterised the Flying Moas but the artists shared a desire “to have a crack”, says Walsh.

“We had painters, potters, carvers, jewellers . . . It was pretty diverse. The whole thing was a great rumble from party to party. We’d have a show, we’d have a party.

“We were keen to enjoy what we were up to.”

A love of the arts, and parties, had a spin-off. The spirit of the Flying Moas led to a post-Cyclone Bola event called Gisborne Strikes Back.

“Nigel Marshall and I thought ‘let’s do something to lift people’s spirits’.”

Despite the city’s mood in the wake of the cyclone, arts and music were booming.

“So we thought we’d put this show together that involved arts and music — a whole range of music. (Poet and raconteur) Gary McCormick fronted it.”

The event was staged at the Sandown Park Hotel in Childers Road. The Gisborne Strikes Back organisers then took the show to Auckland where it played for three nights at the Gluepot in Ponsonby.

“The Gluepot closed down shortly afterwards,” says Walsh.

There was no connection, he says.

A Gladstone Road address known as Number 9 that provided studio space for a number of artists also grew out of the Flying Moas.

“Instead of paying rent to the landlords upstairs, we gave them a painting every month,” says Walsh.

“The community chipped in and supported us. We had openings at Matawhero Wines where Denis Irwin supplied us with boxes of merriment.”

More than 20 years have passed since those heady days but Walsh invites wineries to feel free to deliver boxes of merriment to the Flying Moas to help “re-spark that community arts enthusiasm” when the retrospective fills two galleries at Tairawhiti Museum next month, from June 16.

ARTEFACTS from the age of the Flying Moas will fly again next month when a retrospective exhibition of works from the 1986-1995 Gisborne arts collective opens at Tairawhiti Museum.

The collective’s members were made up of Gisborne artists “swept up in the international contemporary art wave”, as Richard “Buck” Rogers describes the young Turks in Sheridan Gundry’s smart catalogue.

“It has been a cool thing to put the Flying Moas show together,” says former Gisborne man, artist, and Flying Moas curator, John Walsh.

“The idea to do a show came up at the museum. Damian Skinner suggested it. I thought ‘I’ll put my hand up for that’.”

Walsh and Tairawhiti Museum’s arts and exhibitions administrator, Jolene Douglas — also a former Flying Moa — “formed a small scrum” to round up artists and gather works produced by the collective.

“Most of the works were in private collections,” says Walsh. “It was a mission but there was a large team of supporters.”

The collective formed late last century when a group of like-minded artist mates got together and looked at available venues.

“There was nothing available for what we were doing. We were doing new work so we put together the Flying Moas. We were reacting to the environment as everybody else was. The Maori renaissance was in full sail at that point.

“Like all great movements, the Flying Moas were put together by a similar-minded group of people.”

Several buildings were still untenanted in the recently established Treble Court plaza so the collective was able set up its first gallery in one of the shops.

The artists' shared desire

No “group style” characterised the Flying Moas but the artists shared a desire “to have a crack”, says Walsh.

“We had painters, potters, carvers, jewellers . . . It was pretty diverse. The whole thing was a great rumble from party to party. We’d have a show, we’d have a party.

“We were keen to enjoy what we were up to.”

A love of the arts, and parties, had a spin-off. The spirit of the Flying Moas led to a post-Cyclone Bola event called Gisborne Strikes Back.

“Nigel Marshall and I thought ‘let’s do something to lift people’s spirits’.”

Despite the city’s mood in the wake of the cyclone, arts and music were booming.

“So we thought we’d put this show together that involved arts and music — a whole range of music. (Poet and raconteur) Gary McCormick fronted it.”

The event was staged at the Sandown Park Hotel in Childers Road. The Gisborne Strikes Back organisers then took the show to Auckland where it played for three nights at the Gluepot in Ponsonby.

“The Gluepot closed down shortly afterwards,” says Walsh.

There was no connection, he says.

A Gladstone Road address known as Number 9 that provided studio space for a number of artists also grew out of the Flying Moas.

“Instead of paying rent to the landlords upstairs, we gave them a painting every month,” says Walsh.

“The community chipped in and supported us. We had openings at Matawhero Wines where Denis Irwin supplied us with boxes of merriment.”

More than 20 years have passed since those heady days but Walsh invites wineries to feel free to deliver boxes of merriment to the Flying Moas to help “re-spark that community arts enthusiasm” when the retrospective fills two galleries at Tairawhiti Museum next month, from June 16.

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