House of the rising sun

WE ARE SAILING: Tawahai Rickard’s sailing ships and “yellow submarine” are created from reappropriated native timber assemblages. Pictures by Thomas Teutenberg
SUBMARINE: Based on a Victorian submarine, the wit and political pricks in Ruatoria-born Tawahai Rickard’s reappropriated native timber assemblage combines humour with political pricks.

STOP us if you’ve heard this one before: Long before the arrival of Lieutenant James Cook, Aotearoa’s artists added detail, over time, to architectural features such as the poutokomanawa, the centre pole that supports the ridge-beam of a wharenui (meeting house). The Crown dismantled the wharenui, confiscated its parts and stored them in a museum.

The story is not unfamiliar but Ruatoria-born artist Tawhai Rickard’s “fiction” takes a fresh approach that treads a “fine line between frivolity and staunchness”.

In one of Rickard’s works that feature in his exhibition, House of the Rising Sun at the Paul Nache Gallery, two representations of poutokomanawa stand side by side. They appear to be made from native timber stair posts. Each baluster is topped with a Victorian piano leg complete with ceramic castor wheel.

In what the artist describes as Hinetapora style, a carving at the foot of one post is a depiction of Cook. The other is Captain Pohara. The two figures regard one another.

Pohara is a slang word for “poverty”, says Rickard. The image refers to Cook’s dyspeptic journal entry in which he says he gave the name Poverty Bay to Turanganui a Kiwa “because it afforded us no one thing we wanted”.

Captain Pohara is neither the Cook figure’s Caliban or Man Friday. He is the wooden explorer’s other half, a spiritual shadow.

“These two figures echo throughout the collection,” says Rickard.

Painted above Captain Pohara’s poutokomanawa head is a crowned kereru with the date 1953.

The poutokomanawa are like fictional museum pieces that date from around the 1800s, says Rickard. They were erected after Cook’s landing.

“People made a house of the rising sun — Tairawhiti. It was still there in 1953, which is when the Crown’s Wildlife Act was brought into being.

“That house stood until the late 1960s until it was dismantled and put into a museum.”

Since his House of Divinity exhibition last year at the Paul Nache Gallery, Rickard has created a new collection of works that are bigger in scale, bolder and more cohesively themed.

Hung along one wall as an installation, is a series of sailing ships in various sizes and a wooden yellow submarine. Created from reclaimed native timbers, the yellow submarine is a wave to German illustrator Heinz Edelmann, the artist behind The Beatles’ album cover.

A manaia-like figure in a black jacket and feathered hat floats along the hull and trails a banner inscribed with the words kotahi taniwha. Black-hatted marines run for the ladder to battle with tangata whenua and manaia.

A second, white, Victorian, submarine is based on Reverend George Garrett’s 1878 Resurgam, a symmetrical pod in which two pilots sit back to back at the centre.

In Rickard’s painted construction a Maori figure in colonial dress hooks the snout of a fish that bears the name Kawana, the root word for the newly invented word kawanatanga (governorship). Depicted on one side of the turret is a tailed figure that carries a small British flag and the name Heke, a clear reference to Ngapuhi chief Hone Heke who chopped down the flagstaff on the hill above Kororareka (Russell).

'Jacinda'

On the other side of the turret, a running figure clutches the other half of the flagstaff. Over her head is inscribed the name Jacinda.

“It’s the age-old, ongoing struggle between sovereignty and other cultures,” says Rickard.

Despite the detail given here about the artist’s story behind the twinned poutokomanawa, Rickard wants viewers to think about the narratives in his work. “The submarine is a means to delve into the subconscious of our culture. There are a lot of things we don’t look into.”

STOP us if you’ve heard this one before: Long before the arrival of Lieutenant James Cook, Aotearoa’s artists added detail, over time, to architectural features such as the poutokomanawa, the centre pole that supports the ridge-beam of a wharenui (meeting house). The Crown dismantled the wharenui, confiscated its parts and stored them in a museum.

The story is not unfamiliar but Ruatoria-born artist Tawhai Rickard’s “fiction” takes a fresh approach that treads a “fine line between frivolity and staunchness”.

In one of Rickard’s works that feature in his exhibition, House of the Rising Sun at the Paul Nache Gallery, two representations of poutokomanawa stand side by side. They appear to be made from native timber stair posts. Each baluster is topped with a Victorian piano leg complete with ceramic castor wheel.

In what the artist describes as Hinetapora style, a carving at the foot of one post is a depiction of Cook. The other is Captain Pohara. The two figures regard one another.

Pohara is a slang word for “poverty”, says Rickard. The image refers to Cook’s dyspeptic journal entry in which he says he gave the name Poverty Bay to Turanganui a Kiwa “because it afforded us no one thing we wanted”.

Captain Pohara is neither the Cook figure’s Caliban or Man Friday. He is the wooden explorer’s other half, a spiritual shadow.

“These two figures echo throughout the collection,” says Rickard.

Painted above Captain Pohara’s poutokomanawa head is a crowned kereru with the date 1953.

The poutokomanawa are like fictional museum pieces that date from around the 1800s, says Rickard. They were erected after Cook’s landing.

“People made a house of the rising sun — Tairawhiti. It was still there in 1953, which is when the Crown’s Wildlife Act was brought into being.

“That house stood until the late 1960s until it was dismantled and put into a museum.”

Since his House of Divinity exhibition last year at the Paul Nache Gallery, Rickard has created a new collection of works that are bigger in scale, bolder and more cohesively themed.

Hung along one wall as an installation, is a series of sailing ships in various sizes and a wooden yellow submarine. Created from reclaimed native timbers, the yellow submarine is a wave to German illustrator Heinz Edelmann, the artist behind The Beatles’ album cover.

A manaia-like figure in a black jacket and feathered hat floats along the hull and trails a banner inscribed with the words kotahi taniwha. Black-hatted marines run for the ladder to battle with tangata whenua and manaia.

A second, white, Victorian, submarine is based on Reverend George Garrett’s 1878 Resurgam, a symmetrical pod in which two pilots sit back to back at the centre.

In Rickard’s painted construction a Maori figure in colonial dress hooks the snout of a fish that bears the name Kawana, the root word for the newly invented word kawanatanga (governorship). Depicted on one side of the turret is a tailed figure that carries a small British flag and the name Heke, a clear reference to Ngapuhi chief Hone Heke who chopped down the flagstaff on the hill above Kororareka (Russell).

'Jacinda'

On the other side of the turret, a running figure clutches the other half of the flagstaff. Over her head is inscribed the name Jacinda.

“It’s the age-old, ongoing struggle between sovereignty and other cultures,” says Rickard.

Despite the detail given here about the artist’s story behind the twinned poutokomanawa, Rickard wants viewers to think about the narratives in his work. “The submarine is a means to delve into the subconscious of our culture. There are a lot of things we don’t look into.”

Ruatoria-born Tawhai Rickard’s House of the Rising Sun collection is an extension of scale and a fine tuning of the figurative painting style he calls Hinetapora, says the artist.

The colonial-European-influenced, “naive” style of painting hearkens back to his ancestral house, Te Whanau a Hinetapora, east of Ruatoria, which features figurative folk art painting from the 18th century.

Rickard’s works are suggestive of post-colonial Maori folk art but are combined with pop cultural icons such as the yellow submarine and the double entendre of the show’s title, House of the Rising Sun.

The House of the Rising Sun by 1960s rhythm and blues and rock band British band The Animals was a popular song the Ruatoria-born artist listened to on the long-gone Gisborne radio station 2ZG.

“House of the rising sun” is also close to the English translation of Tairawhiti.

The works are created from assembled pieces of painted timber that could be parts of old furniture or skirting boards.

“This is reappropriation of something from the land that was taken, had a purpose, was taken again and reappropriated.

“I feel it is important to bring my work home to Tairawhiti for whanau and public to experience because it is relevant to us all.”

More ribbons of text, known in medieval paintings as speech scrolls (or banderoles) string from various characters’ mouths than in last year’s collection.

“That’s because there’s always lot to say,” says Rickard.

House Of The Rising Sun, works by Tawhai Rickard, Paul Nache Gallery until December 29.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you support the $6 million proposal for Rugby Park, which includes synthetic turf, an athletics track, additional sportsfield, all-weather sports pavilion and conference/function centre?