Thursday, October 31, 2019

From Waipahi
Graham White had no reason to believe it was a day different from any other. It was October 20, 1999, and the Dunedin-based train driver had just pulled up his southbound train 919 on the Main South Line at Waipahi Station.

He was just about to jump out of the locomotive to change the mainline points so that northbound train 938 could pass on a parallel section of track diverging from the main line. It was the responsibility of the first train to arrive to set the mainline points for the passing loop.
Unfortunately, the trains arrived at Waipahi Station almost simultaneously and, at 7.02am, train 938 entered the station and collided head-on with train 919, killing Mr White and seriously injuring the driver of train 938.
From 1993 to 2008 New Zealand’s railways were privately owned. The private owners believed that the marketplace would somehow create safe working conditions. During that time the following rail workers were killed on the job: Graham White, Sean Smith, Jack Neha, Peter Silbury, Murray Shaw, Tim Steffert, Rudolph Wairau, Billy Trouland, Ambrose Manaia, Neil Faithful, Neville Bell, Robert Burt and Jim Jacobs.

In June 2000 Margaret Wilson the Minister of Labour announced that there would be a Ministerial Inquiry into these deaths.

On October 2019 a special train traveled from Dunedin to Waipahi where a commemoration  of the Waipahi rail accident and Graham White's death took place. 

On the return journey to Dunedin the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union arranged a cab pass so I was able sit up the front with the driver. I took the sketch book with me and scribbled down the changing view as the train rolled through the Southland country side - the drawings seemed to be much improved by the motion of the train.

This series of six paintings which I’ve called From Waipahi – in memory of Graham White were developed from the drawings.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A new exhibition at Whitespace Gallery Auckland

Whitespace Gallery 
20 Monmouth St, Grey Lynn 
31 March – 26 April, 2019
Preview Sunday 31 March, 2 – 4.30 pm

These paintings form a diary of places I've visited over the last year.
The Volcanoes
From Tawirikoko
These two paintings of volcanic cones are from a trip last September to the Chatham Islands or Eastern Zealandia, as Hamish Campbel and Chris Adams the geologists who organized this visit call it. These ancient volcanic cones in the north east of the main island have spent much of their time under the sea.

Ocean Mail Beach
Further along the northern coast we visited Ocean Mail Beach where the ship Ocean Mail ran aground in 1877. Fortunately the passengers and crew made to shore in the ships long boat.
Over the Dunes

From the beach to the lagoon
Down the west coast of the main island winds have piled up huge sand dunes in Petrie Bay. Walking over these to the beach inspired From the Beach to the Lagoon and Over the Dunes, Often a painting is inspired by a particular place and it becomes something else as it is painted, by the time Over the Dunes was finished it seemed to represent a walk to the beach that could be anywhere.

Shelia Natush in the Kopi Trees
Behind the dunes we stopped in a grove of Kopi trees sheltered from the wind. In New Zealand these trees are called karaka but in the Chathams they are known by the Moriori word kopi. I had recently completed some illustrations for ‘No Ordinary Shelia’. Hugh McDonald’s wonderful film about the writer and illustrator Sheila Natusch that celebrated her long life sharing her understanding of New Zealand’s nature and history. Sheila had family connections to the Chathams and I figured she would have liked the kopi grove so I took the liberty of painting her in Sheila Natush in the Kopi Trees.
Little Mangare Island and Mangere Island
Mangere Island
The Sisters
Our trip to the Chathams was supposed to include a trip to Pitt Island. Unfortunately the sea was too rough for the boat trip to so I took the journey in my imagination helped by a little visual research for the group of paintings about the Islands.
The Waihou 
Earlier in the year I paddled down the Waihou River and explored some of the coast of the Firth of Thames as research for a young adult novel I was working on. This journey resulted in The Waihou and The Puriri Trees.
In the Raupo
On the way back to Wellington I stopped near Tokaanu, took the kayak off the roof of the car and explored the raupo swamp at the southern end of the lake. 
The dingy on the South Coast
The dingy that first appeared on The Waihou and then again in The Raupo Swamp mysteriously turned up again some months later in The Dingy on the South Coast after a Sunday walk from Wellington around the coast past Red Rocks.
The Police Commissioners Legacy
A few weekends ago walking off the Desert Road towards Waihohonu I was surrounded by acres pink flowers pushing through the tussock. In 1947 when my father arrived in New Zealand from Scotland he bought with him a collection of Robert Burns poems with a piece of Scottish heather pressed between the pages. He thought he would never see heather again. He didn’t need to worry. The flowering heather that I was walking through came from seeds scattered by Police Commissioner Cullen early last century. He wanted to change the landscape of the Tongariro National Park into an English moorland so that he could dress like a gentleman in his tweed jacket and go shooting the grouse that he had also released. The grouse didn’t survive but the heather did. It is now regarded as an inappropriate weed.
I have had a couple of earlier skirmishes with the police commissioner. The first in an exhibition about the Waihi miners strike and the second in an exhibition about about his invasion of Rua Kenena’s community at Maungapohatu.
If you are interested in going to the Chathams on one of the tours organized by Hamish Campbell and Chris Adams you can find out more from the Friends of Te Papa website.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Great South Road

The Road of Invasion
Whitespace Gallery, 12 Crummer Road Ponsonby, Auckland from the 24th of October to the 11th of November.

The Great South Road was built as a road of invasion. As Govenor Grey explained to the Secretary of State For the Colonies in January 1862 this road would mean, "The Waikato River will lie quite open to our attacks at any moment." 
On the 12th of July 1863 General Cameron declared war on the Waikato by crossing the Mangatāwhiri River. There were battles along the Koheroa Ridge, at Meremere and at Rangiriri. Cameron’s British Army troops occupied Ngāruawāhia then by-passed the great defensive line that had been built at Pātirangi and went on to attack the village of Rangiowhia where Colonel Marmaduke Nixon’s cavalry galloped into the village and burnt a whare with a number of occupants inside, killed non-combatants who may have been attempting to surrender and fired on residents of the village who had taken refuge inside the catholic church.
There were further skirmishes at Waiari and Hairini and the final battle at Ōrākau. Of the three hundred defenders at Ōrākau one hundred and sixty were killed inside the Pā or as they attempted to escape. The crown then confiscated 1.2 million acres of the Waikato north of the Pūnui River.
Earlier this year I drove down The Great South Road and through the Waikato visiting these sites. I was inspired to do this after reading Vincent O’Malley’s book The Great War for New Zealand – Waikato 1800 – 2000
These paintings are the result of that journey.
The Great South Road. Oil on canvas, Eleven panels, each panel 41 x 88 cms.
My first Objective. Three panels, each panel 32 x 22 cms.
In May 1861 General Cameron informed the Military Secretary in London, "My first objective would probably be to penetrate the angle formed by Waipa and Horatiu (Waikato)  Rivers, and to take possession of a point near their confluence called Ngaruawhia."
The Dense Forests and Impassable Swamps. Oil on Board, 122 x 30 cms.
"I soon found that from the dense forests and impassable swamps which intervened between Auckland and the country occupied by the Waikato tribes, and from the want of roads or other means of communication, it was impossible to commence operations against them with any hope of success." wrote Governor Grey to the Duke of Newcastle, General Cameron was, Grey added, "pushing on, with all means at his disposal, a military road through the forests and swamps which lay between Auckland and the Waikato River."
Maungatautiri, Kakepuku and Pirongia. Oil on board, three panels, each panel 26 x 16 cms.
As Cameron's army of occupation marched south these three significant mountains dominated the landscape: Maungautari in the east, Kakepuku to the south and Pirongia in the west.
Wheat Was Being Grown. Oil on board, 40 x 18 cms.
The area around Rangiowhia was often referred to as the garden of New Zealand. Govenor Grey himself on an early visit to the area in 1849 wrote "Flour mills had been constructed and a watermill was planned. Wheat was being grown extensively - in one place on 1000 acres of fields - and orchards of the highest quality fruit trees were everywhere."

We were obliged at last to set fire. Oil on board. 18 x 23 cms
One member of the Colonial Defence Force who participated in the attacks at Rangiowhia on the 21st. of February described how the first assaults on a whare in which locals were sheltering were unsuccessful so, "We were obliged at last to set fire." to it. When the fire drove three of the occupants out they were gunned down. Seven more charred bodies were later found inside. 
Rangiaowhia. Oil on board, three panels, each panel 20 x 13 cms
The Sacking of Kihikihi. Oil on Board, 120 x 14 cms
 On the 23rd. of February 1864 Cameron's army occupied, looted and destroyed Kihikihi, burning the historic meeting house Hui Te Rangiora. Edward Tedder, a member of the 40th regiment described the looting in his diary. 
"We appeared a queer string going home, everyman loaded with something. Kits of apples, peaches, potatoes, kumaras, marrow, cabbages, and every other succulent, while poultry, pigs dead and alive, turkeys, crockery, tubs, buckets, paddles, and a thousand other articles made up the selection."
Songs for the Clearances. Oil on board. 180 x 30 cms.
Sometimes paintings take on a life of their own. This started out to be a painting of the band rotunda that now occupies the confluence of the Waipa and the Waikato Rivers at Ngāruawāhia where the Māori King’s flagpole once stood, but too many trees grew in the painting, so I called it Songs for the Clearances. Some of the soldiers in the invading British Army would have recent memories of being turfed off their own land during the highland clearances. 

For more detailed information about the invasion of the Waikato I recommend Vincent O'Malley's magnificent book The Great War for New Zealand, Waikato 1800- 2000. It is published by Bridget Williams Books.