The things I’ve found while creating this blog

This is the last main blog post (for now) for my journalism blog assignment. Within this blog, there is a variety of news articles and information on New Zealand artists I have found while creating it. I will talk about what I found out during the time of collecting everything that has been posted on here.

When I first started this research blog, I really wanted to find a topic that would interest me. So I thought a little bit out of the box and came up with the exploration of political art and artists in New Zealand. It is art that conscious, that asks questions, and is unique to this part of the world. At first, I wasn’t actually sure how much information I would find on this topic. But I have been pleasantly surprised with the range I have found.

I also thought a lot about the name of my blog and came up with Art Speaks Action. I think the name sums it up well. It is artwork created by artists who want to be a part of change in this country and the world.

New Zealand is such a diverse country, and people express voice opinion and concern in many different ways. Sometimes the visual speaks louder than words in a way. It can have more impact. And art in all forms goes beyond the barrier of language.

Like any good journalist, who stands up for people and issues that are being over looked in communities or around the world, I believe artists with a passion for certain topics and issues have the same job. To ask the questions that need answers, and to get the issues out there so more people are aware. They have taken on a responsibility to uncover the truth, and to let these things be seen.

This next quote came from a media release on the exhibition ‘ARTISTS as ACTIVISTS: Fighting for our environment’

“The idea of artist as protester is nothing new and the artist’s readiness to communicate the unspoken, to think beyond his or her own experience, to attempt to push the audience out of its comfort zone, and speak for those who do not dare, has created some of the most powerful artworks in the world. Here in New Zealand, artists are seldom far away from controversial issues and in recent times, the environment has been a particular driver for protest.”

Over the time I have been collecting information up for this blog, these are main themes that have come out through the artwork:

Art about current/historical events: things that have had a big impact on New Zealand; People vs people: culture, identity, who we are as people in Aotearoa, social justice; People vs the land/environment: the effects that people have on the earth, such as rivers, oceans, climate change, and mining; and lastly, People vs animals: ecology and conservation, the extintion of native birds, oil spills, the treatment of animals, the destruction of their living environments. Some of the artists’ work I have found may cover all of these points in one go!

I have only chosen a few examples to highlight and expand on each heading below.

Current/historical events: These are things that have had a big impact on New Zealand, and the art pieces show a snapshot in the history of New Zealand.

A few examples of these events that have been illustrated by art work are: The bombing of the Rainbow Warrior vessel – Chris Booth’s sculpture-Rainbow Warrior Memorial, New Zealand becoming a nuclear free country – with Blast! The exhibition. And the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement cartoon competition.

People vs people: culture, identity, who we are as people in Aotearoa, social justice.

There are a few art exhibitions in this blog either raising awareness on issues such as child abuse, or that were set up to raise funds for causes such as Women’s Refuge, or as the Little Lotus Project did, exhibited works to raise money for refugee Burmese children.

We are a multi-cultural nation, and the mix of cultures, ethnicities and backrounds continues to become richer in New Zealand.

This mural by Dan Mills and Phillipa Crofskey- shows Dunedin’s colourful history. It is touching on the diversity we have in New Zealand as a country.

WHAKAWHITI ĀRIA: TRANSMISSION exhibition at Te Manawa in the Manawatu: “We chose to comment on each other’s artworks to create a show that provides a distinct point of view on the state of Maori art,” artist, Israel Tangaroa Birch said.

Lastly, the Inside Out Project New Zealand with their group community project raising awareness of the children whose school was to be closed and never reopened again after the Christchurch earthquakes.

People vs the land/environment: the effects that people have on the earth, such as rivers, oceans, climate change, and mining.

Some of painter, Nigel Brown’s work confronts us about our effects on our country and the earth. Here are some quotes from a few of his paintings that display this. Both commenting on river pollution, extinction of native birds and climate change.

One painting called ‘We are water’ 2009 states: “Eh river we are sorry, we are largely water. If we don’t respect it, what do we respect? If we abuse rivers, we abuse ourselves.”

In another series called ‘Short Lives of Birds‘ one painting named’ Let’s Come to Terms With Birds’ says: “Let’s come to terms with birds, facing their extinction and our own. Mindful of our own purpose driven fate changing with the weather.”

In the exhibition called ‘Fracked‘, 22 Taranaki Artists express their views on the controversial topic of fracking.

And Konstantin Dimopoulos’ series, ‘The Blue Trees‘ was designed to raise awareness of deforestation.

“Art can be an incredibly powerful tool. It helps us get the issue of deforestation on to the front cover of a magazine, not the back pages.” – Konstantin Dimopoulos

People vs animals: ecology and conservation, the extintion of native birds, oil spills, the treatment of animals, the destruction of their living environments.

A few examples from the blog that illustrate these things are:

The Rena Oil spill disaster: The oil prints featured in this exhibition organised by Greenpeace were made with birds killed by the Rena oil spill. The images are a stark reminder of the devastation an oil spill can cause.

The Wakey Wakey Wakey exhibition: “Wakey Wakey Wakey is calling on New Zealanders to wake up to the Kermadecs – it’s a unique, awe-inspiring place that New Zealand is responsible for. We want more people to know about it and feel connected to it,” John Reynolds.

The work of Bill Hammond, In his paintings featuring half animal/human creatures with avian heads and human limbs, he is commenting on human interaction with the birds and environment of this land.

And lastly the work of Angela Singer. The art work by New Zealand-based artist and animal rights activist, shows her concern with hunting and our moral and ethical approach to animals.

In conclusion, it was an eye opening and encouraging experience collecting all of this information up. My plan is to continue with it, and maybe expand my search to other places around the world. There is so much out there. The information in this blog just proves to me that New Zealand is full of artists who have their finger on the pulse, and care about what happens to this country. They are using their creativity to speak out and encourage others to see things with new eyes, and from a different perspective. And what is even better, is that their work is not just being seen within this country. A lot have taken their art works and passions about certain issues out on an international level, and they are really being noticed for it.

“In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it.” – Ernst Fischer (1899-1972. Writer, philosopher)

Inside Out Project in New Zealand

Last night when I was putting some more things on this blog, an awesome picture came up on my newsfeed on facebook, and it totally relates to what this research blog is all about.

It is quite close to home as well, because it stems out of the Christchurch earthquakes. I have family and friends down there who were hugely affected. Things are still being rebuilt, and people are trying to move on with life as best they can.

This picture is really striking.

Inside Out Project-New Zealand crew. Pictures of kids from Christchurch-their school is being closed down after the earthquakes. (photo from Inside Out Project facebook page)

Inside Out Project-New Zealand crew. Pictures of kids from Christchurch-their school is being closed down after the earthquakes. (photo from Inside Out Project facebook page)

This is what it said on facebook, along with the image.

“This group project is from Christchurch, New Zealand. These children lost their school to a series of earthquakes and are fighting for their community to help them rebuild since their government is refusing to provide the proper funding.”

So I found out more about what the ‘Inside Out Project‘ is… I took this text from the description of themselves on facebook:

It is a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work.

Everyone is challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world. These digitally uploaded images will be made into posters and sent back to the project’s co-creators for them to exhibit in their own communities.

This shows people getting out there, caring for their communities. Not just talking about change, but making it happen.


Meliors Simms – Environmental art about Antarctica

Meliors Simms hand makes art with textiles on environmental issues.

One of the more recent exhibitions she has been a part of is called ‘Imagining Antarctica.’ Again, like many of the other posts on here so far… She is confronting issues about peoples effects on the earth, climate change, & the politics that surrounds these issues.

An online article said this:

A hand-stitched Big Berg is one of many interpretations of polar ice in Imagining Antarctica. Meliors Simms, a New Zealand artist, has used a range of textile techniques to explore the history of Antarctica, as well as its present environment and the threats to its future.

“New Zealand’s proximity to Antarctica and significant activities there mean that Antarctica is a common theme for New Zealand artists,” says Simms. With a background in Environmental Policy, Simms confesses that she turned to art as a result of “frustration with trying to effect change through policy channels.”

Read more here.

Artist Dick Frizzell along with poet Sam Hunt team up to aid whales

'One for the Whales' -by Dick Frizzell, & inspired by Sam Hunt's poem. (photo)

‘One for the Whales’ -by Dick Frizzell, & inspired by Sam Hunt’s poem. (photo)

‘One for the Whales’ is the first print in the series, that will be sold to raise funds for a proposed National Whale Centre in Marlborough.

The Screenprint by Dick Frizzell was inspired Sam Hunts poem, ‘The Harpooner’s Song.’

Other artists who will be submitting art work for this cause are: New Zealand artists -Robin White, John Walsh, John Pule, Greg O’Brien, and Australian artist Fiona Hall.

An article on said this about the proposed Whale Centre:

The whale centre planned for Picton will tell the story of New Zealand’s whaling history in the Marlborough Sounds and promote the conservation of whales and dolphins through information, research and exhibitions.

Read more here – on Voxy and Stuff.


The Cut Collective

Cut Collective consists of five like-minded people, all from different backgrounds in art. They are based in Auckland, New Zealand.

The Street art – Oi YOU! Website describes them like this:

The members all produce very distinctive imagery, which incorporates elements from popular culture, graphic design, local history and contemporary political issues.

Cut Collective’s practice ranges from commissioned artworks to gallery exhibitions, public murals, commercial design and illustration and apparel.

Picture perfect in a world of chaos- Public access 5, by the Cut Collective. (photos from Cut Collectives facebook page)

Picture perfect in a world of chaos- Public access 5, by the Cut Collective. (photos from Cut Collectives facebook page)

One of their exhibitions that really caught my eye was Public Access 5 – Picture perfect in a world of chaos. It happened a few years ago now. But the content is still relevant to things that are going on around the world now. Some peoples fairytale stories (or how they’re portrayed to us in the media anyway) couldn’t be further from the reality of the hardship of others in the world.

On one side of the artwork is a scene that you’d imagine in a fairytale, Full of bright colour, with Prince William, his bride Kate Middleton, Bambi & the a few of the 7 dwarfs. On the other side, the complete opposite – a dark war scene. Some of the 7 dwarfs are a lot worse off in this scenario.

It also made me think about how one picture shows only a second, even less, in time. There is so much more beyond the ‘picture perfect.’ And do we choose to stay in our fantasy worlds, or push further through to where we can be part of the change?

Picture perfect in a world of chaos, Public Access 5, the Cut Collective (photo from cut collective facebook page)

Picture perfect in a world of chaos, Public Access 5, the Cut Collective (photo from cut collective facebook page)

On the Cut Collective website it says this about the artwork:

Working around the central theme of “Picture Perfect in a World of Chaos”, this show deals with the representation of a world that is a palpable fantasy, and looks to explore the ridiculous nature of the variant realities we receive through multiple media channels. Something we here at CC have come to call “The Gap”

Read more about this exhibition and check out more pics here.

Picture perfect in a world of chaos, Public access 5, by the Cut Collective (photo from cut collective facebook page)

Picture perfect in a world of chaos, Public access 5, by the Cut Collective (photo from cut collective facebook page)

Narani Henson – Another persons trash is another ones treasure, voice, purpose.

Works by Narani Henson

‘My Plastic Beach’ by Narani Henson (picture)

Narani Henson uses marine plastic or plastic detritus, also known as ‘beach booty’ to draw attention to issues around waste and pollution.

She was born in New Zealand in 1976 where a love for the ocean was instilled in her at an early age. A keen surfer, avid collector and environmental artist she sees herself as a ‘custodian of the sea’. With the help of local marine conservation organisation Positive Change For Marine Life she collects marine plastic and turns it into evocative artworks. (Read more – sourced from here)

I found these thoughts from the artist at common ground, Byron Bay-Australia. You can read more from her here as well. I definitely recommend it!

“Do you know that 2.4 million pounds of plastic is estimated to enter the worlds ocean every hour? Which is 1089 tons of plastic!  When I first learnt of the huge volume of plastic pouring into the Worlds ocean’s I have to admit I became very emotional. Our global environment is facing significant risks from pollution which has been created through over-consumption and thoughtless waste disposal by us.

I am working on the process of recycling marine plastic by transforming it into ‘something else’. Through the presentation of my work I hope to highlight the amount of plastic in our ocean in an attempt to comment on the effects resulting from the by-products of our consumer society, I hope to draw people’s attention to the deeper meaning it conveys. I think like any global issue it can feel over whelming and too big to make a difference. But I made the conscience decision to do my part… think local act global, every little bit counts, just like organisations like “Positive change for marine life”, “My Two hands” and “Take three”, I started to take responsibility for my beach by picking up marine plastic and rubbish”. – Narani Henson

Konstantin Dimopoulos – International artist who creates social art installations and public sculptures

Windgrass, Featherston New Zealand, by Konstantin Dimopoulos(photo sourced from Kons facebook page)

Windgrass, Featherston, New Zealand, by Konstantin Dimopoulos (photo sourced from Kons facebook page)

I was introduced to Konstantin Dimopoulos’ work by fellow Whitireia Journalism student Erin Kavanagh-Hall, who interviewed him about one of his newest kinetic sculptures. Below are excerpts from the article.

Konstantin Dimopoulos‘ striking and thought-provoking art works have been exhibited all over the world, but his latest work is inspired by his Kiwi upbringing.

The Wellingtonian, now based in Melbourne, launched his towering new sculpture, Windgrass, in Featherston’s Clifford Square recently.

The 8.5-metre tall brown and yellow creation pays homage to the grasses of the south Wairarapa coastline, a place the artist often visited as a young man.

”It represents the bulrushes of the Wairarapa area,” says Dimopoulos, an Egyptian-born Greek who was raised in Wellington.

Pacific Grass, Kinetic sculpture, Wellington- Konstantin Dimopoulos (Photo)

Pacific Grass, Kinetic sculpture, Wellington- Konstantin Dimopoulos (Photo)

The sculpture is designed to move with the wind – a recurring theme for Dimopoulos, whose first major sculpture, Pacific Grass, was made in response to Wellington’s famous wind.

He has since gone on to exhibit his art internationally, with public sculptures in collections around the United States and Australia, and to create art installations in response to social issues.

Most notable of these is The Blue Trees, which is appearing in many North American cities.

The Blue Trees, in which he colours trees with a biologically safe blue pigment, was designed to raise awareness of deforestation.

Blue Trees-Konstantin Dimopoulos (photo)

Blue Trees-Konstantin Dimopoulos (photo)

”Art can be an incredibly powerful tool. It helps us get the issue of deforestation on to the front cover of a magazine, not the back pages.”

He is now working on a project called Purple Rain, which comments on homelessness.





Below a video of the kenetic sculpture in Palmerston North – ‘Giants Among Us’. Watch it gently sway in the breeze.

Chris Booth- Sculptor

Rainbow Warrior Memorial, by Chris Booth, Photo from here.

Rainbow Warrior Memorial, 1988-1990, by Chris Booth.
The Rainbow Warrior propellor is in the centre of the sculpture, surrounded by an arch of large basalt boulders recovered from a local beach.
Photo from here.

I keep finding new and inspiring artists, and Chris Booth is no exception. Have a read on his website and a look at his sculptures, and you will soon see it for yourself! The text below was taken from part of what he has written on his website.

“Chris Booth’s empathy for people, his ability to relate to their culture, and his underlying respect for the environment have enabled him to create memorable works that sit respectfully in the landscape’.
‘…… which wait patiently, quietly expecting due reverence from the observer’.

Ken Scarlett OAM, World Sculpture News, 2000.

Chris Booth gives a bit of an explaination to what is behind some of his work:

Once a site is identified and approved for a specific land art work I look closely at, for example, the origins of the land, itʼs flora and fauna, the spirit of the land, the social history and land use from ancient times to the present day. Also, my materials are researched and sourced locally. To me this is holism. By way of explaining this further, sometimes in the past I chose to ʻpoint fingersʼ in my work such as showing my opposition to the testing of nuclear devices in the Pacific Ocean, the destruction of indigenous forests in Northland, NZ or the exposing of injustices such as racism. At first these works had the desired effect of alerting others to the problem or adding to the voice of objectors. But, as I became more known, my work became more ʻcollectableʼ and, instead of achieving my original objective, these works became collectable commodities with a monetary value for investment! In 1986 I made a major shift back to holism (my first explorations into holism were carried out in the early 70ʼs using scale models and drawings). Gateway 1986-1990 and the Rainbow Warrior Memorial 1988-1990 were the first major public art works of mine to use this holistic approach. – Chris Booth (All sourced from

Mural showing Dunedin’s colourful history

Wall Mural by Dan Mills, of Mangawhai, and Phillipa Crofskey, of Dunedin

Wall Mural by Dan Mills, of Mangawhai, and Phillipa Crofskey, of Dunedin.
(Photo source from here)

This piece is something I found while surfing the net. While it may not be entirely considered as ‘political art’… I think it is very timely. It got me thinking anyway! Which is what all good visual art should do.

We are a multi-cultural nation. This mural is touching on the diversity we have in New Zealand as a country.

In October 2012, Hoyts Lane off the Octagon was transformed with a new mural paint job.

Dunedin’s colourful history was woven into a tapestry which was unveiled during the Otago Festival of the Arts.

Artist Dan Mills, of Mangawhai, said the mural was a blend of Maori, Scottish, Chinese and Lebanese culture.

“I wanted it to represent Dunedin’s history and the fabric of its society,” he said.

“So, it entwines Scottish tartan, Chinese fabric, Lebanese embroidery and woven flax. There are a lot of metaphors in the work. The gold in the fish scales represents the gold taken from the ground of Otago, while the taniwha is also a Chinese dragon.”

“Everything flows towards the Octagon, through a flax fishing net.”

Parts of above article are from Otago Daily Times online. Read full story here.

Lester Hall- Tiki Mouse

The Little River Gallery artist profile says this about New Zealand print maker:

“From the popular Kiwiana beauty of “Wahine” to the dour victorian morbidity of “Boogieman” Ngati Pakeha Inks have been “a wonderful journey into what it might mean to be Pakeha” says Lester Hall. Describing himself a long time outsider artist who also positions himself as a social commentator on the evolving identity of Aotearoa.  Lester uses his Ngati Pakeha prints to invite all New Zealanders to come with him into this discussion.”

Lester Hall, Northland based artist tests cultural climate with his latest work Tiki Mouse by blatantly merging Mickey Mouse with one of New Zealand’s most touted cultural icon – Heitiki. Hall’s 2004 Ngati Pakeha series of 23 Tiki, launched a cross pollination Buzzy Bee and Tiki to create Halls kiwiana classic Buzzy Bee Tiki.

Print maker Lester Hall is one of New Zealand’s most exciting contemporary visual artists. Hall’s work is visually striking, intelligent, and strongly political. Maori commentator, Willie Jackson states, “he is a cultural intellectual for NZ”. Hall has a clear message that radiates strongly from his Ngati Pakeha Inks series. (read more and see picture of the image here)

You can read another interesting story about one of his pieces here- Toi moko art print upsets