Wairua Wai – Spirit of the Water

Rodney Fumpston | Pacific Artifact [part of Whangarei Art Museum Permanent Collection]
Water has had an undeniable influence on artists throughout history and prehistory, Whangarei Art Museum shows works with water as its focus.


Works from Whangarei Art Museum’s Permanent Collection
curated by Anna Wild
Adele Younghusband The Figure curated by Scott Pothan
Rodney Fumpston, Pacific Artefact, 1996, woodcut W.A.M Permanent Collection


The tradition of Art History in New Zealand has been to follow Europe’s lead and its obsession with landscape. Yet this belies the geographical reality of life here, the thin slips of land we occupy are simply dwarfed in the mass of the Pacific and Australian Oceans. The Whangarei Art Museum thus offers up a new perspective and will show the works held in the permanent collection with water as its focus.

Water has had an undeniable influence on artists throughout history and prehistory, it is the ultimate shape shifter and its reflective qualities ensure it remains one of the most technically demanding subjects to convey. The Whangarei Art Museum has been a hugely fortunate recipient of many works that master the power of this elemental force.
Beginning with the well known and loved works of Thomas Drummond and Elizabeth Kate Mair nee Sperrey, this dual exhibition also includes the newly acquired and restored 1891 Drummond “Low Water, Ocean Beach,” in its first public outing.

The heritage jewels of Henry J Kirkwood, George Woolley and Henri Fabre will also be on display and extend the exhibition beyond Northland, with exquisite south island studies by Kirkwood of Milford Sound and delicate maritime studies from Fabre.
Key works from our modern collection include Robert Ellis’s Kupara (John Dory), Adele Younghusband’s 1953 Fish Design and Hotere’s Drawing for a Black Painting, Helen Pick’s protest triptych The Day the Sea Died (a statement against development at Russell ) and a selection of Eric Lee Johnson’s joyful Opononi photo series.

This is a chance to see the collection anew as well as to celebrate new acquisitions and because we are after all 78 percent water Wairua Wai will also include the museum’s latest gift of a life drawing by Douglas Chowns.

Written by

Whangārei Art Museum

14 May 2010

The Whangārei Art Museum Te Manawa Toi is the public art gallery of the Whangārei District, and custodians of its art collection and public art works in the city.