• Bill Hammond

In 1989, Bill Hammond embarked on a journey that would influence both this work and many others to follow. 'Travelling to the otherworldliness of the sub-Antartic Auckland Islands south of Bluff with fellow artists Laurence Aberhart, Lloyd Godman and Gerda Leenards in 1989 initiated a transformation in Hammond's practice. The group's destination was the remote Enderby Island, the largest in the Auckland Islands archipelago, and home to many species including the yellow-eyed penguin, light-mantled sooty albatross and lounging Hooker's sea lion. Here the land was relatively untouched, with impressive forests of towering native trees and thriving birdlife creating a 'birdland' that became a pivotal muse for Hammond’. ¹

Responding directly to his experiences in the Auckland Islands, Hammond painted the Living Large series in 1995. These works are full of colonial imagery, the furniture, the ferns (popular in Victorian design), the copper plate script of Hammond’s handwriting, which refer to the 19th the practises of the 19th century ornithologist Sir Walter Buller, who in his quest to catalogue and record New Zealand’s bird life, drove many native species to extinction. Buller relentlessly pursued the Huia, which was treasured by the Maori for it's distinctive white tipped tail feathers but was also was prized by collectors back in Britian, and Buller continued to collect the birds extensively despite advocating for their protection.

Hammond was revolted by Buller's actions and In the Living Large series, the huia features throughout. In Living Large 3 we see a female huia sitting at an upright piano, a colonial setting, with her dress and the instrument she plays depicting and evoking a certain time and place. The picture plane is divided into three distinct scenes: the huia set within the central plane and holding the other elements around her. Below that are examples of native trees, which sit solitary on the edge of a path leading into the distance, lined with harakeke. At the top of the composition a male figure in hunting regalia fires a pistol into the distance.²

Other aspects within the painting are well recognisable within Hammond's practise including the large vertical format and the dripping paint streaks running through the picture plane.

Living Large is an important series within Hammond's oeuve, bridging the gap between his cartoon inspired figures and surreal landscapes of the 1980s to the magnificant bird paintings of the 2000s which have become regarded as the pinacle of his career.

Other paintings from the Living Large series are held in Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū and Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui.

¹ excerpt from an essay by Samantha Taylor, 2020.

²excerpt from an essay by Samantha Taylor, 2020

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  • 189 Ponsonby Road
  • Auckland 1011