• Marilynn Webb

In Taste Before Eating (1982), Marilynn Webb (Ngā Puhi) has created luscious, hand-coloured prints that depict the New Zealand landscape. Each image is accompanied with a recipe, written in the tone of cookbooks by twentieth century radio personality, Aunt Daisy. However, in Webb’s renditions the flow of each recipe is interrupted with unusual ingredients that underline the negative impacts economic imperatives can have on the environment.

This series was commissioned especially for The Dowse by former Director James Mack (1941-2004), in celebration of the opening of a new wing to our building. Mack also engaged a Lower Hutt local, Alan Loney of Hawk Press, to collaborate with Webb to print the recipes.

An artist whose practice has explored the importance of landscape to the New Zealand psyche since the 1960s, Webb decided to create a body of work that was also a form of activism. Her recipes in Taste Before Eating criticise Prime Minister Robert Muldoon’s Think Big projects of the 1980s, which saw the government borrow large sums of money from overseas sources (and incur equally high debt), to fund industrial energy projects. These projects focussed on using New Zealand’s natural resources, such as building the Clyde dam.

While Taste Before Eating was made almost forty years ago, these prints still ring true to the concern many New Zealanders have about the continued exploitation of our environment in the name of industry and economic prosperity.


Marilynn Webb was born in Grey Lynn, Auckland in 1937. She attended Opotiki College in Bay of Plenty; Ardmore Teacher's College, University of Auckland and Dunedin College of Education. She then went on to work as an art advisor for the Department of Education, Auckland, under the Gordon Tovey scheme while developing her own artistic practice. In 1974 Webb was awarded the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship at Otago University and in 1988 she began lecturing at the Otago Polytechnic School of Art. In 1999 she was accorded the honour of an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and in 2004 was made an Emeritus Principal Lecturer at the Otago Polytechnic School of Art. In 2010, Webb was awarded a Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa, by Otago University in recognition for her contribution to art education. At the Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi Awards she received both the Ngā Tohu ā Tā Kingi Ihaka award in 2011, and the Supreme Winner award in 2018.

Webb’s work is collected nationally and internationally and she continues her artistic practice in Dunedin.

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