• Ray Ching

Born in 1939 in Wellington, Raymond Ching is renowned as New Zealand’s leading contemporary bird and figure painter. In this new exhibition of work Ching presents two full-colour paintings (oils on board) and nine monochrome drawings (in graphite pencil, ink, conté, carbon, oils and liquin).

The Voyage recounts the story of how members of Ray Ching’s imaginary menagerie set out on a quest to find their own Eldorado, an Elysian land across the sea. The images deal with two aspects; the journey and the hazards it entailed, and the arrival. The voyage itself was by no means all plain sailing, as dramatically illustrated in the painting Shipwreck! by a rabbit and fellow avian passengers being cast from their upended vessel. In The Dispute, a pair of warthogs in a rowboat observe an argument between seabirds, while there is confusion in Who’s Got the Longitude? between the on-board monkeys and a parrot. As always there is a strong New Zealand connection; in the rowboat in Delegation from New Zealand a kiwi is perched on the back of a Corriedale, a local sheep breed favoured for its production of both wool and meat. Several images relate to the voyagers having reached their apparently paradisiacal destination, with two referring to the Land of Cockaigne, a place of plenty in medieval myth where luxury and physical comfort prevailed. Dancers in the Land of Cockaigne I shows a pair of ducks cavorting mid-air and describes how breezes here blew sweet and fragrant, with a perfume derived from myrrh, roses and hyacinths such that a ‘rare, pure atmosphere enfolded the place’. There was a city of gold, surrounded by a wall of emerald and with gates made of planks of cinnamon. In this land, nobody grew old, and there was only one season – Spring. The country abounded in flowers and plants of all kinds, including grapevines which yielded twelve vintages a year, while nightingales and other songbirds gathered flowers in their bills to drop like snowflakes. Inhabitants passed their time with poetry and song, and drank from two springs, of laughter and enjoyment. And as summarised in the text in Dancers in the Land of Cockaigne II, ‘Complaisance is the universal rule’.

At the heart of all his work to date, is Ray Ching’s obvious great empathy for his avian subjects – those from New Zealand in particular. While a conservation message has never been a conscious part of his work, he has stated his determination to contribute to the raising of public awareness of the precarious state of our endangered birds. The Voyage can therefore be viewed as an extension of the artist’s own voyage of discovery, revealing his masterful understanding of the many members of the natural world. At the same time, his subjects’ utopic undertaking could be seen as metaphorical as it is mythical; a search for an Arcadian world untroubled by the challenges facing ours in 2019.

–Richard Wolfe 2019

Opening Hours

  • Monday - Friday 9.30am - 5.30pm
  • Saturday 10am - 4pm
  • Sunday 11am - 4pm


  • 280 Parnell Road
  • Parnell, Auckland 1052