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RIP Ralph Hotere

Written By: - Date published: 8:31 am, February 25th, 2013 - 29 comments
Categories: art - Tags:

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29 comments on “RIP Ralph Hotere”

  1. vto 2

    It is people like Hotere who contribute the most magnificently to our world ……

  2. Pascal's bookie 3

    Good post here from Dougal McNeill: http://iso.org.nz/2013/02/24/euchred-eclipsed-ralph-hotere-1931-2013/

    All of these works – and anyone who has spent time in bewildered, awed fascination in front of one of Hotere’s intense black paintings will know their power…

    That’s what always got me about Hotere. I could read the little piece of card next to the work, and scratch my head. And scratch my damn head even more while I stand there staring at a sea of black paint with a slash of ochre, or some vertical white lines that each fade in almost the same place, like a child-ruled line on a page where the pen isn’t pressed as hard.

    But when it comes down to it, I look. They demand my attention. They are quiet works of emotion and thought. I can’t explain them, nor do I want them explained. But I can’t ignore or forget them either.


    • BM 3.1

      You may be over thinking it.

      I knew Ralph back some 40 years ago. He was doing his read on black, black on black and all that nonsense stuff that time.

      I and a few mates would often drink with him and would often tell him you are conning the people Ralph, and he would throw his head back and laugh and laugh . He well knew it was crap but the art sector wet their pants over it so why not give them some more of it. I was actually with him when he was doing one of his black series. He had sprayed the gloss black paint and was polishing it with I think car polish from memory to get a high shine.
      Ralph was a great guy, Very relaxed, quiet, loved a beer or two, just a really nice guy. He enjoyed the joke. I am sure he will still be quietly smirking at the art crowd.


      • felixviper 3.1.1

        Fair bit of projection evident in that statement BM. Surprised you didn’t pick up on it.

      • Pascal's bookie 3.1.2

        lol. he was a funny bastard. and could be grumpy. My partner spent some time living in the same street as him some years back. That story doesn’t surprise me at all, but I don’t think you, or the teller of it, really get it.

        No doubt he didn’t care much for much of the art crowd, but that’s not the same as saying he was a con artist, or that he didn’t care for his work. Or that his work wasn’t serious. That’s just daft. he didn’;t care that some people thought what he was doing was ground breaking, nor did he care that some people thought it was a conjob. he could get on easily enough with either set, and knew how to set them at ease.

        In any case, it doesn’t really matter. the works are what they are BM.

  3. Scintilla 4

    I saw a piece Ralph made back in 1981 as a statement against the Springbok tour called “Land of the wrong white crowd” at Te Manawa a couple of years ago. Can’t find an image to share, sorry. But bear with my description.

    It was an old wooden beer crate, with a dozen big (as they used to be) bottles, each with their bottlenecks stuffed with white rags – like molotov cocktails. A simple work – very powerful. The compressed anger hidden inside those bottles, waiting to ignite, was a succinct statement on NZ society at that time. All of our anger and bitterness soaked in beer, compressed in glass, ready to shatter. Fantastic work.

    Not everything an artist makes is fabulous. It is the great works amongst the search for elusive perfection that speak to us and the artist will be remembered for.

    • joe90 4.1

      Hotere gallery here and the work Scintilla refers to here.

      • Scintilla 4.1.1

        Great links thanks Joe90! Can’t see the crate amongst them, it was an actual crate, not a painting.

        I saw the big installation that is shown in the Herald article, “Black Phoenix” and it just blew me away. Photo doesn’t carry the weight the real thing has. Some art just does that – has a presence that socks you right in the eyes. Like Pascal’s Bookie said above, they grab your attention and you can’t shake them off.

  4. fenderviper 5

    RIP Ralph.

    Thanks for all your wonderful work and the inspiration it provides.

  5. coolas 6

    I loved Ralph’s response to Paul Homes ‘cheeky darkie’ quip; White Drips. Brilliant response to racism and ignorance.

    Yep, sad he’s gone. RIP Ralph Hotere.

  6. Rogue Trooper 7

    Black : Rest Peacefully Icon

  7. ad 8

    Ten reasons why Hotere’s work is better than McCahon’s:

    1. Hotere’s covered all the same themes (Catholicism, regionalism), with the same international antecedents (Malevich, Rothko, Newman) but reconciled them with better materials (massive sculptural interruptions), bolder engagement with the politics of the world (eg Aramoana), but with a more generous engagement of his pesonal journey (eg Sangro series), without going nuts or taking himself into vainglorious nutsoid territory (eg McCahon drinking himself to death).

    2. Hotere’s has a sense of humour (eg making a whole series out of old windows, or a burnt out ship).

    3. Hotere’s was ineffable to the end; he so rarely every described even what the theme of the work was about, and so he let the work speak.

    4. Hotere was prepared to share generously in partnership with other artists eg Culbert. And did standout work in the process.

    5. Hotere turned his life into work and turned it into a community coalition (eg the destruction of the house at Port Chalmers for Port expansion), and made great art out of it.

    6. Hotere’s work faces death better than McCahon’s because it doesn’t revert to high extistentialist heroics. Death was Catholic equilibrium, not the absence of God or absence of life.

    7. Hotere remained a regionalist without getting sucked into McCahon’s nationalist essentialism.

    8. Hotere’s work has had more (and many) successful formal shifts.

    9. Hotere’s texts within the works were more often witty rather than dreary (eg the “I’m All Right Jack” stuff), and didn’t simply copy great tracks and presume that painted letters slowly dying in either light or visibility were enough.

    10. Hotere’s big catalogue raisonne has such a depth of illustrated and theoretical essays that have not yet been equalled about any artists in New Zealand, including McCahon. I would recommend the big Hotere book to anyone with the patience. This book alone shows the superior breadth, similar spiritual depths and spiritual languages, greater range of theme and materials, etc etc.

    For a really good example of Hotere, check out Godwit/Kuaka in the Auckland Art Gallery. It’s over 20 metres long, and I just love it. Absolutely love it.

    • Alistair 8.1

      Seeing the Smelter billboard at Aramoana ‘defaced’ with the red paint artfully drizzled down half of it it was my best memory of a painting of Hotere’s and powerful stuff. If the smelterists had any of the business nous they claimed they would have kept it. His studio looked straight out at the heads directly at the site, a beautiful view and breathtakingly awful to contemplate an industrial monstrosity there. That action could have been his work done in the most rage because it was deeply personal.

      re: McCahon vs Hotere..
      They were both superlative artists of and about of this country, the two best.

      “A Landscape With Too Few Lovers” resounds still. McCahon was a poet and his drawing hand in his painting is still compelling to me; likewise Hoteres beautiful casual and elegant textures he created in his colours, but Hotere was not ‘better’ than McCahon. A big difference is that Hotere had it easier during his time, the art world grown in the ascendant here and he was protected and left in peace whereas McCahon worked in a more primitive time and struggled against public criticism but produced the work. They both drank, Hotere outliving his drinking making him luckier than McCahon.

      In their work they are both great. Equally.

  8. ad 9

    …and the Black Window series is my favourite art series of all time, ever. So good choice there.

    • Rogue Trooper 9.1

      alas, I had intended to write “prefer Hotere to McCahon” , yet didn’t want to be disrespectful (thought was there you found)

      • ad 9.1.1

        I’m pretty sure that Hotere would want us, right now, to distinguish between saying goodbye to him as a man as a hman being, and evaluating his art. Both from the point of his basic self-effacing humility, and also that he himself made that insertion of the personal interpretation into his art so very rare.

        So I didn’t feel too bad propping up a pound-for-pound match in the World Series of Art.

  9. George D 10

    Haere atu ra Ralph.

    I can’t think of a time I stood in front of his work and wasn’t profoundly affected. New Zealand’s greatest artist, without doubt, and a man who added richly to our fabric.

  10. Please see the post that I wrote on Raplh Hotere at:


    • ad 11.1

      Oscar to Godwit/Kuaka for “Artwork Best Aspiring to the Condition of Music”.

      Ron why not challenge some somposers to come up with a complsition that does that?

      Anyone but Philip Glass would be great 😉

  11. aspasia 12

    Great to see Merata Mita’s film on Hotere screened on Maori TV tonight. Once again we see this channel carrying the load of a genuine public broadcaster! The film is a brilliant tribute to Hotere and his work.

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