Jingle Jangle Morning | Bill Hammond, 2007
Passover, 1989. Acrylic and varnish on aluminum, 1200 x 613mm. Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery – Toi o Tamaki.
Shallow Graves, Enderby Island, 1990. Acrylic on aluminum, 550 x 620mm. Private Collection.
Buller’s Table Cloth, 1994. Acrylic on canvas, 1682 x 1675mm. Collection of Auckland Art Gallery – Toi o Tamaki.
Camoflage, 1997. Enamel on hinged panels, dimensions variable. Collection of Peter and Ann Webb.
Zoomorphic Detail, 1998. Acrylic on canvas. Private collection.
Unknown European Artist, 2004. Acrylic on canvas, 2000 x 1200mm. The Stevenson Collection.
Ancient Pitch, 2007. Acrylic on canvas, 1200 x 1800mm. Private Collection, Wellington.
Bill Hammond occupies a unique place in New Zealand art history; he has established a visual language and a painterly technique that are wholly his own. The enormous breadth of material found in his work reveals an artist who is constantly working, always thinking about the next painting and the next direction. His paintings change in mood throughout his career, from the frenetic works of the 1980’s, to the cynical expose of human exploitation of native flora and fauna, the rock surrealism of the 1990’s, and to his later works which increasingly explore mythical realms and reveal a disciplined richness and poetic depth.
A distinctive pictorial language has unfolded over thirty years of practice, tapping into elements of the decorative arts, popular culture, New Zealand history, symbolism, surrealism, Renaissance art and, notably, Ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock printing) and paintings by the fifteenth-century artists Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It is his interpretation of their significance for his own means, that makes his art so spellbinding.
Hammond’s acute eye for the macabre and the beautiful conflate in his celebrated Buller series of painting. It is these, his signature bird creatures, watching, waiting and poised amid emerald forests, that have led to Hammond often being thought of as the artist of luxurious and intense bird paintings that decorate expensive interiors. Birds feature in creation myths, stories and parables across all cultures, and it is through their depiction that Hammond is able to deliver an analysis of humanity, or in the case of the Buller series, humanity lost. Over more than two decades a nation of – and other shape-shifting creatures – has populated Hammond’s canvas realm. From the maligned birds of the Buller series, to the ominous flock that occupies his zoomorphic paintings of the late 1990’s, the birds rise above us through a world of limbo where, regal and godlike, they remain uncomfortably watchful.
From early beginnings as an art student in Christchurch, Hammond has consistently displayed an oblique wit. His observations of the world around him, and the ever-present influence of music and popular culture, are a constant beat in his practice. Pop, rock, classical, jazz and punk music not only provide endless emotional scenarios but also a way of approaching the act of painting. The ritual of performance in theatre, dance or music, playing the drums or mixing on a sound desk, materialize into staccato paintings. As a practicing musician himself, Hammond’s compositions are, as he once said like an instrumental ‘laid out flat’, replete with choruses and rhythms.
It is well known that Hammond ‘doesn’t do interviews’, that he is a private person who refuses to talk about his work. This presents quite a challenge for any curator or historian charged with the task of unravelling the many threads of his practice, yet it also confronts anyone who approaches his paintings. And this is exactly what he wants: for people just to look, to bring to the paintings their own reflections and to be open to receiving an extraordinary visual experience that has the ability to transport them to other worlds.
– Jennifer Hay
Bill Hammond | Jingle Jangle Morning
Jennifer Hay : Lawrence Aberhart : Chris Knox : Ron Brownson
Christchurch Art Gallery – Te Puna o Waiwhetu