All of us at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū were very saddened to hear of the death of Bill Hammond over the weekend. Bill’s contribution to the art of Aotearoa New Zealand was original and unforgettable and he occupied a special, beloved place within the arts communities of Christchurch and Lyttelton.
Bill's paintings are favourites for many of our visitors – works they return to over and over again. When the Gallery presented a major survey of his work, Jingle Jangle Morning, in 2007 and a smaller survey, Playing the Drums, in 2019, they were extremely popular with visitors from near and far. Bill’s wry sense of humour and generosity of spirit (once you got past that famous reserve) will be missed by many here at the Gallery. We had been working closely with him on a new publication, focused on his paintings from the past 15 years. It includes numerous tributes by artists to Bill and his painting and will be published in the middle of this year. After reading some early proofs of these texts, the Gallery’s director Blair Jackson commented: “Bill has that rare quality in an artist; he’s someone who is highly regarded by his peers, but whose works appeal to people from all walks of life.”
Related reading: Bill Hammond
19 January 2020
A selection of work by Aotearoa New Zealand's favourite painter/drummer
10 March 2013
An exciting opportunity to see new work by leading Canterbury artists Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond
22 October 2007
The long-awaited exhibition is a spectacular survey of more than two decades of work by one of New Zealand's leading contemporary painters.
The Edge of the Sea
A vision of New Zealand’s past from 1995:
Europeans first imagined New Zealand as “a garden and a pasture in which the best elements of British society might grow into an ideal nation”... When the smoke of the colonists’ fires cleared at the end of the 19th century, New Zealand had become a different country. Māori had lost their most precious life-support system. Only in the hilliest places did the forest still come down to the sea. Huge slices of the ancient ecosystem were missing, evicted and extinguished. Our histories, however, have had neither the sense of place nor ecological consciousness to explain what has happened.
Extinction has claimed nearly fifty per cent of Aotearoa New Zealand’s bird species over the past 650 years. The persistent myth has it that European settlement in the nineteenth century swept away a pristine past. And most obviously, because we know their names and can catalogue (literally) their infamy, that story includes the professional bird collectors as the cause of those extinctions.
Doctor Jazz Stomp and the Webb Lane Sound
“Bill Hammond is long, lithe and tired, and was born several years ago. Is currently pursuing a Fine Arts course and trying hard to catch up. He is deeply interested in the aesthetic implications of sleep, sports the Rat-Chewed Look in coiffures for ’68, and dreams about blind mice in bikinis. He has never been known to sing outside the confines of his bedroom. Shows a marked but languid preference for the subtle textural nuances and dynamic shadings of washboard, cowbell, woodblocks, claves, cymbal, spoons, thimbles, tambourine, and the palms of the hands in percussive contact.”
The Christchurch Art Gallery Foundation is honoured to assist the Gallery in acquiring Bill Hammond's Bone Yard Open Home for its permanent collection. But, we need your help!
An exhibition of recent work by Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond opens at our NG space on Madras street tomorrow. These artists have had limited opportunities to show their work since the quakes so this exhibition is well worth a visit if you have the time.
Here's a taster of some of their work.
A miscellany of observable illustrations
Romantic notions of gothic leanings, the legacy of Tony Fomison, devotion to rock sub-genres and an eye to the past are familiar and sound reasons to group Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond together in one exhibition, but De Lautour / Greig / Hammond is to feature new and recent work. Could all this change? What nuances will be developed or abandoned? Will rich veins be further mined? We can only speculate and accept that even the artists concerned can't answer these questions. For the artist, every work is a new endeavour, a new beginning. What may appear to the public, the critic or the art historian as a smooth, seamless flow of images is for them an unpredictable process where the only boundaries are those that they choose to invent.
There’s no big break. It’s just a slow game. —Bill Hammond, 2002
Bill Hammond: Playing the Drums (3 August 2019 – 19 January 2020)
Fourteen artists with connections to the Mainland are represented in an exhibition that explores the dark underbelly of the region's genteel appearance.
A major exhibition celebrating the breadth and diversity of Canterbury painting between 1990 and 2000.
Rock drummers and guitarists, classical musicians, DJs and flamboyant lead singers have made regular appearances in Bill’s work over the years. They are often accompanied by song titles and lyrics – The Tattooed Bride, The Look of Love, Love Will Tear Us Apart, Radio On, All Shook Up, Not Fade Away, Lose This Skin and You Make My Heart Sing. One of Bill’s early exhibitions at the Brooke Gifford Gallery in central Christchurch was titled Lines from Songs, in which he showed paintings that specifically referenced his favourite songs alongside set designs for The South Island (A Rock Opera) in four acts. The title for this painting, Radio On, is a lyric taken from one of the most iconic, upbeat rockin’ anthems of the 1970s by Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers. The chorus, simply “radio on”, is one that all can sing along to – and indeed in the painting the freakish characters doing a duet, with their volcano mouths and noses, are in full voice and raising the roof: And I say roadrunner once / Roadrunner twice / I’m in love with rock & roll and I’ll be out all night … I’m in love with the radio on. Bill Hammond: Playing the Drums (3 August 2019 – 19 January 2020)
For the exhibition Wunderbox (28 November 2008 - 15 February 2009), this work was displayed with the following label.
Bill Hammond led one of the most influential tendencies in New Zealand painting of the late 1990s – Post-colonial Gothic. Shag Pile is one of his many paintings inspired by nineteenth-century campaigns to catalogue New Zealand’s dwindling native species, in particular the efforts of Walter Lowry Buller. The contradictions of Buller’s character – a recorder and chronicler of birds who killed and stuffed many – have made him a figure of fascination not only for Hammond but also for sculptor Warren Viscoe and playwright Nick Drake. In Shag Pile, Buller’s campaign plays out like a bad dream projected on the patterned walls of a claustrophobic Victorian parlour, where New Zealand spotted shags are heaped, laid out for processing, and sealed under bell jars.
Turning a traditional depiction of the New Zealand landscape upside down, this vertical triptych presents a zigzagging arrangement of curtains that fall from the sky and splice the terrain, of mountainous divides that appear upon tables and strange creatures that morph and writhe.
Early works by Bill Hammond are awash with visual sampling, splicing and mixing – from popular culture and art history. Comic book narration, the oblique angles and frames of 1950s film noir and, notably, the multiple vanishing points found in the proto-surrealist paintings of Giorgio De Chirico (1888–1978), give structure to Hammond’s alternative cityscapes of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Hammond was born in Christchurch and studied at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts. For a period after leaving art school he designed and manufactured wooden toys. He held his first solo exhibition in 1976 and since then has exhibited regularly. His work is represented in private and public collections throughout New Zealand. Bill Hammond: Jingle Jangle Morning (20 July – 22 October 2007) is the most recent survey of Hammond’s work to date, organised by Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū.
Relief etching relating to the now extinct New Zealand eagle which has been a central theme in Hammond's work in recent years. Profile view of a human body with eagle head.
“It’s bird land. You feel like a time-traveller, as if you have just stumbled upon it – primeval forests, rātās like Walt Disney would make. It’s a beautiful place, but it’s also full of ghosts, shipwrecks, death…” —Bill Hammond Bill Hammond sailed to the remote Auckland Islands, south of Aotearoa New Zealand towards Antarctica, in 1989. Its landscape made a profound impression on him. Lined up on cliffs, staring out at the ocean, the birds of the Auckland Islands were unafraid of people, and Hammond imagined that Aotearoa looked very similar before human habitation. Different stories and timeframes and images collide in his canvasses as if in a dream, or as if fragments of consciousness were projected on to a screen. “I don’t have a tight brief”, he says. “I fumble around history, picking up bits and pieces.”
(Te Wheke, 2020)
Gertrude Demain Hammond was a prolific London illustrator who was also active in exhibiting her watercolours. A Reading from Plato was shown at the Royal Academy in London in 1903 before coming to Christchurch for the 1906–07 New Zealand International Exhibition. There it was purchased by the avid local art collector James Jamieson, who with his brother William, ran one of the city’s largest construction companies.
Following his death in 1927, James’s family presented many works of art from his collection to become part of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery’s founding collection, which at its opening in 1932 consisted of 160 paintings and sculptures.
(Treasury: A Generous Legacy 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
This work was displayed with this label to mark the artist's death in 2021:
All of us at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū were very saddened to hear of the death of Bill Hammond in late January, and our thoughts are with Bill’s family and friends. Bill’s contribution to the art of Aotearoa New Zealand was original and unforgettable, and he occupied a special, beloved place within the arts communities of Ōtautahi Christchurch and Whakaraupō Lyttelton.
Bill was raised in Christchurch and attended the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts in the late 1960s. In 1989, he joined a number of other New Zealand artists on an expedition to the sub-Antarctic and the Auckland Islands. This trip had a profound effect on the artist; it was from this point that his highly regarded bird paintings emerged in his practice.
Bill’s paintings are favourites for many of our visitors – works they return to over and over again. His wry sense of humour and generosity of spirit (once you got past that famous reserve) will be missed by many here at the Gallery. Recently, we had been working closely with Bill on a new publication focussed on his paintings from the past 15 years, which includes numerous tributes by artists to Bill and his work. Bill had that rare quality in an artist – someone who is highly regarded by his peers, and whose works appeal to people from all walks of life. We were honoured to have the opportunity to work with him this one last time.
Bill will be missed. We mark his passing with the deepest of respect.
This print appears as 'Edward Hammond Hargraves. The discoverer of gold in Australia.' on page 740 of the 'Picturesque Atlas of Australasia.'