Hotere hailed for pioneering works

3:28 pm on 25 February 2013

Art enthusiasts and academics are hailing the pioneering work of the late Ralph Hotere.

The renowned artist died on Sunday. He had been in poor health since a stroke in 2001 and died in Dunedin at the age of 81.

He was appointed to the Order of New Zealand in 2012.

Hotere's career spanned more than five decades, gaining recognition in major collections both here and overseas.

Eastern Southland Gallery curator Jim Geddes says Hotere created abstract paintings and sculptures of a kind never before seen in New Zealand.

Geddes says Hotere's deep understanding of traditional Maori art provided an essence other contemporary artists didn't have.

He was in England during a time when amazing things were happening in the global art scene and was able to bring that back to New Zealand and incorporate it into his works.

His subject matter was varied, ranging from collaborations with poets, to his views on Middle East politics and experiences of personal grief.

Art critic Hamish Keith told Morning Report that Hotere helped New Zealand art find its voice.

He says Hotere bridged the two rivers of New Zealand culture - Maori and Pakeha - and along with Colin McCahon helped give New Zealand art its own voice.

Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki of Auckland University's Elam School of Fine Arts, says Hotere will be remembered as one of the immortals of the New Zealand art world.

He says Hotere's ability to surprise, and the beauty of his artworks, have kept his work current over a career spanning five decades.

Prime Minister John Key and Governor-General, Lieutenant General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, have both expressed their condolences.

Sir Jerry says Hotere was a man of great mana.

St Joseph's Cathedral in Dunedin says a tribute service will be held on either Wednesday or Thursday, with details still to be confirmed.