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FINE AIITS

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SHANE COTTON
Apublication produced to coincide with
the exhibition following the artist's tenure as
1998 Frances Hodgkins Fellow at the
University of Otago, Dunedin.
Edited by linda Tyler.
Published by the Hocken Library
Urtiversi ty of Otago
POBox 56
Dunedin
New Zealand
with publication funding assistance from
Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa.
MNUive
'n.Z
The Frances Hodgkins Fellowship is supported by
The Community Trust of Otago
THE COMMUNITYTRUST
OF OTAGO
ISBN: 0-902041-72-X
1998 The authors and the Hocken Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication
may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or
transmitted in any form or by other means,
electrortic, mechartical, photocopying, recording,
without permission in writing from the publisher.
infringers of copyright render themselves
liable to prosecution.
Published on the occasion of the exhibition
"Shane Cotton" at the Hocken library,
Urtiversity of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand,
13 March-4 April1999.
Shane Cotton's Fellowship was funded by
Creative New Zealand and the Frances Hodgkins
Fellowship Trust at the University of Otago.
Jnlversiry ot Auckland library
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Contents
Foreword
Professor Les Williams
Introduction
Jonathan Mane-Wheoki
I:I
1 Haere Mai ki Taiamai: Coming Home to Taiamai
Dr.Deidre Brown
I:II
1 'I Paintings
I:III
311 Making History: the Paintings of Shane Cotton
William McAloon
I:IV
't3 Biographical Chronology
Further Reading
List ofWorks
IN 19 6 2, the legal firm of Brasch,
Thompson and Miller approached
the University of Otago on behalf of
an anonymous group of individuals
from the artistic and business com-
munity of Dunedin. Their proposal
was to establish an annual fellowship
for an artist to work full-
foreseeable future . This collection
is founded on work gifted by former
fellows and it will grow yearly
with a further gift from each fellow.
The collection remains owned by
the University where it will be based
with the intention that it be toured
time for a year in a studio
on campus. The purpose
of the fellowship was to
aid and encourage the artist
in their work, to associate
them with the life of the
University, and to foster an
interest in the arts within
Foreword:
and that individual pieces
continue to be made
available for exhibition.
The Frances
Hodgkins
Fellowship at
the University
of Otago
The original purpose
of providing artists with
time, space and the
freedom to develop has
remained central to the
fellowship; and my corre-
the University and the community.
Emphasis was on giving the emerg-
ing artist an opportunity to develop
their work. The original fund
donated .by this group was some
1600 pounds sterling.
Investments were successful and
the first Frances Hodgkins Fellow-
ship was awarded to Michael
Illingworth in 1966. Despite fin-
ancial difficulties, particularly over
the past decade, the University,
the wider community and several
agencies and trusts have continued
to support the original vision so
that a fellow has been appointed
every year.
A notable example of such
support is Creative New Zealand's
generous sponsorship of the 1998
fellowship as well as its support
for Shane Cotton as a leading
contemporary Maori artist.
More recently, the generosity of
the Community Trust of Otago in
donating $300,000 to the fellow-
ship fund in recognition of the
University's establishment of the
new Frances Hodgkins Fellowship
Collection has provided financial
security for the fellowship for the
spondence and contact with fellows
has confirmed the wonderful success
of the journey begun in 1962. The
heartfelt warmth expressed by for-
mer fellows for the contribution
of the fellowship to their personal
visions and careers confirms the
realisation that so much good comes
from the Frances Hodgkins Fellow-
ship. This good can be written about,
talked about, and above all it can be
seen i ~ the work produced by these
talented artists. As we look back, the
contribution to forging the direction
of contemporary art in New Zealand
and to achieving international recog-
nition is a legacy to celebrate.
The success of Shane Cotton's
year has epitomised both what the
fellow and the fellowship stand for.
He has used the time and resources
to study, reflect and think deeply
about his work, its directions and
meanings. Moreover, the emergent
visions and themes shown by his
present body of work may be seen as
an integral link between the past
and the future. In short, he has car-
ried on the Frances Hodgkins Fellow
tradition and like all fellows has
added a special impact.
Professor Les Williams is Dean of
the Department of Physical Education at the
University of Otago, and has been Convener
of the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship Selection
Committee since 1991.
WHEN Shane Cotton was inter-
viewed on Concert FM's Arts Week
programme, "The rise and rise of
young Maori artists, the young
guns" broadcast on 30 September
1995, two Pakeha were sufficiently
riled by his responses to fire off
envy Cotton's relatively early rec-
ognition. Yet from the time the
twenty-one year old enrolled in
the University of Canterbury School
of Fine Arts in 19 8 5, he seemed
marked for success. A brilliant
student in painting and drawing,
Cotton was one of a group letters of indignation to
the Listener. Both poured
scorn on Cotton's guarded
attempts to define himself
as an artist in terms of his
Kai te
tiaho he
whetu
of students taught by the
English painter Riduan
Tomkins who have gone
on to achieve prominence
nationally and interna-
tionally. His art school
Maori identity, and ques-
tioned its relevance to the
business of making art.
"To flog the racist card,"
i runga:
A star shines
above
the painter Alan Pearson thundered,
"smacks of elitism and a desire for
protection from insecurity." T. P.
Garrity likened "Cotton and his col-
leagues" to "the type of baselessly
opinionated bureaucrats of post-
modern life" portrayed in]. R. Saul's
Voltaire's Bastards: "All the signs are
there: the arrogance, the absence of
any values or ethos to speak of,
the empty, pretentious rhetoric and
the flat, passionless contradict-me-
if-you -dare tone of the fledgling
academic." This spiteful outburst is
almost impossible to reconcile either
with the writer-the distinguished
Curator of Pictures at the Hocken
Library at the time-or with the
rather diffident, thoughtful and
mild-mannered subject of the radio
interview, not to mention the haunt-
ingly poetic work for which he
had already become well known.
Cotton was to receive the accolade
of the University of Otago's Frances
Hodgkins Fellowship just over two
years later.
Generally speaking, it is under-
standable if artists whose reputa-
tions are hard won, and deserved,
over a long struggle begrudge or
contemporaries include
Seraphine Pick (his sue-
cess or in 19 9 9 as Frances Hodgkins
Fellow) and Peter Robinson (whose
phenomenal career runs in tandem
with Cotton's.) He carried off the
major university prizes and scholar-
ships in Fine Arts, and in the year of
his graduation, 19 8 9, he landed the
Wilkins and Davies "Young Artist of
the Year" award.
In September 1992, Cotton was
appointed to a lectureship in Maori
Visual Arts at Massey University. At
Massey, new and largely unantici-
pated directions began to open up in
Cotton's work. In Palmerston North,
the visceral, biological, specimen
aspect of his Christchurch paintings
gave way to interrogations of New
Zealand's political and cultural histo-
ries expressed through the kind of
pictorial imagery reproduced in, for
example, Alan Taylor's Maori Folk Art,
published in 1988. He quoted and
adapted, respectfully, from the naive
and naturalistic imagery painted in
the late nineteenth-century whare
of Aotearoa's colonised indigenous
people, juxtaposing, recontextualis-
ing and reframing his sources in
what might be termed "post-colo-
nial" discourse. To these pictorial
investigations he applied his formi -
dable draughting and painting skills.
From this point his high profile
as a contemporary Maori artist began
to develop. Though the label sits
somewhat uneasily on him as it
does on Peter Robinson, he is never-
theless, like Robinson, the Maori
artist that the Pakeha art establish-
ment- Pearson and Garrity's views
notwithstanding-clearly wants him
to be. To Maori and Pakeha alike,
however, Cotton's paintings are
visually appealing, intellectually
intriguing, and beautifully crafted,
and his rich iconography is, to some
extent at least, accessible through the
v ~ u s points of entry he provides.
The sheer approachability of his art
has always cheered the punters.
And his talent ~ from the
outset, impressed art writ s. SUJ?-
ming up the year's art in 19 9 5, for
example, the Listener's art critic, Justin
Paton, declared: "Among our art
starlets, Shane Cotton blitzed every-
one in his age group." N-ineteen
eighty-nine's "Artist of the Year"
has, in the 'nineties, become one of
the artists of the decade: the starlet
is a star.
Jonathan Mane-Wheoki is Senior Lecturer in
Art History at the University of Canterbury,
and Kaitiaki Maori at the Robert McDougall
Art Gallery in Christchurch.
Heke I, 1998
1 .,.
j.
REAE l'lRI Kl
[Of'llnli HOMED EID a. E a. a.
0
w n ~ ~ M K ~ u ~
TO TRIRPIRI n c n PRIIEIIR
TRIRI'lRI
TRlRI'lRI
Taiamai is the ancient name
of the central Taitokerau
(Northland) region that is
Sl;lane Cotton's turangawaewae (ancestral
home) . It was named after a large white
bird, whose connection to the area is
remembered in Ngapuhi ancestral korero
(narratives) and many of Cotton's more
recent works. An understanding of the
Taiamai legend not only unlocks some of
the meanings of Cotton's paintings, but can
also be used to appreciate his work as a
whole, as a journey of discovery from a dis-
tant place to an ancestral home, symbolised
by the decorated Maori meeting house. The
works are not only postcards of significant
places reached along the way, but also
representations of Cotton's own changing
world view.
One story about Taiamai recounts how
the bird suddenly arrived in the area, and
began to drink from a water-filled hollow
in a rock, near the modern-day town of
Ohaeawai. Kaitara, who was the local ran-
gatira (chief), told his people that the bird
had come from Hawaiki, their ancestral
homeland. He said that the bird had been
delivered to them by the winds ofTangaroa
(god of the sea), and for that reason it
should be known as 'Taiamai', meaning
'towards us from the sea'. Although, accord-
ing to Kaitara, the bird would belong to
the tribe, it was also tapu (sacred, prohib-
ited) and should not be approached. The
continued reappearance of Taiamai at the
rock, in the domain of Kaitara, enhanced
the mana (prestige, status) of the place and,
by extension, its people. Some time later,
a jealous rangatira, from a nearby tribe,
attempted to capture Taiamai. However, the
bird escaped by melting into the rock. Taia-
mai never reappeared. The wairua (spirit)
of the guilt stricken rangatira eventually
joined the bird, in the rock, after his death.
Kaitara named the rock 'Te tino-o-Taia-
mai', which was an abbreviation of the
phrase 'Ko te tina o Taiamai tenei kamaka',
or 'this stone is the precise spot ofTaiamai'.
In time, the name 'Taiamai' was applied to
the region around the rock. The name is also
mentioned in the famous Ngapuhi tribal
whakatauki (proverbial saying), 'Ka kata
nga puriri o Taiamai', or 'The puriri trees
of Taiamai are laughing' . This whakatauki
probably describes the sound of the burn-
ing trees that were left by Ngapuhi when
they forced the former occupiers off the
land that became known as Taiamai. In the
context of this saying, 'Taiamai' is both a
victorious Ngapuhi statement and a lament,
uttered by the evicted, who are named as
the Ngati Pou tribe in some narratives , and
Ngati Miru in others. The whakatauki: is
recalled through the text used in many of
Cotton's paintings, including Kenehi III
(1998) and Lying in the Black Land (1998) .
TE HREAEnliR
JDUAnEY [ 1'1'10 - '11]
It could be argued that,
over time, Cotton's work
has shown a progression
from the amorphous to the specific. This
progression is like a journey, from a distant
location to Taiamai. The initial pictorial
indistinctness indicates an awareness, but
not a clear view, of the final destination.
As the journey progresses, and we move
towards the most recent 1998 works, the
goal becomes increasingly apparent.
The segmented biological shapes of
Cotton's 1990 'New Works' offered the
potential of something about to assume a
complete form. Cellular, skeletal building
structures were painted evenly around the
canvases as representations of the body and
shelter. According to Cotton, 'Each work
depicts numerous forms and objects that
have been assembled and dismantled, muti-
-------------
lated, disfigured, and
partially hidden'. The canvases looked like
diagrams, but they could also have been
interrreted as Petri dishes, using artificial
means to control natural elements.
By categorising natural images, Cotton
was also raising the issue of biological
classification as a way of controlling people,
l D
especially indigenous peoples. Some forms,
like those in Shields ( 1 9 9 0) were made to
appear more prominent, so that they domi-
nated other washed-out forms in a colonial
game of 'survival of the fittest'. The bio-
morphic images were painted on a misty
background, which Cotton cleared, in his
later canvases, to reveal his new outlooks.
By 1995, Cotton was using a vocabulary
landscape
images, Hongi Hika's writing practice,
hakari feasting stages, popular culture, and
Ringatu figurative painting. Compared to
the earlier biomorphic works, these paint-
ings raised specific political issues, such
as the loss of power and division of re-
sources suffered by many Maori since the
mid-nineteenth century. Counter-colonial
Maori responses to these challenges were
illustrated ' through Cotton's employment
of Maori figurative painting techniques, - '\Q__sp c>l\ '-''-
originally developed by the founder of
the Ringatu Church, Te Kooti Arikirangi
TeTuruki.
Maori figurative painting offers an
insight into the Maori world which does
not necessarily require an understanding of
tribal abstract art conventions. Its acces-
sibility further clarified the journey on
which Cotton was embarking. Figurative
paintings were first used in place of cus-
tomary cap ings and abstract
(scrp lD P'ai:ntings ontlle structural frame-
work of Ringatu churches and meeting
houses. These older arts were time consum-
ing in their production and could only be
understood by viewers who were familiar
with tribal artistic conventions and korero.
Figurative painting, which was comparatively
easy to produce, transcended tribal bound-
aries and contained easily recognisable
naturalistic content that better . suited
the needs of the multi-tribal followers of
the Ringatu Church. The polychromatic

paintings depicted the relfgiO-jJolitical
iconography of the Church, including
plants and celestial symbols, as well as ani-
mals, portraits, and scenes from daily life.
Over the past six years , Cotton has been
particularly interested in re-interpreting the
Ringatu figurative plant paintings of the
Rongopai meeting house, built at Waituhi,
near Gisborne, in 1886. Native and intro-
duced flowers and trees appeared in their
natural state or in pots along Rongopai's
side walls. While the plants themselves are
thought to repre sent the mana and bounty
of Maori land, their containment in pots
symbolises the division and control of the
land through legislation and surveying. The
Ringatu-derived potted plant has made an
appearance in a number of Cotton's paint-
ings, such as Whakapiri atu te Whenua ( 199 3),
Tekau mii ono (1994), Diamond Line (1995),
Viewed (1997), and Ko te Rakau a Taiiimai
( 19 9 7) . These works draw on the korero
associated with the Rongopai plant paint-
ings, particularly that which talks about the
confiscation, division, and containment of
-------- , ------
Maori land by the government . Cotton has
added more specific meanings to_his potted
plant paintings by stating that they also
the. individualisation of Maori
land title under the 18 6 5 'Native Lands Act'
which attempted to destroy the communal
basis of Maori life.
It is tempting to read the layered and
compartmentalised areas of some
11
earlier paintings as architectural lans, ele-
and sections, although the artist has
not alwa s intended the works to be viewed
in this way. In paintings,
(1997), layers were created by illustrating
the repeating horizontal branches of a plant
growing from the bottom of the canvas.
However, only the layers remained in later
works, like Middle North (1997) where the
plant stem was implied by a 'manawa', or
vertical line, through the middle of the
canvas. On occasion, the layers have been
represented by rows of landscapes and
letters, which form Maori words or poetry
-::--.1-
1 ; r-' D
--- fc._i' PF r
by Cotton.
Cotton's destination is Taiamai,
or more specifically, his paternal
wharenui (meeting house) at
TE TREnliR
Rft ft i URL [1 99 B]
Ngawha, in the Taiamai region. His reinter-
pretation of.the house, and the landscape,
religions, and personalities that enhance
its tribal significance, are important features
in his 1998 paintings. The works allude to
a legacy of tribal, and pan-tribal, stories
and symbols which Cotton has inherited
and reconstituted in order to make them
relevant to his contemporary situation.
For instance, there is the story of how
the Taiamai people, along with other Maori
in Taitokerau, lost their regional art styles. f
Cotton is one of many artists, with connec-
tions to the region, creating a new lexicon
of symbols. His Ngawha meeting house,
like most other wharenui in Taitokerau,
does not feature the carvings, kowhaiwhai
paintings, or tukutuku (lattice) wall panels,
which are a common feature of Maori
buildings in other parts of the North Island.
These arts were abandoned by early nine-
teenth century Taitokerau artists for at
least two reasons. Firstly, local missionaries
discouraged their congregations from pro-
ducing art which de12icted ancestral or

Maori spiritual themes. The missionaries
had wrongly assumed that Maori were 'wor-
shipping' these images in a way that would
interfere with their ability to accept Chris-
tianity. Secondly. many Maori artists from
-Taitokerau were killed while taking part in
the Musket Wars between 1818 and 1824.
There have been many attempts to revive
Taitokerau's artistic heritage, culminating in
the current resurgence of
interest, in which Cotton
is a participant. Pilot pro-
jects, undertaken by the
School of Maori Arts and
Crafts in the 19 3 Os and by
the Ratana Church in the
1940s, largely failed to
create a sustainable inter-
est in customary Maori
moved towards the integration of local
Maori forms with Western-inspired artistic
concepts. His art is part of Taitokerau's
cultural renaissance.
Cotton's 1998 works are another contri-
bution to Taitokerau's tribal artistic trad-
itions, since they provide a new lexicon of
symbols which are used to recreate his
wharenui outside ofTaiamai. The paintings
are his response to the undecorated house.
He has developed new symbols from older
Maori kowhaiwhai and carving motifs.
Biblical and Christian references are some-
times used in conjunction with these
older symbols !0 clarify
their purpose
colonial sigp.s. The text
which Cot-
ton used in his earlier
works, are still present,
but the plant
imagery that was also
seen in previous canvases
has been replaced by
arts . However, initiatives
which emerged during
Te Manu o te Rangi, 1998
another form of Oj-ke-\<-1 0 4"
reminiscent of meeting
the 1950s and 1960s, such as the Maori
Women's Welfare League's weaving revival
and the Education Department's Maori Art
Advisory Service, have left a more lasting
impression on Taitokerau's Maori art scene.
Cotton belongs to a whakapapa (genealogy)
of Western-trained Taitokerau artists, in-
cluding Selwyn Muru, who from
the Art Advisory Service, and KuraTe Waru
Rewiri, a traditionally trained weaver and
Canterbury University painting graduate,
amongst others. Like Muru and Rewiri,
Cotton's art has gradually, but purposefully,
12
house rafters.
Pitau and pitau-a-manaia forms of
kowhaiwhai painting have almost com-
pletely taken the place of Ringatii.-style
figurative painting in Cotton's 199 8 works.
In k6whoiwhoi pointing, obmoc< R"'""' J
are .mijde -from combinations, repetitions,
reflections, and rotations of the 'pitau' (also
known as 'koru') motif, which takes the
form of a bulb at one end of a curving stalk.
The negative and positive spaces formed by p
0
.S
1
different-coloured kora add further com-
plexity to the which was ofren- IJ'

J t\<',J ,
j\c.. -no v
'
/
I , :;,{'A .
]'(\ \ r-... !\[\ a.JV
repeated down, and reflected across, heke J based on Illustrations of the original paint-
(house rafters). Single pi tau images, which mgs, rather than the origmal paintmgs
have been stretched and modernised Gor- themselves. The colour pictures of Rang-
don Walters-style, appear in Heke I, Heke II, opai's interior, which were the inspiration
Kenehi III, and Lying in the Black Land. Kowhai- for the artist's earlier potted plant works,
whai patterns represent whakapapa, and I W were sourced from Roger Neich's
in meeting houses the the
0
e..__ Histories (1993) . The car and ship, seen
descent lines of the user group. Similarly, 1'1 in Lying in the Black Land, were also based

the use of pitau patterns in the stacked Heke on pictures of the Ruaihona meeting
paintings suggests that a whakapapa-style house's figurative paintings from Neich's
sequence of ideas is being recited. - ::,E.. Qu_c:.. N C...E. book, while the kowhaiwhai patterns
- After using earth tones in I= used in Kenehi III were first published in
A
t"
earlier paintings, Cotton has increased the Augustus Hamilton's Miiori Art (1896-190 1 ).
amount of primary red, white and black- Cotton's decision to reinterpret published
the three most popular images does not neces-
kowhaiwhai colours- sarily imply that he is
on the 1998 canvases.
The three colours recall
he separation of the
rimeval parents, Rangi-
(the sky father)
and (the
earth mother). Their
close marital embrace
prevented light entering
the world, w:tJ.ich c<!_used
blackness. When their dissatisfied offspring
began to push them apart, sinews and.flesh
were torn, staining the air and covering
surfaces with red blood. Once the couple
had been successfully separated, white light
flooded between them to illuminate the
world. By adding the three kowhaiwhai
colours to his work, Cotton is acknowledg-
ing the mythological beginnings of the
...
Maori world and, by extension, the customs
of formal narration.
Many of the kowhaiwhai and figurative
painted images that Cotton employs ar.e
Hopa, 1998
divorcing his paintings
from their Maori origins.
He only relies on sec-
ondary drawings and
photographs when he
draws concepts from
tribal areas other than
his own. Otherwise, he
paints from his personal
experiences of Taiamai's
korero and landscape.
Two types of complex kowhaiwhai
patterns, kape rua and pitau-a-manaia,
are present in Cotton's most recent works.
Kape rua ('two eyebrows'-two crescents
with circular indents on their convex side)
appears in the Hopa, He mahinga hou, Kenehi
III, and Heke I paintings, with the negative
white spaces of the pattern suggesting
the passage of light, enlightenment, and
explanation into the world. The use of
this pattern confirms the function of the
paintings as a representation of korero's
.fv'-
/
j-

( ,n,.ory illd enligh,ening function.
Cotton was attracted to the pitau-a-man-
aia pattern's Christian Maori origins, which
parallels his own family history. This pattern
was invented by the Rongowhakaata tribal
craftsmen who worked on the Manutuke
Anglican church project, near Gisborne,
between 1849 and the early 1860s. Their
local missionary, the Archdeacon William
Williams, had banned the carvers from
using the frontal humanoid 'tiki' figure
in the church's carved and painted decora-
tions because he thought that the}' were
fa1seidols. In order t;include illustrations
----------
of their ancestors in the
church, without inciting
the anger of Williams,
the craftsmen painted
the limbs and bodies
of ' manaia' , which were
profile tiki, in complex
kowhaiwhai patterned
configurations on some
of the wooden detailing.
1998 work. Text has been present in Maori
building decoration since the early 1840s,
when the Rongowhakaata carvers labelled
all their ancestors in theTe Hau-ki-Turanga
meeting house. This tradition is continued
in Cotton's paintings. Text is presented in
conjunction with God and the Devil, in the
form of horned and pore (dehorned) tiki
heads, and Taiamai the bird, sometimes
represented by a sinuously-bodied character
which has manaia and tiki heads at each
of its ends. By depicting Taiamai in this
way, Cotton could be suggesting that the
bird is a divine figure in the Christian and
Maori worlds.
Te Manu o te Rangi and
Heke I show God as a dis-
embodied tiki floating
above the landscape with
a phrase that could be
translated as either ' the
chief is shining down
from the sky' or 'the Lord
is shining down from
the heavens'. Cotton, in G The complexity of the
.,) He mahinga hou, 1998
' , patterns effectively dis- this instance, has recast
the tiki as a divine being, with both \\\?t that Williams
,1 ' thought that only non-figurative forms
j'.X were being displayed. The Taiamai region
If\>;\ similarly attracted Church of England mis-
()\.1'"' '(\
/\,'0 "r 9--


sionaries, and there are Anglican ministers
in Cotton's whanau (extended family) .
r
Pitau-a-manaia, and the korero associated
with its origins, appeals to Cotton, who has ,
used the pattern to illustrate the influence of 1
I
Christianity on his whanau and Maori art .
, Indeed, biblical passages and Christian-
fAV,rJoJ- ( _inspired sayings, all written in the Maori
, /o...'f\. \ language, are recurring themes in Cotton's
u -
(
\
Christian and Maori characteristics. This is a
subtle shift from the use of tiki figures, in
Maori carving and painting, to depict ances-
tors, and a necessary development away
from the secularisation of tiki by the tourist
market, as parodied in Dick Frizzell's 1992
'Tiki' series. However, in Te Manu o te Rangi
and Heke II, Cotton has created a new version
of the tiki, shown as a horned and red figure
respectively, to represent the Devil. Pure
good and evil, in the Christian sense, were
unknown concepts in pre-Christian Maori
61tfl-:1SIIAN
[&I ( lA L M !CAL
1
,.--?')
I
spirituality and, as a consequence, Maori
art. Therefore, Cotton's portrayal of God and
the Devil as tiki figures provides a custom-
ary motif with an important new role.
Hopa, Lying in the Black Land, Kenehi III, and
Heke I all make reference to a passage from
Hopa (Job) 29:18 which reads, 'I shall die
in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as
the sand' . Hopa, like Taiamai, had found a
safe place to 'nest', from which only death
could remove him. In a desire to achieve
immortality both characters longed for as
many days as there were grains of sand on
a beach. In Hopa, this craving for longevity
is shown by a landscape,
which is a beachscape,
and the figure ofTaiamai
as the nesting bird.
mahinga hou, which is repeated as text on the
canvas, is a reference to the second phrase 2
Koriniti (Corinthians) 5:7, which in English
reads, 'Therefore if any man be in Christ,
he is a new creature, old things pass away;
behold all things are become new'. In He
mahinga hou, as well as Kenehi III, Heke I, and
Heke II, Taiamai has assumed a new form,
made up of old forms , in accordance with
the region being spiritually reborn.
Another biblical concept which has been
appropriated into Ratana Church icon-
ography, and has been reinterpreted by
Cotton, is the theme of 'beginning' and
Cotton uses Taiamai,
as a beaked head, a
double-headed figure,
and as a word in text, to
express group authority.
This meaning not only
originates from Maori
interpretations of the
Koroniti IV, 1998
'end'. In the Bible, God
described himself in
these terms, their Maori
language equivalents ap-
pearing on Te Manu o te
Rangi and Heke II. The
Ratana Church, founded
in 1 81 8, adopted the
terms 'Arepa' (Alpha) and
'Omeka' (Omega) to
represent their spiritual
beginning and end, label-
korero and whakatauki which repeat Taia-
mai's name. In He mahinga hou, Te Manu o te
Rangi, and Kenehi III, the figure ofTaiamai has
been depicted to resemble other culturally
powerful concepts . such as the phoenix
rising, patriotic avian symbolism, and the
iconography of gangpatches.
Cotton's portrayal ofTaiamai as a com-
posite creature, made from a sinuous
'North-western' regional style body, with a
square 'Central and Eastern' regional style
tiki head at one end, and a manaia head at
the other, has a biblical basis. The title of He
ling their buildings with both terms to
emphasise the concept. Cotton takes this
idea one step further by also using 'A' and
<:c, V1 . /\\3:, L ),
'0', 'Q', 'X', to .._;
1
r
end in many of his reCent paintings. In
some instances a 'oo', the infinity sign, is
painted in conjunction with these terms
and symbols, suggesting 1 /
mortal lives are when they are compared
t o universal time. - ; r{"loc) .L
In keeping with principles related to
Maori oratory, Cotton has illustrated
kupu whakari (Maori proverbs, predictive
15
r
;f
J
words), in combination with text, to draw
attention to contemporary situations. The
kupu whakari which translates as 'who
will right the upturned waka (Maori war
canoe)' was often quoted by late nineteenth
and early twentieth century Maori ponder-
ing on who would reverse their declining

social fortunes . In Heke I, Heke II, and Lying
and upturned waka
recall this kupu whakari, and text some-
times offers reasons for, and solutions to,
the problem. The body of an inverted
waka in Heke I is emblazoned with a quote
Following meeting house precedent, at
least one illustrious local ancestor is present
in the 'house' that Cotton is decorating.
Papahurihia, as the text on the painting
indicates, was 'he rangatira nui' ('a great
leader') in Taitokerau during the 18 3 Os.
The disembodied tiki at the top of the
painting indicates his chiefly status.
Papahurihia combined missionary teaching
with earlier Maori spiritual beliefs in an
attempt to explain how Maori could survive
and progress in the colonial world that
was being thrust upon them. A landscape
from Hoani (John)
6:19 which, in the
Bible, reads, 'they see
Jesus walking on the
sea and drawing nigh
unto the ship: and
they were afraid'. The
painting is purpose-
fully ambiguous in its
intent. Is Christianity
to blame for the over-
turning of the waka?
Papahurihia, 19 9 8
view at the bottom of
the painting, which is
juxtaposed to script,
illustrates how Pakeha
knowledge could com-
plement Maori concepts.
Papahurihia's doctrine
was religio-political,
since spiritual and
secular matters were,
and still are, insepara-
ble in the Maori world
view He was the or, is Jesus the saviour
who upright the craft and rescue its
occupants, nga iwi Maori?
For his new catalogue of symbols,
Cotton has revived some old Taitokerau
decorative styles. As mentioned earlier,
the sinuous bodies of his Taiamai figures
are executed in the North-western style
of the region. Similarly, the origin of the
puhoro pattern, seen in Heke I, has been
attributed to the Taitokerau region, where
it was being used as a facial moko (Maori
tattoo) pattern at the time of Captain James
Cook's 17 69 visit.
16
Northland equivalent ofTaranaki's Te Whiti-
o-Rongomai, and Maungapohatu's Rua
Kenana, which opens the possibility of
McCahonesque readings of Cotton's work.
But above this level of meaning, the
painting is primarily a homage to one of
Taitokerau's formative historic leaders,
whose life undoubtedly had an impact on
the outlook of the artist's whanau.
Compared to earlier layered works, a
more certain architectural quality is appar-
ent in Heke I and Heke II. 'Heke' is the Maori
word for 'house rafters', and Cotton has
I
\
arranged these decorated members on
either side of a tahuhu (ridgepole) which
divides each canvas in half Heke I and
Heke II each show twelve pairs of stacked
images, with figures and text relating to
God assuming the highest position. The
number of stacked pairs is significant,
since the Maori cosmos, according to some
narrators, is divided into twelve parts,
and also because twelve is an important
number in biblical numerology. Of the
two paintings, Heke I makes the most ex-
plicit references to Cotton's tiirangawaewae.
The whakapapa phrase
'Ko Maungatiiroto te
Maunga' ('Maungatiiroto
is the mountain') firmly
locates the work in
Cotton's own family
genealogy, as do Maori
language references to
his subtribe, Ngati
Rangi, their marae, and
the places and land-
scape of the Taiamai
region. The influence of
"Frtl!l l ..r:::
r
the Anglican Church on the artist's family
and region are also scripturally and symbol-
ically represented in the two Heke paintings.
In .addition to using biblical phrases and
'beginning' and 'end' imagery, Cotton em-
ploys forms which resemble crucifixes,
altar candlesticks, and communion chalices.
The religious objects, landscapes, manawa,
korero, and heke, which organise the hori-
zontal and vertical elements of these works,
refer to the Maori world view, in which
spirituality, land, resources, talk, and buildings,
are dominating influences in human life.
Koroniti, 1998
11
This attempt, in Cotton's 1998 paintings,
to decorate a building from a distance, does
not imply that the artist feels removed or
alienated from his tiirangawaewae. Neither
should the works be viewed as an attempt
to 'fill' an empty house. The paintings are
an expression of the unseen tribal korero
which, Cotton believes, are inherent in its
structure. The paintings exist as a house out-
side of a house. They hang in many parts of
the world, yet are a unified whole because
the relate to one From a personal
perspective, Cotton is maintaining his ahi
ka (tribal contact) by
revisiting his wharenui
through his work.
Like the korero which
document Maui-Tiki-
tiki-a-Tauranga's epic
search for his origins,
Cotton's canvases illus-
trate a journey of self
discovery. From a wider
Maori perspective, these
paintings are an express-
ion of tribal narratives. "'""'
Like Taiamai the bird, their constant
ing of a local place enhances Taitokerau,
Ngapuhi, Ngati Rangi, and Taiamai's mana.
1\Lfi

Dr Deidre Brown is a lecturer in Art History
at the University of Canterbury and the Author of
'Morehu Architecture: a Ph.D thesis in Archdecture,
University of Auckland, 199 7.
I .,
Rangiheketini, 1998
oil on canvas, collection of the artist, Palmerston North
21
I >'
Lying in the Black Land, 1998
oil on canvas, collection of Brian Sweeney &Jane Vesty, Wellington
23
:!
Kowhetewhete, 1998
oil on canvas, private collection, Sydney
25
I .,.
Kenehi III, 1998
oil on canvas, private collection, Auckland
21
I "
Whakakitenga lei te Kenehi, 1998
oil on canvas, Gow Family collection, Auckland
I
II
Celestial Nets, 1991
L
()\_oJ

\
J l

Making History:
The paintings of Shane Cotton
I
William
McAloon
In 1993 Shane Cotton's paintings seemed to undergo
an abrupt change. Since leaving art school in
Christchurch in 1988, he had worked more or less
consistently with imagery that drew on microscopic
botanical and biological forms in a

influenced by the American painter Terry Winters.
Cotton's paintings, with their graceful flourishes and
muddied grounds, took stories of creation down to
cellular level. Describing Cotton's dual heritage, these
works seemed to link easily with both western scien-
tific description and Maori cosmology. Scenes of
procreation and division, whether that of Rangi and
Papa or a minute organism, were played out across
their surfaces.
At the same time, Cotton was also making rickety
wooden constructions, painted in encaustic, to hang
or lean against the wall. These works, such as Rib
( 19 92) and Lineage ( 1 9 92) continued to make refer-
ence to microscopic worlds, but in their forms they
the post
Maori images had in turn found their way
into Cotton's canvases, in works such as Celestial
Nets (1991) which featured sinewy abstractions of
hinaki or eel traps.
Coinciding with a rapid expansion of interest in
contemporary Maori art and debates surrounding its
definition, Cotton's works were readily interpreted as
--
images of biculturalism. What was seen as tlie1r ybrid

nature, a grafting of Pakeha science and Maori myth,
was taken up by writers and curators, and Cotton's
works were included in a number of significant exhi-
bitions, such as "Recognitions" at the McDougall Art
Annex in Christchurch and "Shadow of Style" at City
Gallery, Wellington. Cotton's works joined those of
an emerging group of mostly
younger Maori artists-including
Brett Graham, Michael Parekowhai
and in particular, Peter Robinson,
with whom Cotton was closely
associated-all of whom were
schooled in the Western tradition
but were eager to apply its lessons
_ of their_own
<c_ultural identity.
Early in 1993, however, Cotton
moved to Palmerston North to
take up an appointment at Massey
University where fellow artist and
educator Robert Jahnke was estab-
lishing a Bachelor of Maori Visual
Arts course. For Cotton, being
immersed in a Maori environ-
ment was a challenge that involved
a period of rapid adjustment.
Encouraged by Jahnke, he began
more thoroughly exploring his
Maori identity, and gaine
and historical
frameworks with which to do so.
As a result his work underwent
a radi.cal change.
Few will forget the impact of
the new works Cotton exhibited
in the middle of 19 9 3. Everything
familiar about his painting had
seemed to change, as if overnight.
Where Cotton's previous paintings
had been generalised abstractions,
these new -works were figurative,
narrative to boot.
stories. Where Cotton's works
hadPreviously been romantic-
cosmic, even-the new paintings
were now thoroughly terrestrial,
- - C;
grounded in specifics. They
,______----
\ . brimmed with content, and their subjects were

determinedly Maori .
\2 Drawing on a vocabulary of images from late nine-
:; .
\ " teenth centur_)L Maori art, such as the paintings at the
'vcY famed Rongopai meeting house near Gisborne, the
'-) new works featured a parade. of pots, plants, flags
l
and stars alongside
palisades and scaffolds. The works were figurative, but
in no way were they naturalistic, as strange shifts
..-- ..._....
see mountain within a
flagstaff diminishing meekly against a giant plant.
They had a patina of age about them, or a sense of time
passed, suggested by Cotton's palette of _@_Uted
and ochres. In representing the past to the present,
Cottoo's ile'w works showed that, although marked
by age and unfamiliarity, history was certainly not
2 :CJ.mething finished. These were and
"'0 Cotton was presented with the mantle of modern-day
'_;jf history painter.
It is those paintings that Cotton has built on over
the past six years-both in his reputation and his
practice-to become a major figure in contemporary
New Zealand art. What seemed an abrupt change in
1993 has been sustained and elaborated upon in a
succession of works that have built into an impressive
oeuvre. As this exhibition shows, that oeuvre is far
from complete, and, more significantly, the history
that Cotton describes in his work, is far from over.
Like history; Cotton's paintings are rich and multi-
layered. His works are complex lattices of images and
meanin s, both compositionally an conceptually.
\, J>latform
,,'\) past, but rather, present a multitude of vantage
'::f Jrom wh1c 1t m1ght be mterpretedallc! understo_oa:
\cl cotton's paintings;r-;- the,:p:r:o.ffilc.tLof a person-;J
' , journey, an inquiry into the events of New
colonial history and the shaping effect these -have had

In under-
taking this inquiry, Cotton1ian ratd- tlre 'rli:ings that
I am learning, that I find compelling, are also those
that I want to share with others. The only way to move
forward is to come to terms with
what has happened in the past-
revisiting can bring clarity to our
own existence in the present.' This
is the value of Cotton's work: his
desire to take his audience with
him, to engage them in a conversa-
instead of subjecting them to
a lecture.
That conversation has produced
a number of common threads in
Cotton's paintings, what might be
called
Various themes and de-
vices, motifs and images have run
through Cotton's works over the
last six years, repeated where nec-
essary, adapted and modified as
fitting, or simply set aside when
others have better served his ends.
The development of his paintings
has seen an increasing fluency on
Cotton's part, not just with tikanga
Maori or te reo Maori, or Cotton's
own whakapapa, but ' with the
images and ideas of history itself.
The history of Cotton's works
unfolds like that history: partially,
iiitermittently and from differing
perspectives. It is in just such a
way that we can consider the
themes and images of Shane
Cotton's works.
.The J:Jaori figurative painting
first inspired Cotton flour-
ished in : the decades around the
turn of the century, particularly
on New Zealand's East Coast. A
response to European colonisation,
the imagery of houses such as
---------- a diverse range
\_y ;-,__,

Whakapiri atu te whenua, 1993
of sources. Some were from customary Maori art,
some from the emerging Maori interpretations of
Christianity such as the Ringatu movement led byTe
Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, while others still were from
the forms and techniques of Pakeha art. The images
that resulted are as symbolically rich as they are visu-
ally vibrant. Designed to communicate across tribal
boundaries, they represented a ;pecific response to the
current political situation faced by Maori, as their cus-
tomary rights to laruland social structure\
eroded by European colonisation.
For Cotton, the appeal of those images lay as much
in their aesthetic-in their strange, h;}' bri<!_E-ature-as
in their content. 'I wanted to bring more prominence
to that work, to comment on it and point out that
the paintings weren't simply na.lve depictions, that
they had a strong conceptual basis tied intimately to
identity', Cotton has said. 'The images deal with varf-
ous aspects of acculturation, app::92riation, i_dentit}'.
and history, ?n'tertwined with narrative and myth.
35
became intrigued and inspired
by these works; which resulted in
their use as a. basis for my ovyn
work-a positive response to an
art form generally unrecognised.'
- One motif from Rongopai and
other East Coast houses which Jrr..A."
Cotton has repeatedly used in his o/VL ] -
works is that of the pot plant. r0
is an image', he says, that 'carries
associations of
'nurture and The image .) _ _t., ,
works on a political and a spirit- f
ual level.' In Cotton's painting
Whakapiri atu te whenua ( 19 9 3) this
is clearly apparent. An image of
colonisation, the central pot de-
picted in the painting contains a
new plant that grows tall, while
around it other, smaller plants
seem to wither and die. The title of
the painting-translated as 'remain
close to the land' -is left hanging
as a warning against the processes
of loss and disenfranchisement.
In other works, the pot plant
image becomes both more com-
plex and more ambiguous. Tekau
ma ono ( 1 9 9 4) demonstrates this,
as does Cotton's mural for the
Auckland Casino (1995). In both
works, the plant grows rigidly
from the pot, its elongated
branches recalling Gordon Wal-
ters' treatment of The
b
--,--------..__ h
ranc es create vertlca ayers m
each work, upon which other
forms-numbers, texts, scrolls,
landscapes and still more pot
plants-are shelved. The bulbs of
each stem of the new plant in turn
contain a small landscape, perhaps a remnant of the
past, or a seed of the future. These works represent a
kind of hybrid whakapapa, one which draws together
a multitude of images from Maori and Pakeha history
to describe a bicultural resent.
Other pots hold still further images, derived from
more recent, Western art sources. Picture painting (1994)
is interesting in this respect. In the work Cotton
transplants Chrysanthemum,
painting into the Rongopai pot. Walters' famed koru
paintings have been the subject of much debate in
recent years, with the propriety of his appropriations
of Maori motifs being attacked and defended by both
Maori and Pakeha. Appropriating the appropriator,
Cotton shows that
action are complex, and the images they produce
are equally so. In Picture Painting (1994) appropriation
is certainly not the black and white moral issue it
has been painted elsewhere.
Faith, another work from 1994, is a further te.st-
ament to the complexities of appropriation. In this
painting, Cotton draws on a work of the same title
by the Australian artist Imants Tillers. Since the early
1980s, Tillers' paintings have revolved around notions
of originality. Borrowing images from a diverse range
of artists-from Giorgio de Chirico to Colin McCahon
-Tillers' works speak of antipodean distance and
dislocation from the art world's centres. Cotton's
use of Tillers' Faith, which itself draws on a work
by American artist Ed Ruscha, once again shows the
backward and forwards momentum of translation
and appropriation.
Tillers' work, Cotton has said, 'contained a number
of fortuitous elements : the word faith and the plant
form with its diamond shapes. The word faith relates
directly to the millennium movements Te Kooti. and
Te Whiti led. Rua Kenana used the diamond fOI;m to

........w mbolise land. I integrated these elements within
the symbolic ontext of the pot plant. My work Faith
appropriates a "foreign" image, reaffirming it and
repositioning it within the New Zealand context. At \} .
Tekau rna one, 1994
another remove, it also comments
on that process. Faith is a bridge
between so-called "naive" and
sophisticated art.' That process is
an ongoing one, as Cotton's ver-
sion of Tillers' Faith has in turn
been re-appropriated by Tillers
in his monumental 19 9 5 work
Paradiso. But as Cotton said, 'Faith
is always a gamble.'
Images by other contemporary
artists have figured in Cotton's
eclectic visual language. New
Zealand painter Dick Frizzell's
Grocer with moko ( 1 9 92) , from that
artist's controversial Tiki series,
makes an appearance in Cotton's
1994 work Sold. Again, appropria-
tion is doubled back on itself in
this work, and Frizzell's Four
Square Man, stripped of his moko, /
appears in Cotton's painting as ay
agent for shady land deE-ls.
Less specifkin ilieir meaning
are the lava lamps which Cotton
borrows from American concep-
tual artist Haim Steinbach. Figuring
in a number of works including

.. '
. .
\::._ Ff' "' . \
/ v-
0
0
Daze (1994), their oleaginous fluids look back to
Cotton's earlier biomorphic works, and signal the arti-
ficial capture of constant states of flux. Likewise 'the
basketballs which appear in View, Diamond line, and a
number of other works from 1995 are a nod to
another American conceptualist, Jeff Koons, and are
similarly ambiguous in their meaning. These works
show Cotton's response to the Fiscal Envelope-the
Government's proposed spending cap on a full and
final settlement for Maori grievances. The snatches of
text in View call 'timeout' , or 'bluff', suggesting that
perhaps it is time for a whole new ball game to be
played by Pakeha.
The list of guest stars in Cotton's works .could go
on-Op artist Victor Vasarely, surrealist Salvador Dali,
Japanese media artist Tatsuo Miyajima, landscape
painter Colin McCahon . .. It is a remarkable line-up,
and one that shows Cotton as an informed observer of
local and international art debates. There is lightness
Picture painting,!994
of touch in Cotton's use of others'
works, a whimsy and visual
fulness used to maintain Cotton's
and the viewer's visual interest.
Balancing this is the more import-
ant substance of these works, that
Cotton's approach to other artist's
images is speculative, involving
a reading in Maori content that
echoes the strategies of turn of the
century ..p..ainters.
Like those artists, Cotton takes
what is useful from European
art to describe the contemporary
political situation and its implicat-
ions for Maori.
The over-riding subject of
Cotton's paintings is not therefore
the to-ing and fro-ing of images
and the shifting nature of their
meaning. Rather, it is the land and
its history as a site of Maori and
Pakeha conflict and coexistence.
Needlework (1993) is emblematic of
this. The land is represented in _this
work as a large, over-stuffed pin-
cushion into which various flags
and standards have been stuck.
One is a British flag, another the
crescent and cross of Te Kooti .
There are others still, looking
more like weapons and nails, along
with a palisade and a treaty-sign-

ing table. All stake a claim to the -
land and mark out their various
territories. The cushion seems to
be able to accommodate them
all-but only just. In Slice, a work
from 1994, that precariousness is
repeated in an image ofTaranaki,
overflowing from a pot like some 1
I
""\_ \
JV\0" I
n j
,
giant, half-set pudding. Numbers are perched tenta-
tively on the slopes of the mountain, as they are in the
cushion of Needlework ( 19 9 3), marking out the land
for surveying.
Images of surveying figure prominently in numer-
ous other works by Cotton. The layers of landscapes
which appear in works such as View, Viewed ( 199 7)
and Middle north (1997) recall the earliest European
depictions of New Zealand, made by artist-cartogra-
phers such as Charles Heaphy Cotton has described his
own work as 'landscape painting but not in an obvious
way. The landscapes within these paintings are generic
-they're based on specific places but they are not
depictions .... there is also a theme of journeying in the
work, which reflects what Maori, as a people, are still
doing.' This sense of journeying is apparent in Cotton's
Needlework, 1993
3B
use of cartographic landscapes,
which move both towards and
able destination or distant

There are other, more com-
plex images and metaphors based
on landscape at play in Cotton's
works. One of these is Wake which
shows a canoe constructed from a
densely wrought lattice of smaller
landscapes and other images.
Cotton found inspiration for 'this
painting in the works of Buck Nin,
and what Cotton described as the
senior Maori artist's 'consistent re-
working of waka and land'. Nin
said of his own paintings: 'when
you look through the latticework
you see the soul of the land. The
power and thrust of the prow is
symbolic of the directions of all
aspects of Maori endeavour and
reflects the character of the Maori
as it adapts and forges new paths
in NZ society.' Inscribed in Cot-
ton's Wake are a number of texts,
including 'Ahab' -the captain
who fatally pursued Moby Dick,
and 'Tawhao'-flotsam & jetsam,
perhaps indicating the very mixed
crew that now populates the vessel.
Wake can be seen as presenting the
hope that; they can paddle in the

Contemporary with that paint-
ing is The Plant. Similarly composed
of fragm'ented landscapes, Allan
Smfth has described it ' unfolding
before the viewer like the dash-
board for a post-colonial video
\ll
game.' Unlike Wake, the landscapes in The Plant fail to
coalesce into a unified image. Instead they fluctuate,
overlapping and dissolving into one another, filtering
in and out of view. The Plant is perhaps another reflec-
tion of what Cotton was suggesting in his pot plant
images: that Maori and colonial Pakeha had vastly
different perspectives on the land, and that our
contemporary viewpoints are formulated from that
history. This work, like View and Diamond Line (1995),
was made in the context of the Fiscal Envelope, which
showed that history to be a continuing one.
Numbers and texts recur throughout Cotton's
work, having moved emphatically into the foreground
in his recent paintings. As we have seen, surveyors'
markings are a key source for this, as are Maori fig-
urative paintings. At Rongopai, for example painted
images of an.cestors are also identified by written
names, printed up in the fine Gothic script learned
from the missionaries. An adaptation of
ems of know led e, this Maori
preserve t eir identity and history in the face of
pervasive change.
Cotton's texts have a similarly mnemonic function.
The digital clocks or LED readouts that figure in a
\)P number of works, including Daze--=efer to specific
.Y ,,. \ dates. One is 1865, the year the Maori Land Court
ovJ\ was instituted. As a result, Maori were forced to make
-<"o-f' written claim to their tribal lands, and transfer
CP"'
\' J \
them ownership to
Another key date the year in which
Tohunga Suppression Act was passed, forbidding
Maori from predicting their own destinies and thus
flirther dismantling traditional social structures. The
Act was repealed as recently as 1962 and this date
appears too in some paintings as a reminder of the
recentness of history
,r-
(;
Another form of text that appears in Cotton's paint-
ings is a cursive script , .deri:red from pages left by
the Northland Chief Hongi Hika. Hongi journeyed
to London with missionary Thomas Kendall in 18 14.
In exchange for assisting him with preparations for a
You say ABC, 1994
Maori grammar, Hongi spent the
long voyage learning how to
write . .In works such as x-d and
Tekau ma ono, both from 1994,
Hongi's single letterforms are end-
lessly repeated. They fail to join
together into words, suggesting
the problems of translation and
the very different worlds Maori
and Pakeha represented through
their respective languages.
This is amply demonstrated in
another painting from 1994, You
say ABC. In this work, the letter-
forms grow out of a pot along
with a hybrid plant. The work's
title recalls the popular song: "You
say tomarto, I say tomayto ... Let's
call the whole thing off". As Penny
Swann has noted, it is not just
such superficial differences that
exist between Maori and Pakeha:
'The differences Cotton speaks of
are more profound and compli-
cated in the relationship between
Maori and Pakeha is here to stay.
This painting signals a juxtaposi-
tion of two very different systems oflanguage, mean-
ing and belief, including oral versus written language;
and the relationship to the land through oral whaka-
papa versus written title to the land.'
In You say ABC and x-d, those letterforms are dis-
played on precarious scaffolding which in turn recalls
the lines of a copybook. In other works, texts and
images are shown contained within structures that
look like cabinets or bookshelves. Artificial Curiosities
from 19 9 3 is one such image, where an array of
objects and landscapes recall the collections gathered
by early European explorers. Objects are brought
together in this work haphazardly, with no apparent
clues to their significance or the narratives that
bind them.
Cotton's use of such structures refers both to the
classification systems of the Pakeha, and to atamira,
traditional platforms Maori built for the display of
food or the presentation of the dead at a tangi. These
were devices literally for the elevation of mana. In

aligning the two systems of presentation and putting
the land and the written word on the same platform,
Cotton points to another contested site of meaning
between Maori and Pakeha.
With their developing complexity of references,
Cotton's works have in recent years become more
visually complex as well. At the same time, they are
also more specific, dealing closely with Cotton's own
Ngapuhi history and identity. The journeying of
Maori people that Cotton has described has ultimately
led him home. Taiamai, for example, painted in 1996,
interleaves remnants of Hongi's script with block lett-
ers spelling out traditional Ngapuhi declarations of
place. The texts are bound up in images of the land-
scape, and a waiting fleet of waka, perhaps readying
for the journey home. Tuna, painted the same year, is
similarly homeward bound, viewi,ng Maungaturoto
\
through a lattice of crosses, while grounding it on the
word Taiamai, the original name for the region. As Cot-
ton said of this work: 'What I'm doing in this painting
is putting myself where my family is and where I've
come from ... You're looking at
things for a while, coming closer
to them with the idea of defining
yourself.' Work such as Viewed, Ko te
Rakau o Taiiimai and Maunga, all
19 9 7, continue this process.
In looking closely at where he
has come from, Cotton has found
new and rich subjects for his '
recent works. Cross, another paint-
ing from 1996, looks forward
towards some of these concerns.
The proverb in the paintings reads
'Titiro rawa ake ki te rire o nga
rangi, kua ngaro te wairua o te
whenua'-In staring towards the
heavens, the life of the land is
lost . Cotton regards this as sym-
bolic of the effects of Christianity
on Maori, and in particular on
Ngapuhi who were amongst the
first to meet the new beliefs.
styles, which were seen by early
missionaries as demonic and

therefore suppressed, is one effect
of Christianity that Cotton deals
Viewed, 1997
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Tuna, 1996
with in these works. Indeed, he has described his
paintings as an attempt to refill the many houses
Christianity left empty in its wake. But rather than
seeing Christianity simply as having only had a
destructive impact on Maori life-as Selwyn Muru-
paenga has put it 'The missionaries arrived with Bible
in one hand, red blanket in the other. They came to do
good and did very well' - Cotton looks as much to the
productive interactions that Maori made with the new
belief system.
Papahurihia, the Northern prophet of the 18 3 Os is
emblematic of this, and figures large in Cotton's recent
paintings. With his radical reinterpretation-or wilful
misreading-of the scriptures, Papahurihia declaimed
the missionaries wrong in their reading of the Bible,
seeing his own people as the chosen ones instead. His
beliefs, strange though they might now seem, were an
attempt to assert Maori identity and maintain their

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7- "'- ""') \ "5'"\ "" ,J <
political power in the face of
change. In this he was a forerunner
of other prophets such as Te Kooti,
adapting
beliefs as toolsoFreSistance. -
Cotton's work can be very
much seen as a continuation of a
process. In his work he takes what
is useful from Maori and European
art to reconsider history and its
present meanings, for both Maori
and Pakeha. In so doing, Cotton
has said that he is 'interested in
drawing strands together, inviting
people to consider ways oflooking
at things that relate to bicultural-
ism.' But Cotton's view of history
is an open-ended one, and he
leaves it to up to his viewers to
draw their own conclusions from
it. 'It doesn't make sense to talk
about solutions' he has said. 'Ways
are important.'
Wj]Jiam McAloon is a
freelance writer and curator
living in Wellington.
Biographical Chronology
Iwi: Nga Puhi
Hapu: Ngati Rangi, Ngati Hine, Te Uri Taniwha
1964 Born in Upper Hutt,
near Wellington on 3 October.
1985 Fine Arts Intermediate Year,
School of Fine Arts,
University of Canterbury.
Awarded Bickerton-Widdowson
Scholarship.
1987 Awarded Samuel Hurst Seager prize
in Fine Arts as a second year
Painting student.
1988 Awarded the Ethel Rose Overton
Scholarship in Fine Arts and the Sawtell-
Turner Prize in Painting as a fmal
undergraduate year Painting student.
1 9 89 Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting conferred.
1989-90 Part-time Art Teacher, Christ's College,
Christchurch.
1989 Judge's Prize, "Young Artist of the Year",
Wilkins and Davies Art Award.
1991 Diploma in Teaching, Christchurch
College of Education, Christchurch.
1991 Project Grant, Te Waka Toi.
1992 Art Teacher, Lincoln High School,
Canterbury
1993- Lecturer, School of Maori Studies:
Te Piitahi-a-Toi, Massey University.
1994 Commissioned to produce a work for
Victoria University of Wellington.
199 5 Commissioned to produce a work for
Sky City Casino, Auckland.
1998 Frances Hodgkins Fellowship,
University of Otago, Dunedin.
Seppelt Art Award, Sydney.
Took a three week workshop at the
opening of Centre Culture! Tjibaou,
Selected Exhibitions
1987 Young Contemporaries, Canterbury
Society of Arts Gallery, Christchurch.
1989 Wilkins and Davies Art Award, Finalists'
Exhibition, Canterbury Society of Arts
Gallery, Christchurch and Auckland
Society of Arts Gallery, Auckland.
1990 New works (solo exhibition),
Brooke/Gifford Gallery, Christchurch.
Nature Forms Myth, (with Peter
Robinson), Last Decade Gallery,
Wellington.
1991 Kohia Ko Taikaka Anake, curated by
Tim Walker, for the National Art Gallery,
Wellington.
Recognitions, curated by
Lara Strongman, Robert McDougall Art
Gallery, Christchurch.
Shane Cotton, Barnard Mcintyre,
Peter Robinson, Gow Langsford Gallery,
Wellington.
1992 Strata (solo exhibition), Brooke/Gifford
Gallery, Christchurch.
New works, (with Peter Robinson),
Claybrook Gallery, Auckland.
Shadow of Style, curated by
Robert Leonard and Gregory Burke,
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery,
New Plymouth and Wellington City Art
Gallery, Wellington.
Prospect Canterbury '92, curated by
Lara Strongman, Robert McDougall Art
Gallery, Christchurch.
1993 Collections, Harnish McKay Gallery,
Wellington.
Groundswell, (with Peter Robinson,
Chris Heaphy, Eugene Hansen),
Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North.
1994 New works (solo exhibition), Claybrook
Gallery, Auckland.
New Painting (solo exhibition) ,
Harnish McKay Gallery, Wellington.
Five New Zealand Artists, DKWGallery,
Melbourne.
Ptfallel Lines: Gordon Walters in
1 ,. Co':ltext, curated by William McAloon for
the; Auckland City Art Gallery, Auckland.
Localities of Desire, Museum of
Art, Sydney.
1995 Shane Cotton: Recent Paintings, Govett-
Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth.
Te ta pahara, Brooke/Gifford Gallery,
Christchurch.
Shane Cotton: Recent Paintings,
Darren Knight Gallery, Melbourne.
Stop Making Sense, curated by
George Hubbard for the City Gallery,
Wellington.
Tate whenua, (with Robert Jahnke),
Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmers ton North.
Korurangi: New Maori Art, curated by
George Hubbard and William McAloon,
New Gallery, Auckland City Art Gallery,
Auckland.
AVery Peculiar Practice, curated by Allan
Smith for the City Gallery, Wellington.
The Nervous System, curated by
Allan Smith for the Govett-Brewster Art
Gallery, New Plymouth.
Shane Cotton: Recent Paintings
(solo exhibition), Darren Knight Gallery,
Melbourne.
1996 New Painting (solo exhibition),
Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland.
New Painting (solo exhibition),
Harnish McKay Gallery, Wellington.
Patua, City Gallery, Wellington.
Seven New Zealand Artists, Mornington
Peninsula Regional Gallery, Victoria.
1997 New Painting (solo exhibition),
Brooke/ Gifford Gallery, Christchurch.
Tableau (solo exhibition), Lesley Kreisler
Gallery, New Plymouth.
New Painting (solo exhibition),
Brooke/Gifford Gallery, Christchurch.
Square Style (solo exhibition),
Mori Gallery, Sydney.
1998 Local (solo exhibition), Hamish McKay
Gallery, Wellington.
Shane Cotton (solo exhibition)
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland.
Wake Naima ("Creating Together")
Centre Culture! Tjibaou, Kanaky Cultural
Centre, New Caledonia.
Takeaway Symbols, curated by
Gregory Burke for the Govett-Brewster
Art Gallery, New Plymouth.
Skywriters and Earthmovers, curated by
Elizabeth Caldwell for the Robert
McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch.
Seppelt Art Award, Museum of
Contemporary Art, Sydney.
FISI, Mori Gallery, Sydney.
Leap of Faith: Contemporary
New Zealand Art 1998, Govett-Brewster
Art Gallery, New Plymouth.
Further Reading
Selected newspaper and magazine articles
and reviews.
Jenny Chamberlain, "Four corners: ballot box art",
North and South, February 1990, pp.8-9.
Tina Dahlberg and Luke Strongman,
"Buy Cultural", Planetl3, Winter 1994, p.76.
David Eggleton, "History under Canvas: Shane
Cotton's Iconographic Landscapes and Abstraction
Explore a New Map of Home" The New Zealand Listener,
12 December 1998, pp.36-37.
Sophie Jerrarn, and Daniel Malone. "Art", Stamp 29,
March 1992, p.32.
"Past Clarity", Pacific Wave, no. 115,
April 1998, p.24.
Justin Paton, "Reviews: Graduation Day",
More 152, February 1996, pp.!24-!25.
Adrienne Rewi, "Collision and Collusion", The Press,
10 May 1995, p.10.
Rob Taylor, "When presentation matters" , Dominion,
17 October, 1990, p.42.
Pat Unger, "Recognitions", The Press, 24 April
1991, p.27.
Art periodical articles and reviews
Jim and Mary Barr, "Mana from History",
World Art 15, 1997, pp.58-63.
Robin Craw, "Anthropophagy of the Other: the
problematic of biculturalism and the art of
appropriation", Art and Asia Pacific Sample Issue,
1993, pp. 86-91.
Sian Daly, "Show Champion: Shane Cotton.
New Paintings. Harnish McKay Gallery, Wellington,
31 August-4 September 1996", Monica Reviews Art,
October/November 1996, p.27.
John Daly-Peoples, "Exhibitions: Auckland",
ArtNewZealand72, Spring 1994, pp.38-39.
Blair French, "A Choreography of Form: The
Paintings of Shane Cotton", Art NewZealand 60,
Spring 1991, pp.63-65.